If This is a Lament

PEN Atlas is excited to share the title poem from a new chapbook of work by Kurdish poet Bejan Matur, translated by Jen Hadfield and Canan Marasligil. 'If this is a lament' is presented here in the original Turkish and the English translation.

Bir ağıtsa bu

Olmayan bir ülkeden söz ediyorlar
Olmayan dilden, kardeşlikten.
Konuşma yok
Yok kelimeler.

Anlaşılmak içinse yeryüzü
Kim ölümü anlatacak
Dağların aldığı nefesi
Çöken karanlığı
Kim anlatacak,
Bir çocuğun rüyasında büyüyenleri

Kuşların kanatları
Eski bir masaldan bana doğru çırpınıyor
Eski kadınların anlattığı
Tenin taşa yakınlığı.

Belli ki bir ağıtçıyım ben,
Karanlık çöktüğünde
Dağların ötesinde
Kimi ansam bakıyor bana acıyla.

Bu bir ağıtsa
Ağlamak henüz başlamadı.


If this is a lament

They speak of a land that never was,
a non-existent tongue.
There is no utterance,
no words.

If we’re put on earth
to understand each other –
who can make sense of death?

Explain how the mountains stole breath,
or translate the darkness
that has fallen?

Who can say what burgeons
in a child’s dream?

Flapping out of an ancient tale,
birds’ wings bear down
on me – and skin’s

akin to stone
as the old women used to say.
When darkness falls

beyond the mountains,
the people I remember look to me
in pain. My words are elegy.

If this is a lament,
we haven’t even
begun to cry.


About the Author

Bejan Matur is multi-award-winning Kurdish poet and writer, currently living in London. She is a leading figure in the bold new women’s poetry emerging from the Middle East. Her poetry engages directly with the struggles of her people, and yet there is also a mysticism in her writing, a closeness to nature, an embracing of mythology. Her first collection of poetry, Rüzgar Dolu Konaklar (Winds Howl Through the Mansions, 1996), won several literary prizes. She is the author of eight further collections including Tanrı Görmesin Harflerimi (God Must Not See the Letter of My Script, 1999); Ayın Büyüttüğü Oğullar (The Sons Reared by the Moon, 2002) and İbrahim’in Beni Terketmesi (How Abraham Abandoned Me, 2008). She has also written prose books and works for the stage.

About the Translator

Jen Hadfield was born in Cheshire and lives in Shetland, whose landscape and natural life persistently informs her work. Her second poetry book Nigh-No-Place (2008, Bloodaxe Books) won the T.S.Eliot Prize in 2008. Her third poetry collection, Byssus, was published by Picador in early 2014. She is currently Writer in Residence at Glasgow University and Glasgow School of Art, supported by Creative Scotland.

Canan Marasligil is a freelance writer, literary translator, editor and curator based in Amsterdam. She specialises in contemporary Turkish literature as well as in comics. She has worked with cultural organisations across wider Europe and has participated in a range of residencies at the Free Word Centre in London (2013), at WAAW in Senegal (2015), at Copenhagen University (2015) and at La Contre Allée in Lille (2017). She is the creator of ‘City in Translation’, a project exploring languages and translation in urban spaces. www.cityintranslation.com

Additional Information

If This is a Lament is out with the Poetry Translation Centre later this month. Bejan will be in conversation with  Jen Hadfield and Canan Marasligil, chaired by Anna Selby, at Free Word Centre on Monday 26 June, 7 – 8.15pm. More info and booking, here.



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