About this poet

Nazim Hikmet was born on January 15, 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 seventeen.

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 poetry—five collections and four long poems—while 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.

Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison

Nazim Hikmet, 1902 - 1963
If instead of being hanged by the neck
	you're thrown inside
	for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, and people,
	if you do ten or fifteen years
	apart from the time you have left,
you won't say,
		"Better I had swung from the end of a rope
						like a flag"--
you'll put your foot down and live.
It may not be a pleasure exactly,
but it's your solemn duty
	to live one more day
			to spite the enemy.
Part of you may live alone inside,
		like a stone at the bottom of a well.
But the other part
	must be so caught up
	in the flurry of the world
             that you shiver there inside
     when outside, at forty days' distance, a leaf moves.
To wait for letters inside,
to sing sad songs,
or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling
                              is sweet but dangerous.
Look at your face from shave to shave,
forget your age,
watch out for lice
                       and for spring nights,
       and always remember
              to eat every last piece of bread--
also, don't forget to laugh heartily.
And who knows,
the woman you love may stop loving you.
Don't say it's no big thing:
it's like the snapping of a green branch
                                             to the man inside.
To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.
I mean, it's not that you can't pass
        ten or fifteen years inside
                                       and more--
               you can,
               as long as the jewel
               on the left side of your chest doesn't lose its luster!

From Poems of Nazim Hikmet, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk, published by Persea Books. Copyright © 1994 by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. Used with the permission of Persea Books. All rights reserved.

Nazim Hikmet

Nazim Hikmet

Nazim Hikmet was born in 1902 in Salonika, Ottoman Empire (now Thessaloníki, Greece),

by this poet

poem
it's 1962 March 28th
I'm sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train 
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain 
I don't like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn't know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn't worked the earth love it 
I've never
poem

I

Living is no laughing matter:
	you must live with great seriousness
		like a squirrel, for example--
   I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
		I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
	you must take it seriously,
	so much so and to such a degree