Can Yücel

Can Yücel

Date of birth: 01/01/1926
Place of birth: Istanbul, Turkey
Date of death: 12/08/1999
Place of death: Datca Mugla, Turkey

Can Yücel is one of the most distinguished of 20th century Turkish poets. He was born in Istanbul as the son of well known former minister of National Education, Hasan Ali Yücel. He studied Latin and Greek at the University of Ankara, Turkey and later in Cambridge.

He worked as a translator in several embassies and was for almost five years a programme assistant in the Turkish Section of the BBC in London. On his return to Turkey he was sentenced to fifteen years for translating works by Che Guevera and Mao. He was released within two years because of a general amnesty.

He then lived in Istanbul working as a freelance translator and poet. He was married and father of two daughters. In his later years he settled in the remote peninsular town of Datça, Mu_la in southwestern Turkey. He died in Datça in 1999 and is also buried there.

Yücel was a man of vast knowledge and culture, as well as keen political and social awareness. He is a superb translator of Shakespeare, Eliot, Dylan Thomas and the Greek combination epigrammatic poets. His poetry thrives on a strong combination of lrycism, warm irony and sarcasm. This quality is especially evident in his ‘Poems of a Political Prisoner’ (1974). His other important collections are ‘Wall ot Love’ (1973), ‘Death and My Son’ (1976), ‘The Music ot Colours’ (1982), ‘The Steep Heaven’ (l984), ‘Life Offering’ (l988) and ‘The Child Colours the Man’ (l988).

Can Yücel has earned himself a leading place in today's Turkish Poetry as a man who upholds what is bright and what gives hope and courage to life. His translations of Shakespeare's ‘Midsummer Night's Dream’ and ‘The Tempest’ were successfully staged in Turkey and are considered as turning points in the life of the Turkish theatre and social awareness.

His famous Poem: THE WALL OF LOVE

Was it you or your loneliness
In the blind dark we opened bleary eyes
Last night's curses on our lips
We would frequent art-lesbian-lovers,
Galleries and public places
My daily care was to remove you into the midst of men
An ammoniac flower in your button hole
My loneliness my incontinent countess
The lower we sink the better

We loitered in the pubs at Kumkap_
With beanstew, beer and wine before us
And police battalions behind us; in the mornings
My Guardian Saints would find my carcass in the gutters
Hot as the garbage-collecfors' hands,
With their hands I caressed you.
My loneliness my bristle-haired beauty,
The higher we stink the better

I looked in the sky a red flash a plane
Steel and stars and human beings galore
One night we leapt the Wall of love
Where I fell was so clear so open
You and the universe at my side.
Uncountable my deaths, their resurrections.
O loneliness my many songs
The more we can live without lies the better.