The Critics
by Ceyhun Atuf Kansu (1919-78)

They know their English:
The Victorian Age,
Eliot schmeliot
Are complete on their shelves.

They know their French:
From its origins to the present
The grasshopper and the ant
From La Fontaine to our day.

I am not even mentioning
Those who know Italian or German
The erudite scholars
Those who did it the American way.

Bookworms!
When I open the windows,
In the Bazaar, at the café, in the sun’s garden
Turkish is a lovely rose.

They smell poetry as fruit vendors
Smell the rear end of melons
To find out
If they are ripe or not.

They forbid you
The heart’s most natural right
Which is to sing sincere songs
In the mother tongue.

They set strict rules and laws
The bugs of taste in chests
Eating away at life’s fabric
Worms nibbling away at the core of poetry.

They are bigwigs,
Like members of the cabinet
Or congressmen who live it up
And dupe poetry at every election.

[Translated by Talat S. Halman; from Nermin Menemencioglu, editor, The Penguin Book of Turkish Verse (Penguin Books, 1978), pp. 313-14.]