Mehmet Yashin

Mehmet Yashin

Mehmet Yashin (Yaşın) was born in 1958 in Neapolis, the last cosmopolitan neighbourhood of Nicosia, during the final years of British rule in Cyprus. His books have played an important role in re-defining the literary traditions of Cyprus and Turkey. He is known as one of the leading figures in post-1974 Cypriot poetry and literature as well as post-1980s, Turkish poetry and literature.

His first poetry book won Turkish Academy Poetry Prize and A. Kadir Poetry Prize in 1985; his first novel won Cevdet Kudret Novel Prize in 1995; and his three thousand years long Cypriot poetry anthology won Memet Fuat Literary Criticism and Study Prize in 2005. The first English translation of his poetry book was also recommended by the British Centre for Literary Translation in 2001.

He studied at the universities of Ankara, Istanbul, Birmingham, Athens, London Middlesex on political sciences, history and literature. He lives between Cambridge, Istanbul and Nicosia. He teaches translation studies, creative writing and contemporary Turkish and Cypriot literatures at the universities in London, Istanbul and Nicosia.

He has published 8 poetry books, 2 novels, 3 literary essays, and an anthological study. Some of his poems adopted to theatre stage, visual arts and composed by musicians. His poems have been translated into more than 20 languages, his books have been published in Britain, France, Italy, Holland, Latvia and other countries.

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‘Don’t go to Kyrenia’, they said,
but if you do, have no children.
Hundreds of times they said it,
your fault if you paid no attention.

It was the same boat that docked,
you thought the sail was satin, it was a shroud.
They unloaded the songs to the port
but they were not the songs of our love
the amphoras were filled with sea-blood
and those who drank from them were poisoned,
but if they didn’t drink, they’d die of the plague,
and if they didn’t die, they’d go to war.

The lights at the discotheque dazzle,
let them dazzle whether we die or not
we spin in slices of multicolour shadows,
let the lights dazzle, dazzle…

I don’t know what tremor of war
has petrified Kyrenia but left her eyes wide open,
in the confusion of who’s gone away
who’s come back,
the loved ones who have sailed away,
and the dead
and the dead who’ve returned.
Kyrenia will be machine-gunned if she moves,
and if she doesn’t, she will still be bombed by planes.

Love will move, even if we won’t
don’t water the garden they said
but if you do, don’t dig,
there’ll soon be a war, anyway.

If we’ll strip down to soldiers in the Fort,
whether the geraniums burst open or not, in a tumult of noises,
or not bloom at all, around the Loveterranean, our sea.
If we light a fire and dance,
if we dance in the submarine-caves
with LSD and videos and revolvers, we’ll dance,
whoever doesn’t dance will lose his mind
and who doesn’t lose his mind will drown in salt.

Don’t go to Kyrenia they said,
the lights at the discotheque, let them dazzle
there’ll soon be a war, anyway,
let the lights dazzle, dazzle…

               Kyrenia-Nicosia, 1980-1985

Mehmet Yashin
© Translated by Taner Baybars


A museum attendant keeps guard on the Lord of the Sea,
but where in the world could he go?
Who would now open his door to the gods?
To take photographs costs 10 dollars – FLASH IS FORBIDDEN
click click
Odysseus’ voyage is without salt or savour,
bored he’s drinking whisky in his cabin,
in a few minutes the ship will reach his island.
Now there’ll be no more need for legends
fights, encounters or heroic deeds,
a pleasant journey, gentlemen!
Running, hurling the disc
to the dwindling seas
Poseidon froze
and on his lips words turned to stone.
Like one on the edge of telling
what he alone knows
the answer we seek
But now the Lord of the Sea is imprisoned and dumb,
wild waves, cherry-break winds, pearly fish,
none can speak
It’s not essential, gentlemen, to know your offence
the verdict’s clear
your questions will not be answered.

               Athens, 1988

Mehmet Yashin
© Translated by Taner Baybars


The spongelike rock
which rolled down from the mountain
must be nice and soft, imagines the fish.

Hollowed seashells
that have washed ashore;
heedless of their petrifaction,
the child lets them off into the waves
as if what’s been killed
by this-life, could live anew.

The salt imbibed on the rib of the boat
the purple smell of thyme
on the bosom of the marine rocks…
And amidst all this beauty
only in the loved one does Beauty become incarnate,
transforming into a legend
quite suitable for the art of poetry.

The fisherman who gave its title to the poem
is unaware of the beauty that’s his own.
Yet beauty too would like to be known
so as to reveal itself on the surface of the sea,
so that the soul may bear the body
and the body the soul.

               Monargia village/Famagusta, 2005

Mehmet Yashin
© Translated by Linda Stark


The laurels scratch you as you come out of the sea.
–All you can think of is that she will catch cold with her wet bathing suit
you even feel her trembling hips, though you can’t see
the scratches left by sharp branches…–
You hand her your towel for her to dry herself,
when she gives it back to you, you say “No need, keep it
or I’ll feel sad when I remember this moment,
whereas you can both remember me and not feel sad.”
Then she goes to the shower and washes the beach-towel
and gives it to you all cleaned up
leaving no trace of the smell of the sea or the bay leaves.

–But the next day it rasps your skin
that beach-towel which the rough salt has stiffened like sandpaper.–

               Aya Irini village/Kormadti, 2005

Mehmet Yashin
© Translated by Linda Stark

Published with the permission of Mehmet Yashin