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In the Temple of a Patient God

In the Temple of a Patient God

by Bejan Matur

Bilingual English / Turkish edition

Translated by Ruth Christie with an introduction by Maureen Freely

Part of our Visible Poets series edited by Jean Boase-Beier

To read Bejan Matur is to walk into a windswept desert strewn with bones and broken bodies and stones stained red by absent gods. Nothing is whole; nothing explains itself; nothing lasts. Horsemen gallop out of the night only to fade into the mountains on the horizon. Gravestones line the roads. Ruined houses howl with wind while shepherds sing dirges about a shattered, scattered tribe left to wander in the dark. It is a haunted, desolate and fragmented landscape in which every stone glows with a grief beyond words...

[Matur's] poems are jagged shards that stand together only to expose history as a myth. But it is still possible to see them as children of her childhood (she comes from a Kurdish Alevi family and grew up in south-eastern Turkey at a time of virtual civil war). And it is possible, when reading her poems, to imagine what that might mean. It is evident in their very shape, for Matur carves away at her images until she's stripped them down to the anguish at their heart. She claims no literary ancestors, drawing instead upon the oral traditions of her childhood...

It is almost as if her words are themselves gods, animating everything they inhabit. And here we come to the central paradox of Matur's poetry. Matur does not write in Kurdish, the banned, and therefore private, language of her early childhood. She writes in Turkish, the language in which she was educated — one might almost say exiled... She talks on the one hand of her Turkish being stronger than her Kurdish. And then she talks of the way in which dead languages lurk inside living languages. Words never forget their spiritual histories... She speaks of cutting her poems back and back, shaving them down to the bone until she has found the old word inside the new word, the Turkish poem that owes its haunting power to Kurdish.

So she is chipping and carving for a reason. Her dedication to this cause is absolute, and it takes her far beyond the questions raised by her own history. And it's this that makes her a world poet of the highest order.

— Maureen Freely (from her Introduction to In the Temple of a Patient God)

...obscure, opaque — an emotional geographer travelling without maps. ...very purposeful, wilful, and courageous acts of remembering...a lament we cannot afford to ignore.

George Messo, London Magazine Aug/Sep 2005

...impressed with the force... a very strong metaphorical narrative... an uneasy power lurking within. Lines like..., seemed to me to have a ring of some of Eliot.

Robert Nisbet, Roundyhouse 20

Bejan Matur ambitiously tries to capture something beyond the horizon of human vision — primitive, tribal, maternal..., and her writing sometimes crosses language's boundary by the recalling of gestures, nursery rhyme, oral legends and mysterious moments in our blood.

Bei Dao

Bejan Matur somehow speaks for herself and for her people at the same time — that is, she manages to be nationalistic and intimate simultaneously. An impressive achievement.

Billy Collins

134 pages
ISBN 1 900072 96 3
Published January 2004

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