After the pilgrimage to Szymborska’s stone and to my daughter, the third pilgrimage was to the house of the great Turkish poet Can Yücel.
After saying goodbye to my daughter, I got the idea to visit Yücel’s second house in this life – I had already visited the first one in Kuzguncuk Istanbul, because by chance some friends of mine lived there. I looked at a photo of a feral old boss on the wall with sailor’s head and pipe. Who is that?” I asked, and it turned out to be Yücel, and thus this remarkable poet magically crossed my path.
At Poetry International, of course, they never heard of him and he remained uninvited. You only have to open his wikipedia to see why: the psyborgs believe that the presence of curse words is the most special thing about Yücel’s poetry. So the neat, distinguished and pedantic good shepherds found him unrepresentative, it can’t miss.
It was the sight of the cactus growing into the sky that grabbed me by the throat:
A stone with his signature, and a cactus growing to the sky, that is all it takes to arouse my dismay and my awe. For in my world it is no coincidence that twenty years after his death this house still stands, overgrown, empty, with a wild garden that is a tribute to the man himself and his poetry.
What a monument, this house, this prickly man, who all his life never wanted to choose for the money and invariably just kept putting his energy into great poems. Poems that were critical, political, rebellious and whimsical. Poems that remained untranslated, because the political elites find it ever more pleasant to control the narrative and everything has to be flattened with the right theme.
That is why this unruly little house in the middle of a neighbourhood full of cafés managed to move me. A little later, I was in a bookstore in Datça, where a kindly old bald man with shining eyes answered my question whether he could sell the collected works of Can Yücel in the negative: they don’t exist, even twenty years after his death, nobody came up with the idea of publishing a colected works.
And so I bought everything he had separately, in Turkish, with the same picture nine times with a pensive, sad look on the back cover. Fantastic actually, a kind of statement in itself. One photo is enough for us. You will hear more about this, because I am going to see if I can do a kind of translation project together with Mavi, so that father and daughter can together create a book by this great poet that does justice to his grandcactiness.
Martinus Benders, Datça, 22-01-2022