Poetry Reading: Bejan Matur: How Abraham Abandoned Me

Wed, April 2, 2014 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Bejan Matur

Translated by Ruth Christie with Selçuk Berilgen

Free and open to the public

(Suggested contributions $5)

Bejan Matur reads from her newest collection of poetry, How Abraham Abandoned Me. This collection covers the broad vision of mankind's history with a story of an individual journey, in the course of which the poet explores the cosmic and the microcosm, the immensities of Time and Space, of becoming and Being. The poems came during a pilgrimage in south-eastern Anatolia. Matur has created a personalised iconography based on Islamic references and imagery, presenting complex ideas with a simplicity of expression that is perfectly mirrored in Ruth Christie's translation.

Bejan Matur was born of an Alevi Kurdish family on 14 September 1968 in the ancient Hittite city of Maraş in southeast Turkey. Her first school was in her own village; later she attended the long-established Lycée in the region’s most important cultural centre Gaziantep. These years were spent living with her sisters far from their parents. She studied Law at Ankara University, but has never practised. In her university years, she was published in several literary periodicals. Reviewers found her poetry “dark and mystic”. The shamanist poetry with its pagan perceptions, belonging to the past rather than the present, of her birthplace and the nature and life of her village, attracted much attention.

Her first book, Rüzgar Dolu Konaklar, published in 1996, unrelated to the contemporary mainstream of Turkish poets and poetry, won several literary prizes. Her second book, Tanrý Görmesin Harflerimi (1999) was warmly greeted. Two further books appeared at the same time in 2002, Ayýn Büyüttüðü Oðullar and Onun Çölünde, continuing the distinctive language and world of imagery special to herself and her poetry. In 2004, a selection of her poems was published by Arc Publications in England under the title In The Temple of a Patient God; the same book was published in German and French by PHI in Luxembourg in 2006 as Winddurchu-wehte Herren-hauser. How Abraham Abandoned Me (Arc Publications, April 2012) is a PBS Spring Recommended Translation.

Bejan is the founder of Diyabakir Culture and Art Foundation, which was established in 2008. Currently, she devotes all her time to writing poetry, and occasionally contributes to an internet journal and newspapers. She believes there is no frontier between poetry and life and travels the world like a long-term desert nomad. She stops by Istanbul, a city she sometimes lives in.

About the translators

Ruth Christie was born and educated in Scotland, and after graduating from the University of St. Andrews taught English for two years in Turkey, later studying Turkish language and literature at London University. For several years she taught English literature to American undergraduates resident in London. With Saliha Paker she translated a Turkish novel by Latife Tekin (Marion Boyars, 1993) and, in collaboration with Richard McKane, a selection of the poems of Oktay Rifat (Rockingham Press, 1993), and a major collection of Nâzim Hikmet’s poetry, again with Richard McKane, was published by Anvil Press in 2002. In 2004, In the Temple of a Patient God, her translations from the Turkish of Bejan Matur, was published by Arc in its ‘Visible Poets’ series.

Recent translations include a major collection Poems of Oktay Rifat with Richard McKane (Anvil Press, 2007), which was shortlisted for the 2011 Popescu poetry prize. In 2008, in collaboration with Selçuk Berilgen, a translation of Selçuk Altun’s novel Songs My Mother Never Taught Me was published by Telegram.

Selçuk Berilgen was born in Canada to Turkish parents. He was educated in Turkey and holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from Middle East Technical University, Ankara. Following graduation, he moved to Toronto, then to New York and, since 1994, has lived in London. He has worked extensively as a translator and interpreter for various organisations and, since 2003, as a group therapist for torture survivors. He holds an MA in Working with Groups from the Tavistock Institute, London.

His translations include Feyyaz Kayacan’s Shelter Stories (Rockingham, 2007) and Songs My Mother Never Taught Me by Selçuk Altun (Telegram, 2008), both with Ruth Christie; he has also collaborated with Christie on Bejan Matur’s book of poems and photographs Sea of Fate (Timas, 2010) and her poem ‘Infinity’s Watchman’ published in Reflections on Islamic Art (Qatar Museum, 2011).


"How Abraham Abandoned Me is an astonishing book. On the one hand, it takes the iconography of Islam, the One-Thousand-and-one-Nights, personal narrative, the tussles with religious doubt and the struggle of the Kurdish people, throws them up in the air and, from the resulting poetic pick-up-sticks creates a compelling, surging poetry." ...

Ian Pople, Manchester Review, November 2012

"Bejan Matur writers like a prophet from the Old Testament, which, considering her title, is perhaps to be expected. Her subject matter mingles the actors in the narrative of the "peoples of the book" - thus invoking both God and Allah - with a more personal narrative that is only gradually filtered into a creation story involving darkness, rock and dragons by way of personal pronouns rather than emerging characters." ...

Warwick Review, December 2012, Ian Revie

Last updated: 2014-01-14 00:59:27

How Abraham Abandoned Me
How Abraham Abandoned Me
Bejan Matur
Bejan Matur

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