YAHYA KEMAL BEYATLI (1884 – 1958)
The poet Yahya Kemal Beyatlı was born on December 2nd, 1884 in Skopje. His real name is Ahmet Âgâh, but he wrote under pseudonyms such as Agâh Kemal, Esrar, Mehmet Agâh, and Süleyman Sadi. He came from a prominent family whose roots could be traced back to the Ottoman court, and he was educated at various private schools. As he was about to start his higher education, severe disagreements between his parents kept him away from school for some time. When he tried to return to school, he was turned away because it was too late into the semester. Little did he know that this intermission was to become a major turning point in his life. This time coincided with the oppressive regime of Abdülhamit II, and Beyatlı got involved with various anti-regime movements. To avoid arrest, he escaped to Paris in 1903. During his time abroad, he met important Turkish intellectuals, politicians and writers who were also exiles. He traveled extensively in Europe and was exposed to various cultures. He developed a fondness for literature and influenced by the French romantic movement. Beyatlı eventually decided that he wanted to write poetry, and he first studied the historical works of French Parnassus poets. Consequently, he sought out a way to revitalize Turkish divan poetry, in order to create smooth and pure poetic lines.
Beyatlı’s poetry is influenced by music, because he composed with concepts borrowed from Turkish music. While explaining the inner rhythm of the poetic language, he used musical terms such as Tınnet, which denoted the musical value of the sounds or words that pace a line of poetry. For Beyatlı this was the only method for creating internal harmony. He states, “Poetry is akin to music. Poetry is not made of couplets, but poetry is melody.” For the most part, Beyatlı was consistent and practiced what he preached; in his poetry, music and meaning go hand-in-hand.
The central thought that runs through Beyatlı’s poems and prose is that the Turkish nation is fashioned with the sweat and tears of the heartland. Even his love poems featured stylized historical and cultural values. Another peculiarity that can be perceived in Beyatlı’s poetry is the almost feminine sensibility that he displayed towards Islam. His explanation for this is that his father spent very little time with him, and that his first lessons in religion came from long hours spent talking with his mother. Beyatlı grew up in a household where religious hymns and chants were sung, where values of the past were kept alive, hence in his poems he used religion and esthetics together.
When he returned to Istanbul in 1912, Yahya Kemal Beyatlı was already known as a master poet, and the change of regime in the country provided him with opportunities in various high level governmental positions. Beyatlı became a parliamentarian for the Tekirdağ and Istanbul provinces, and in 1947 he was appointed as the first Turkish ambassador to Pakistan. But after this assignment, his health got progressively worse, and he returned to Turkey in 1949. His medical condition was never properly diagnosed and his health was never fully restored. He died on November 1, 1958 in Istanbul.
Yahya Kemal Beyatli's works:
Poetry: Kendi Gök Kubbemiz (Our Own Sky, 1961), Eski Şiirin Rüzgârıyle (With the Wind of the Old Poetry, 1962), Rubailer ve Hayyam Rubailerini Türkçe Söyleyiş (The Rubai’s and Rubai’s of Ömer Hayyam in Turkish, 1963), Bitmemiş Şiirler (Incomplete Poems, 1976).
Essay-Article-Memoir: Aziz İstanbul (Great İstanbul, 1964), Eğil Dağlar (Bow Down Oh Mountains, essays on the National Independence War, 1966), Siyasî Hikâyeler (Political Stories, 1968), Siyasî ve Edebî Portreler (Political and Literary Portraits, 1968), Edebiyata Dair (On Literature, Essays, 1971), Çocukluğum, Gençliğim, Siyasî ve Edebî Hatıralarım (My Childhood, Youth, and Political and Literary Memories, 1973), Tarih Muhasebeleri (Evaluations of History, 1975), Mektuplar-Makaleler (Letters-Essays, 1977).
* Biographical information concerning Yahya Kemal Beyatlı has been gathered from Tanzimat’tan Bugüne Edebiyatçılar Ansiklopedisi.
Sources: Bilkent University, Turkish Literature Deparment, Class Notes.
Reference: Yesim Gokce(Bilkent University)/Turkish Cultural Foundation.
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):