Adnan Adam Onart

Adnan Adam Onart

A first generation immigrant poet of Crimean Tatar descent, born and raised in İstanbul Turkey, Adnan Adam Onart lives now in Boston, MA.

His Turkish poems have been published in different magazines: Soyut, Yordam, Kardaş Edebiyatlar, Kırım and Dergah. His work in English appeared in The Boston Poet, Prairie Schooner, Colere Magazine, Red Wheel Barrow, The Massachusetts Review and as Wallpaper in Poetry Motel.

International Poetry Review published his translation (together with Victor Howes) from Edip Cansever, a Turkish contemporary poet. His dislocation and diaspora poems have been collected in a volume together with Kenneth Rosen’s Cyprus’ Bad Period, as The Passport You Asked For.

He earned the honorable mention of the 2007 New England Poetry Club Erikan Mumford Award. He is also the author of TURKISH: A Dictionary of Delight, edited by Roger Conover; ZKM, Karlsruhe, Second Printing, 2006. Adnan Onart is one of the winners of 2011 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Competition.

The Curse of a City


When the newly recruited
young janissary
woke up in the early morning
in his tent
on one of my seven hills
near Tophane
and touched his sword,
issued the day before,
he imagined how easy it was
with a weapon like this
for the enemy
to slice his abdomen
in the battleground.
I took this image,
put it on my lips
as the most poisonous canker.

When the Circassian girl
looked one last time
across the dusty slave bazaar
to the sunset on my Golden Horn,
she imagined the hairy hands
of her new master
touching her
not yet fully formed breasts.
I took this image,
put it on my lips
as the most potent toxin.

When Sultan Osman, the 2nd
in a cold cell
in the dungeons
of my Yedikule Towers
escaped into the dark
to delay a minute or two
his royal strangulation,
he imagined the slender lieutenant
holding the rope,
getting decapitated
by the harem’s eunuchs.
I took this image,
put it on my lips
as the most deadly venom.


In a narrow street,
a scar on my breast:
I had given you birth
in an unexpectedly snowy
early spring night.

I was the one who put
the tongue of your mother
in your mouth
to swear more vociferously
than the bullies of all bullies,
to be as sweet as Turkish delights
in the letters
of your loves.

With my fragile minarets,
with my municipal brothels,
with my Ottoman legends,
and algebraically perfect domes,
I was the one, though
with whom you were in love
— not this doomsday brunette,
not that Mediterrenean sunny blonde.


You left me: I kiss you.

You will write poetry.

You will suffer all kinds of pains.

The Design of a City

This untiring city, İstanbul
changing her skin every thousand year,
invents a new semiotics for the glory
of our existence and its misery.

The sephardic synagogues, almost a rumor,
narrate Hassidic tales
in their self-effacing assertiveness.
Byzantine churches, hymns of space
step into a dance motionless.
The Ottoman mosques seriously
entrenched in functionality;
but joyfully frivolous with the minarets
tickle the tramways
of the early Republic days.

They are all speech acts
with unrestrained felicities –
jokes and prayers hidden between pauses
of millennium long phrases.

Old wooden houses
survivors of unforgiving fires,
with black faces, white embroidered smiles
recite Ghazals rhymed
with the smoothest cobblestones.

O İstanbul,
the patron saint
of all aspiring poets,
thank you for holding my hand
in this far away corner of the world,
in a language, in which
I cannot even swear.

Poetry in this post: © Adnan Adam Onart
Published with the permission of Adnan Adam Onart