An Open Letter to Myself by Çayan Okuduci
Writing in the present where we stand between the past and the future brings to mind a sunny autumn, especially when there is a letter is in question and I am therecipient. It is also beyond doubt that it is as peaceful an experience as it is unsettling one. With a broken heart I see that you consider this age, the era we live in, to be a barbaric one, who could deny that the system of this age our ours enables and produces barbarians?Let’s recall the words of Eduardo Galeano: “The twentieth century, born in a cry for peace and justice died drowning in blood, leaving a far more unjust world than it found… the twenty-first century, which was also born in a cry for peace and justice has followed in the footsteps of the previous century.”As Galeano suggests, this age, unfortunately, follows in the footsteps of the twentieth century; it is wilder butpoliter, bitter but sharply-dressed, troubled but lethargic, fatalistic but muttering, creative but demagogic…
The possibility of drawing benefit from the rage and fury of our waters, trees, air, land, of nature which we are a part of is much higher than the possibility of bombs, summoned by the will of our weak and incompetent leaders, fallingat any moment on our roofs, streets, villages and cities.Our lives are in the hands of fools, yes, we might note and talk about the results of the past and compile a list of the lessons that we have not learned yet. There is a saying that goes, ‘one does not need a guide if the village is in sight’, yet it is obvious that this age does require a guide, lest we forget and then live through all those bitter and grim experiences. The act of keeping the bloody memory of the past alive surely leaves a bunch of flowers for the future and becomes a seed that will germinate in the present.As a person from a land that is occupied and exploited; what allows us to go on is a legendary sense of resistance that stands alongeach layer of grief. Isn’tthe very definition of hope the fact that we persist in retaining this resistance as our ultimate goal? How and why can a language be banned?The only answer I can give to the question why the attempts to destroy and bury our ancient language, Kurdish, into the depths of forgetting are stillso strident and ongoingis that barbarism is very much alive.For many years my mother tongue has been under attack in every sphere of life and yet it always manages to be rebornout of its ashes and flaps its wings toward new generations. This is incredible resistance, our language is a living being which wages war and overthrows those in power. I do not know any other language in the world which speaks its mother tongue and kills.In the first quarter of the twentieth century, it is not enough to see the reality of a people risk being killed or thrown into prison merely for wishing to speak its own language as a shame of the “civilised” world.
The art of a colonized people is political, resistant and transformative.I must confess that to be a witness to an era when our literature rises to its feet each dayallows me to open my eyes in a stronger and more determinedfashion onto life. As a Kurdish saying goes, her giya li serkokaxweşîndibe(every plant grows from its own roots.)I would compare the smell of a language or literature which does not grow from its own roots to a flower growing in a pot.Dealing withthe traumatic dilemma that bilingual peoples like us experience as we are balanced between the official language that dominates every sphere of life and the mother tongue we speak at home gives rise to the greatest anxiety. We resemble those soldiers who survive pitched battles. I can assure you that the pleasure and confidence of producing and creating literary work in both languages only make us stronger. Yes, the fact that we are split in half is always a thorn in our side.
How many language does love have? Or to put it differently, if we accept that every lover has their own language, we create this language out of many colours and voices and at each glance, this is drips down onto the pages out of my rich and pure love for you.Its colour is unique, unlike anything else, just as poemsare, it is recreated at every reading and its magic is one of a kind. Like a Bedouin waiting in vain for the rains to fall on the desert I search for my lost loves, all the while knowing it will yield no result: bring to mind an inmate on death row caught between hope and despair, that is where you will see me.This recallsSiyabend(from the Kurdish folk epic, Siyabend û Xecê) as he returned empty-handed from the journey he undertook to Yemen in order to discover what fate had in store for him; my voyages in pursuit of thee lost loves is no different. “A horse is devoid of hope. It carries the despair of the lash that comes down on its back. Our story is something like this.” (from the movie, A Time for Drunken Horses.)We do have hope and though it disappears from time to time, it is constantly growing greater.While the hate filled eyes of those modern barbarians who carry in their hands the lash for our backs still exist, and are still growing., however, it can be observed that they are worm ridden and rotten. Against these modern barbarians, whose stance gives away just whatgreat pleasure they take in spilling our blood, we must not give up searching for love till our last breath. Dearest, do we have any other option?If we do, my dear, you, whose smell and soul are always with me, call out my name. They must leave our lands just like those modern barbarians did when the Indian people expelled them; we must resist patiently just as the South African people resisted against the white barbarians and we must fight back with maces just like those in the small town of Kobanefought back with only their bare hands and unbending wills against the women and children hating jihadists.
As someone who has convinced himself that there is a thin line between the poet and oracle, I sometimes write letters to myself for the future and save them on a flash drive. I do this in order to read them years later, and though I have yet to read any of them, perhaps this might be my first prophetic letter, who knows!Everywhere in the country where I live, the Republic of Turkey, one can see civil war, poverty, hunger and a series of ecological disasters. The more it struggles, the deeper the crises grows. I believe the correct interpretation of the underlying cause of all this is the country’s need to see each of our problems as insolvable and so, rather that offering possible solutions it continues to impose and maintain its bloody presence by trampling over the existence and culture of those deemed other from itself.
No mountain has been left undrilled, is there even a drop of water which has not yet been polluted? Haven’t they made us long for clean air?
At the tip of the pustule lie silence and indifference.As every new administration sought to protect itsown power, the picture before us darkened, like autumn leaves each of our dreams our dreams took leave of our lives.Do we not have enough evidence to suggest that we will face, what might perhaps be, the very last war/wars in the coming years?In our “civilised” world, it is not hard to predict that civil wars will spread just like the corona virus.The day when those who are happy with this system in which women and children are exploited every day and labourers seem to be worth less than nothing and get down on their knees and beg is soon to come, as the saying goes there is comfort at the end of every disaster.
I am not inviting these calamities down on our heads, this is simply an effort to bring the poet and prophet together. Famines will soon cause millions to die or migrate. Everywhere I turn, I see war, from every direction I listen to, I hear oppression and cries. We created this together,would you like to know how?We created it by remaining silent, by looking the other way and paying no attention.The doings of humanity arehere before us, what we areliving now is a wretched and rotten, an expression of the attempt that is ongoing to hold on to life with the dirty, stinky mind-set of the past.
If we do not rid ourselves of the incompetent, useless and hostile administrationsthat the current system suspends over our heads, we will be able to save no tree, river or land. Our handiwork will result in just one thing: ubiquitous desert. If we do not rid ourselves of these greedy administrations, we will not be able to speak though and between each of our languages!Yet still, can “the human” find a way to keep its head above water?I will keep my answer to myself, as long as we do not answer all of the above in a practical manner, we will continue to mercilessly dig a pit for ourselves. It is up to you…
All I am saying is do not give up on resistance and hope, make love not war.The flowers will bloom, the insects will open their wings and fly.Our desert will turn– for we will make it grow – into a great garden, we will sing songs in our own language, in all the languages, and we will go down the river.The dark clouds will lift, the summer rains will drench our nights and drip down from our hair to the ground, our souls will carry the desire for love to the mountains.Our poems will be ferried on the back of the leaves and windowsills to reach those whoneed them, the verses of resistance and hope will echo in our voices and touch the souls of our labouring brothers and sisters.Our trees will turn green, the air will smell as fresh as a summer morning, the days when we will be a friend to the animals rather than their enemy are near, never give up resisting and do not despair.Do not forget the existence of beauty, oftolerance, imagine a world where there is no one in need and keep struggling to believe the time will come when we scale the walls and cross the borders as if on the free wings of a bird, that a time will come when we will smile. We will warm our/your hearts by dancingour dancesin the squares where we will seize the oppressors and the barbarians by the collar and cast them from our midst.
Çayan Okuduci Bilingual poet, translator and writer – Kurdish and Turkish. He was born in 1986, in the province of Silvan, Diyarbakır. He completed his elementary, middle and highschool education in Diyarbakır. He received his higher education Traditional Handicrafts, Anadolu University International Relations Department and lastly Bilim University Perfusion Department and dropped out. His first book (poetry) Yeniden Doğmak İçin was published in 2014 via Tilki Publishing, his second book Travesti At (2017) was published via Şiirden Publishing. In 2018, Helbestên Hevçerx Yên Tirkî which includes his translations of 42 poems written by poets in Turkish was published via Kaos Çocuk Parkı Publishing. In 2019, his last book Ecmain (poetry) was published. His poems were published in many magazines including Çevrimdışı İstanbul, Sincan İstasyonu, Yeni e, Islık, Şarkî edebiyat, Şiirden, Gösteri, Kadın Harekatı, Bernamegeh, Ecinniler, EK dergi, Akatapla, Şahsiyet etc. His poems were translated into English, Kurdish and Persian. His poems were published in Turkish Poetry Today, an annual magazine published in England, in English. His translations from Kurdish to Turkish and Turkish to Kurdish were published in magazines. He is among the founders of the International Şiirist festival (Istanbul). His articles on poetry were published in magazines. His poems were composed and published. He writes critical articles on Kurdish poetry in a digital newspaper called “duvaR.” Also, he writes Turkish articles with a focus on society and poetry in another digital newspaper called “Bianet.
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