OĞUZ TANSEL – Poet and folklorist (b. February 15, 1915 – d. October 30, 1994) took up teaching as a profession as early as 1938 while studying at the Department of the Turkish Language and Literature of the Faculty of Literature at the University of İstanbul and gave it up in 1969 when he retired for health reasons.
His early poems employing rhyme and rhythm were published in the periodicals Servetifünun and Varlık and his first article appeared in Halk Bilgisi Haberleri (1937). After 1940 he was seen to turn to free verse and was noted among Turkish poets of the 1940 generation. He gained recognition with the poems and articles published in numerous literary periodicals such as Varlık, Aydınlık, Yelken, Yeditepe, Kaynak, Dost, Güney, Türk Sanatı, Kıyı, Türk Dili.
Oğuz Tansel is a uniquely lyrical voice among the Turkish poets of the 1940 generation. Adnan Binyazar compares him to “a mythical bird with three wings,” and goes on to say “that he stands out not due to his similarities, but due to his dissimilarities to others in having assimilated folklore together with modern human thought to create wisdom of his own.”
Kemal Özer says that, “among the poets of the 1940 generation who underwent an invasion in the artistic and political sense resulting in a common style and content, we see Oğuz Tansel as one of those to stands most, outside this general framework.”
Eray Canberk had the following to say about Oğuz Tansel’s poetry: “. . . These poems sound to me like a new voice from an ancient world. Not only does nature exist in those poems, but also, a nature loving person wishing to live in peace with nature while in strife and treating nature as if it were human. . . What is most unique about Tansel is, that he has fused the poetry of ancient civilizations and our own folk poetry which have both flourished over the same tract of land. In this poetry, the veins of humanism, struggle for peace and freedom and socialism eventually converge in a main artery.
Alongside writing poetry, Tansel was the scholar who, with his collection of Turkish folk tales he had recorded between the years of 1942 and 1948 in the province of Amasya, made the highest contribution-over forty types of Turkish folk tales- to the Typen Türkischer Volksmarchen catalog prepared by professors Pertev Naili Boratav and Wolfram Eberhard.
Oğuz Tansel was first to receive the Children’s Literature Award given for the first time in 1977 by the Turkish Linguistics Society. He made an important contribution to Turkish national culture with those folk tales published as children’s books. With the mastery and meticulousness derived from his poetic skill, he formed a unique, fluent narrative style.
His poems were composed to music by the American composer Prof. Bruce Reiprich. And recorded live on a CD titled Salkım Söğüt, or The Weeping Willow. On the first anniversary of his death in 1995, his friends had a book The Mythical Bird with Three Wings: Oğuz Tansel (Üç Kanatlı Masal Kuşu: Oğuz Tansel) published for him.
He was a member of the Turkish Writers’ Union and honorary member of the Literary Society in Ankara.
OĞUZ TANSEL’S WORKS
- Savrulmayı Bekleyen Harman (1953)
- Gözünü Sevdiğim (1962, published by Dost Yayınları)
- Sarıkız Yolu (complete poems, 1986, published by Yaz Yayınları)
- Bektaşi Dedikleri (together with poet Metin Eloğlu. Published by: İş Bankası Kültür yayınları 1970; Sander Yayınları 1977; Miyatro Yayınları 1983; Adam Yayınları 2004; Evrensel Basım Yayın 2007)
- Dağı Öpmeler (ed. Aysıt Tansel, published by Yapı Kredi yayınları 1999 and 2006)
- Mutluluk Peşinde (Selected poems published by Evrensel basım Yayın, 2005)
- Altı Kardeşler (published by Dost Yayınları in 1959; Ministry of Education in 2003)
- Yedi Devler (1962; Ministry of Education 2003)
- Üç Kızlar (Dernek Yayınları, 1963; Ministry of Education 2003)
- Mavi Gelin (Yaz Yayınları 1966; Ministry of Education 2003)
- Al’lı ile Fırfırı (2 volumes; 1976; was given the Children’s Literature Award by the Turkish Linguistics Society in 1977; published again by Elips Yayınları 2009)
- Bir de Varmış İki de Varmış ( A collection of Tales by various authors including Oğuz Tansel, published by Boyut yayın in 1979 and 2006)
- Çobanla Bey Kızı (1985)
- Konuşan Balıkla Yalnız Kız (1985)
One day in the month of May
We crossed the Taurus range:
Gidengelmez, Küpe, Yarpuz,
Sun-crested mountains of my country,
And the forest fabulous like a legend,
Where the sunlight can not reach the ground.
Oaks and pines spell out their color,
Their peaks soak the blue with passion.
This exceptional beauty, this splendor
Is beyond description,
We were enchanted by what we saw.
The oleander flowers, a river reddening our road,
Undulates dreamily. . .
Manavgat stream a mirror to the sky,
The attractive cascade strewing pearls
Creates a thousand and one rainbows.
The fearless heroes of legends
Knock on the doors of the centuries,
On my mind the adventure of Bellerophon
Who was as handsome as Joseph,
With the golden harness the Goddess gave him
He caught the sky-winged stallion,
Trampled the dragon at Mount Olympos,
The sorrow of his brother deep in his heart
Drove him from home like a fugitive. . .
Flying with wings of love and longing
We knocked at the resounding bronze gates.
© Translated by Prof. Aysıt Tansel
To Pierre Louys
Ah, the Taurus mountains! Blossom-shaded woods
Fairies, their hair colored in orange,
Ripened the queen of all females
On the forested meadow where you sang songs
Your hair smells of lily, of hyacinth,
Where you crushed your breasts, having put on mosses
In the forested brook, under starlight
The shepherd stole a kiss from your pomegranate lips.
Forest fairies with hair blue,
To wear rosebuds in their hair
Entered the rose hip valley by the moonlit path.
She searched for the cast of her breast in the flowing stream,
A few branches of gillyflower fell upon her mind
The divine goddess of free love
Realized her virginity as she watched her reflection at Karasu
Unable to find the shepherd who broke his promise
The eternal night cut short by daylight so soon.
Ah! The fairies, goat kids, the moonlight
Nomad girls’ plaintive songs.
© Translated by Prof. Aysıt Tansel
From Tansel, Oğuz, At the Dawn of Oleander Blossoms (Antalya: Suna-İnan Kıraç Research Institute on Mediterranean Civilizations, 2011)
For other contributions by Oğuz Tansel, please follow the link below:
Published with the permission of Ülkün Tansel & Prof. Aysıt Tansel