The Garip Manifesto.

Daniel Evans Pritchard writes:

The Critical Flame is thrilled to present the first English publication of Melih Cevdet Anday, Oktay Rifat, and Orhan Veli’s revolutionary poetry manifesto, Garip, which appeared in Turkish in 1941. The manifesto outlines a radical break from the traditional prosody of the Turkish-Ottoman tradition, and also—perhaps because its authors were part of the second generation of global modernists—offers a reflexive meta-commentary on manifestos themselves. We are extremely grateful to Sidney Wade and Efe Murad for their translation from the Turkish and for their thoughtful introduction.

Here’s an excerpt from the Translator’s Introduction:

The classical tradition had relied heavily on the lavish use of language as well as high forms of Ottoman poetry such as aruz (an historically Arabic meter that depends on the arrangement of open and closed syllables) and the traditional Persian literary forms of the ghazal, the beyit (a couplet form), and the mesnevi (an epic form in couplets, used most often to recite romantic and panegyric tales).

In rejecting the elitism of court poetry, the Garip poets wrote simple poems in the vernacular about the ordinary details of the lives of common people, subjects not considered of interest in the classical tradition. With their use of simple imagery and pared-down language, taking as their subjects the objects and events of daily life, and eschewing meter and formal rhyme schemes, the Garip Movement poets directly opposed the unities of traditional Ottoman couplets in bringing everyday lightness and randomness into their verse.

And here’s the end of the manifesto itself:

The idea that the line should be taken as the basis of a poem makes us pay attention to each word and analyze it as the unit of a line. This practice encourages us to think of words as abstract entities in a poem and to assign beauty or ugliness to the words. However, words, like bricks in a building, are never beautiful. Plaster is never beautiful. It is only an architecture composed of these elements that is beautiful. If we beheld a building made of agate, heliotrope, and silver but which had no overarching aesthetic beauty, it could not be considered a work of art. If the words of a poem simply sound good but do not add anything of beauty to the poem itself, the poem is not a work of art.

Certain words, by long usage and convention, are considered “poetic” (şairane). We are engaged in a struggle to bring a new vocabulary to poetry and hope to rise above the old conventional use of “poetical” words. We do not confine ourselves to the old order but hope to bring fresh meaning and energy to poetry. If the reader cannot accept the use of words such as “corns,” or “Süleyman Efendi,” he or she is only interested in the passé and should confine his reading to poetry that abides by old and stale conventions. We will work against everything that belongs to the past and all outdated notions of “poeticality” in poetry.

It’s well worth reading the whole thing; even though I don’t know Turkish and have no grounding in Turkish poetry, I recognize the voice of poets who know their business and understand what modern poetry is (was?) about. Thanks, Trevor!


  1. I really like this Oktay Rıfat poem:

    Nedir bu benim çilem
    Hesap bilmem
    Muhasebede memurum
    En sevdiğim yemek imam bayıldı
    Bir kız tanırım çilli
    Ben onu severim
    O beni sevmez

    [My translation, as a Turkish-learner:

    What is this ordeal of mine
    I don’t know sums
    I’m an accountant
    My favorite food is imam bayıldı
    It makes me ill
    I know a freckled girl
    I love her
    She doesn’t love me]

    The first line, “Nedir bu benim çilem”, rolls off the tongue and is fun to use in a variety of day-to-day situations.

    But perhaps someone can help me: I can never understand the title of the poem, “Tecelli”. I don’t even really know what the word means. Does it just mean “Fate/destiny”? Like, same as “Kader”?

  2. yvy tyvy says

    Sesli Sözlük lists “destiny”, “fate”, “luck”, “transfiguration” and “Kader” as possible translations of tecelli.

  3. Eskandar says

    “Tecelli” (تجلی) is not so much ‘fate/destiny’ as ‘brilliance, revelation, manifestation, glory, splendor’… It’s from the same Arabic root as “celal,” as in ‘Allah celle celalühu.’

  4. Nice poem! So maybe “Revelation” for the title?

  5. Oh, I found this Rutgers master’s thesis by Nagehan Bayındır which consists of English translations of Turkish poems by Hikmet, Kısakürek, and the Garip poets Kanık, Rıfat, and Anday.

    She has the Tecelli poem, translating the title as “Manifest”. I think l like Hat’s suggestion of “Revelation”, though.

    I’d be happy to hear from Turkish/English speakers about the quality of the translations!

  6. The word çile “ordeal” (in the first line of the poem above) also specifically refers to the 40 day ascetic retreats (often to an underground chamber in a tekke) practiced by Sufis. It’s from Persian چله‌ çilla, which Steingass defines as:

    quadragesimal fast, the forty days of Lent, during which the religious fraternities of the East shut themselves up in their cells, or remain at home; (also chillaʼi dai) forty days of winter, during which the weather is most severe

    I don’t understand the source of the geminate l, but čilla is obviously derived from چهل čihil, with variant چل čil, “forty”. Several points in the history of čihil are unclear, but perhaps it developed (with a sporadic raising of -a- to -i- between the č and the -hi-) from Middle Persian *čahil, dissimilated from *čahihl, from an Old Persian *čaθvr̥θat- (with expected –ihl- from *-r̥θ-), from a Proto-Iranian *čaθvr̥ćat-, which developed (with analogical influences from elsewhere in the numeral system?) somehow from PIE *kʷetwr̥̄ḱomt- and is thus cognate with other Indo-European words for “forty”, Sanskrit catvāriṃśát, Armenian kʿaṙasun, Greek tessarakonta, Latin quadrāgintā, etc. What adventures some words have! Usually nouns have all the fun, though…

  7. Wow, thanks! That’s the kind of comment that makes me glad I started a blog.

  8. marie-lucie says

    I second LH!

  9. Neil P. Doherty says

    Yes, tecelli means appear, manifest, transfigure etc but it also has the meaning of fate or alın yazısı as it is in Turkish, meaning what is written (by God) on one’s forehead. In the context of the poem below it is probably best translated as fate. It is just like the garip poets to use a word like tecelli in an ironic or humorous manner. While the Arabic meaning is supplied above one must bear in mind that many Arabic/Farsi words in Turkish change shape and meaning. Nagehan Bayındır’s translations are mediocre at best.

  10. Thanks, that’s good to know!

  11. Neil P. Doherty says

    The current issue of ‘Turkish Poetry Today’ contains a translation of Oktay Rifat’s ‘Tecelli’.

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