© Photo: Olof Lövblad (2008)
Ilyas Halil was born in Adana, Turkey in 1930. Through childhood and adolescence he lived in Mersin. Like many Turkish literati, he too, embarked upon literature by writing poetry. In a short time he won renown as a poet; as his poems appeared in periodicals and his books were published one after another:
Hal ve Hayal (Fact and Fantasy, 1950), Mürdüm Dalı (Damson Branch, 1953), A Selection of Poems by Emerson (Translation, 1954), Yalandır Herhalde (It’s a Lie, Probably, 1959).*
In 1964, our poet moved to Canada with his family. For years on, no news were heard from him. Starting with the early eighties, his volumes of short stories appeared one after the other. Renowned Turkish artist Nuri Abaç (1926-2008) had to do his share by contributing book covers for his friend of youthful times. All book covers of the works by Ilyas Halil carry reproductions of Nuri Abaç paintings.
Starting with 1983 his volumes of short stories were to be published in his own country. These short stories unique in their genre, were collected in fifteen volumes:
Doyumsuz Göz (Discontented Eye, 1983), Çıplak Yula (Naked Yula, 1985), İt Avı (Dog Hunt, 1987), Boyansin Ramazan (Shoeshine Ramadan, 1989), İskambil Evler (House of Cards, 1991), Kiralık Mabet (Temple For Rent, 1993), Sarhoş Çimenler (The Drunken Grass, 1995), Gâvur Memur Aranıyor (Wanted: Infidel Employees, 1999), Körler Bahçesi ( Garden For the Blind, 2004), Agap Çiçeği (The Agape Flower, 2006), Gavur Aşevi (Infidel’s Restaurant, 2007), Chagall Yıllarım (My Chagall Years, 2008), Plaza Dona Elvira (Plaza Dona Elvira, 2009), Ebel’in Duası (Ebel’s Prayer, 2011) and Salkımlar Ülkesi Salkımya (Two Grapes on a Cluster, 2013).
Ilyas Halil who became much indebted to his first love –poetry- appeared before his readers with five volumes of poetry after 1959. This haiku type of poetry which Ilyas Halil has distilled from his wealth of refined feeling and thought comprises his works of maturity:
Altmış Beş Yıl Beklemek Gerek (It Takes Sixty Five Years of Waiting, 1998), Dört Damla Bahar Yağmuru (Four Droplets of Spring Rain, 2000), Tuz Çizgisi (Streak of Salt, 2001), Pazar Sabahı Güvercinler (Pigeons on a Sunday Morning, 2005), Ay Şiirleri (Moon Poems, 2014).
The first four volumes contain poems in Turkish and their English translations simultaneously. It Takes Sixty Five Years of Waiting was similarly published in Turkish along with French translations in 2008.*
Mürdüm Dalı (Damson Branch) is a collection that combines the first three poetry volumes composed by Ilyas Halil in his early twenties. Although touched by an influence of Orhan Veli poetry (and humor); they nevertheless, carry clues of his own literary identity to be shaped eventually. These poems of the period of youth of our masterful poet and author still preserve some of the finesse even to this day.
As was once noted elsewhere, Ilyas Halil who has been living abroad since half a century, continually contemplates on poetry and story writing twenty four hours of the day and still dreams in Turkish most probably.
Ilyas Halil’s Works Translated into Foreign Languages
Ilyas Halil’s poetry and short story volumes published in his native land have been received with interest in the foreign languages they have been translated into.
Ilyas Halil’s poetry volume titled It Takes Sixty Five Years of Waiting was translated into Greek by the former Greek Ambassador Dimitris Iliopoulos to Arab Emirates and published by the European Art Center in Athens in the year 2000.*
Translations of his poetry volumes Four Droplets of Spring Rain and Streak of Salt into Greek by Dimitris Iliopoulos were also published by the European Art Center in Athens in 2005.*
It Takes Sixty Five Years of Waiting and Four Droplets of Spring Rain (published by Toplum Yayınları, Ankara, Turkey in 1998 and 2000) were published in a single volume in English by the Veniard Press of Montreal, Canada.
The Arabic and French translations of It takes Sixty Five Years of Waiting came out in 2002. Seventeen poems selected from this volume were translated into Arabic by the Saudi Arabian poet Abdel Mecit.*
A selection of his stories translated into Arabic by Michel Naggar under the title Engineer Wanted was published by Grey Press.
His short story titled Engineer Wanted was published in Chinese in the Periodical English Saloon. Furthermore, one of his poems was set to music in Ukraine.
His volumes of short stories translated into English and published by Southmoor Studios are the following:
- Unregulated Chicken Butts and Other Stories
- (A selection from Discontented Eye and Naked Yula was published by Utah University Press.)
- Temple For Rent (Kiralık Mabet)
- Wanted: Infidel Employees (Gâvur Memur Aranıyor)
- Shoeshine Ramadan (Boyansin Ramazan)
- Drunken Grass (Sarhoş Çimenler)
- House of Cards (İskambil Evler)
- Dog Hunt (İt Avı)
- Naked Yula (Çıplak Yula)
The story below from İlyas Halil’s Two Grapes on a Cluster (Ûrün Yayınları, 2014) in Ülkün Tansel’s English translation
First Edition (in Turkish): July, 2013
Second Edition (in English): July, 2014
River Meander used to run winding through the fig
trees, embracing olive groves and pour into the violet blue
Aegean, in the early years.
Two Gods from Smyrna devoid of desire, lived their
early youth on a colorful elbow of the river.
They were naked all day long, not knowing why. They
were curious to know what they longed for in each other.
Apollo, manly, tall, of Mount Erciyes height,
Aphrodite, an empty well, holding no water yet.
They discovered a similarity between each other.
“We look the same,” they said, “but then, we aren’t the same.”
“Why?” they asked, “it can not be without a reason.”
The green fig leaf of spring on Apollo’s groin
Aphrodite questioned it with hands
The nipples like two black grapes
Asked Apollo if he was hungry
The two youths
Were not able to find answers to their queries
Aphrodite attracted while Apollo had to be pushed
Love, Agape, Hub, Snehah in Sanskrit
Bonding together both
Now for thousand years later I am still looking for a
solution – with closed eyes and feel of the hand – for
I have been with you for a long time. We became one.
We reproduced. We existed in terms of another measure
of time other than numbers. An we shall cease to exist, eventually.
Like everything that exists, we changed. In time passing
I turned into thirty thousand different men that all resembled
me, in that they all felt the thirst for you.
The birds tell my tale
As they perch on the branch
I called out for water
As I ran towards you
To the sand and the beach
On a scale other than that of the senses of vision and touch
Along a mountainside, at the speed of wind, as tireless as the sea,
We discovered one another
With you, beauty emulated us
On a scale of beauty unknown to us
On the first day
You stood at an angle totally new to me
In my heart and mind
And in the heavenly light of the heavens
The secret of the earth was my window that opened on you
The secret of beauty residing in your eyes
On that June I met you
We were oxygen and hydrogen
Differently when next to each other
Differently when standing
How shall I say it …
We turned into water in thirst felt for oneanother
Every year a shoot in some different part. Every day I
adjusted my thinking all over again to your measure, like
adjusting the season’s watch.
I added an extra day on my journey
Upon seeing you
I mistook you for fragrance
You were a flower
With your voice
You were the sea, the wind, the time passing by
You passed by as you walked with me
We looked like each other
Under every stone, I discovered you
With my nose
I became the ear
Perceiving now scents, now sounds
Like the wave breaking
I just couldn’t reach ashore
There I stood naked on dry sand
We learned how to laugh, how to smile.
September 1, 2010
© English translation: Ülkün Tansel
Published with the permission of İlyas Halil & Ülkün Tansel