Requiem for Vanished Poets

This month, PEN Canada is proud to partner with İlkyaz, a monthly, literary platform that features works from writers in Turkey who are under the age of 35 and whose voices are rarely heard. The publication aims to do this by showcasing the prose or poetry of three selected writers each month. To help amplify their voices, we will be sharing the work of this month’s three selected writers here on our website, as well as on Twitter. Each piece will be published in both English and Turkish.

S. Emre Özcan was born in Adana in 1992 and has lived in Balıkesir from the age of three, graduating from Istanbulluoğlu Anadolu Teachers High school. In 2010, he got accepted to MSGSÜ Philosophy department and moved to Istanbul. He completed his degree in third place and with an Honorary Certificate. After graduation he got accepted to a Master’s degree in the same university’s Art History Department. His first article was published in the Aydınlık newspaper’s Books supplement. The Psychological Guidance and Consultation Magazine PDR 3.0 has published his essays, book reviews and short stories. His poetry has also been published in Lacivert Story and Poetry Magazine, Lirik Dergi, Babylon Şiir Kenti, Şiirden Dergisi. His poem “Kül” received an honorable mention prize in the 21st Hasan Bayır Poetry Competition.In 2019 May, this poem “Requiem for Vanished Poets” received the “Alanya Kale” prize in the competition organized by Güncel Sanat Dergisi (Contemporary Arts Magazine).

Requiem for Vanished Poets
S. Emre Özcan, 27 Years old


it would’ve been good for us to do, so we did
we said prayers, we oppressed, we deserted
a poem may have saved our celibate living
we wrote a poem, then another and another
we found cities for ourselves, sheltering in its houses
their sombre rooms may have sheltered us
and we would freely make love, cry with liberty
surely this sun would scorch our skin and the moon freeze us over
more over we were seasoned with this damned loneliness
to assemble dreams through the mornings and be wrecked for nights on end
we dreamt day on end and were wrecked night upon night

wrecked but not in dread, we dreamt on and were shattered again
maybe we would never dream if we hadn’t collapsed
it was clear to us that we had made a habit of drowning in our own breath
we would fret about living
digging, without concern to summer or winter
simply to find that fabular treasure
to find that treasure perhaps…
wouldn’t it be a treat to have found that treasure
we wrote and sang songs
when that wouldn’t suffice we found new cities and wore out others
couldn’t quite pin point what was missing
every house a new blaze, ashes of nights
we couldn’t be ourselves, without making love, we, without weeping
without regard to man or women
we embraced solitude like children
whatever we planted we couldn’t saw
we were gradually effaced
we christened new names, we acquired new selves
new mosques were built, new high rises
our sky no longer blue but blood red
blood red was all the sleepless hours
persuasive promises with acrid echoes
wouldn’t it be nice to know why it never worked?
but no, we never did find that treasure
lean on your loneliness now
stare at the sea endlessly as if you’re owed
this is not that white rose bird
soaring her black wing, sheltering her hope
clearly, a rose bay bird is wounded
you hold two pairs of handcuffs in your hands
one is wooden, the other crippled from the crib
accustomed to ancestry
sunset in scarlet eyes
listen Rumî, this is the cry of separation
like a flame emanating from wherein
it scorches wreaks havoc all around
a slender veil won’t fall off the tongue
you come to form the earth in every city
every night the rain washes you over,
İstanbul heads to the guillotine over and over
ah, have I not suffered enough in Istanbul
on nights where desperation dwindles
estranged from my wife and children
have I not been hung enough, on my own rope,
an arrow in one hand and a bullet in the other
if you only knew what a draught I’m in
in a virgin park, an orphaned bench
if only new why, I couldn’t just die


it would have been fine with or without
it was this tale that cringed us to life
to the bazaars, evenings and love affairs
we know this scar won’t form a crust
we know this sky, gazing with the same old eyes
soaking wet until the mornings
would the dawn break if we don’t get wet
we know, long as these clouds carry the same weight
it won’t
this is why we seek to reborn each morning
while we wake to the same morning for years now
this insomnia is still the same insomnia but
there is no but, so long as we grow taller
it won’t mend but keeps bleeding ever more, this scar
we stopped and ask a bar one day
excuse me, which glass are we on
no answer so we carry on, to another
we dread growing older
the bigger our hands grow so do our dreams
our dreams sermonize our lives
what would we do without you here
what would we, without you, who knows what
sort of lies we would be living with
we feel like forgetting and we leave
when I say leaving, no we’re not leaving
even if we were, where are we headed to
a church appears before us we enter
we suffer for forty days and nights
what would we suffer from if it wasn’t for you old sport
we ask the streets about you one by one
if it wasn’t for you, us sacred Istanbul
don’t call us Istanbul we are ashamed
which Bosporous are we drowning in again
we love not you but being without you
even if you weep to your eyelids
we can’t stay we’re lifting off
this Istanbul is not the same Istanbul
we remember upon entering a building
sitting upon a table, is it possible not to guzzle
in this crowd
the old times, you a girl with as white as snow
her girlhood fresh as love
in the lonesome darkness of this crowd
in Beyoğlu* that night at that exodus
way out what or whom, who knows
which dove we shoot to kill
unable to live without writing poems
abandoning writing still

*an Istanbul district renowned for its night life