photo courtesy of Persea Books
Nazim Hikmet was born in 1902 in Salonika, Ottoman Empire (now
Thessaloníki, Greece), where his father served in the Foreign
Service. He was exposed to poetry at an early age through his artist mother
and poet grandfather, and had his first poems published when he was
Raised in Istanbul, Hikmet left Allied-occupied Turkey after the
First World War and ended up in Moscow, where he attended the university and
met writers and artists from all over the world. After the Turkish
Independence in 1924 he returned to Turkey, but was soon arrested for
working on a leftist magazine. He managed to escape to Russia, where he
continued to write plays and poems.
In 1928 a general amnesty allowed Hikmet to return to Turkey, and during the next ten years he published nine books of poetryfive collections and four long poemswhile working as a proofreader, journalist, scriptwriter, and translator. He left Turkey for the last time in 1951, after serving a lengthy jail sentence for his radical acts, and lived in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, where he continued to work for the ideals of world Communism.
After receiving early recognition for his patriotic poems in syllabic meter, he came under the influence of the Russian Futurists in Moscow, and abandoned traditional forms while
attempting to "depoetize" poetry.
Many of his works have been
translated into English, including Human Landscapes from My Country: An Epic Novel in Verse (2009), Things I Didn't Know I Loved
(1975), The Day Before Tomorrow (1972), The Moscow Symphony
(1970), and Selected Poems (1967). In 1936 he published Seyh Bedreddin destani ("The Epic of Shaykh Bedreddin") and Memleketimden insan manzaralari ("Portraits of People from My Land").
Hikmet died of a heart attack in Moscow in 1963. The first
modern Turkish poet, he is recognized around the world as one of the great
international poets of the twentieth century.