Reading and lecturing in Nicosia

Adrian Grima was invited to Cyprus to give a lecture at the University of Cyprus about “Whose Mediterranean? Perceptions of a Region” and to read his poetry at a World Poetry Day event Nicosia organized by the Turkish Cypriot Artists and Writers Union. He also read a poem at a reading organized as part of an LAF literary translation workshop, also in Nicosia.

The lecture was given to a group of students taking a course on Turkish Cypriot poetry by poet and academic Neşe Yaşın, who also made some observations about the concept of “Mediterranean identity” in Turkish Cypriot poetry.

When Gaddafi talks to the Europeans and the so-called “West” he refers to the “Mediterranean,” because that is a category that North Africans and Arabs associate with the Europeans. When the West talked about imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, Gaddafi immediately responded by threatening, in my own reading, to attack the Mediterranean, a space that is foreign or even alien to North Africa and the Arabs, a region that is not theirs. The official statement broadcast on Libyan television and distributed by the official news agency JANA said that “Any foreign military act against Libya will expose all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea to danger and civilian and military (facilities) will become targets of Libya’s counter-attack.” The following sentence confirms the impression that the country’s leadership views the basin as a physical and political space that is almost completely removed from Libya, because no country would threaten itself or large parts its own territory with military action: “The Mediterranean basin will face danger not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term,” it said.

Adrian Grima’s goes on to discuss the origins of the idea of the Mediterranean as a region, tracing how it was used by French and Italian 19th century colonialists, how it is all but rejected by Tunisian social justice activist Omeyya Seddik and Lebanese sociologist Nahla Chahal, and how it is used by the Palestinian-Maltese writer Walid Nabhan.

Neshe Yashin (in picture, with Adrian Grima) spoke about the Mediterranean in the work of the Turkish Cypriot poet Fikret Demirag. For Fikret Demirag national identities are problematic and they bring destruction. He brings a “paradigm of peace” to replace the “paradigm of conflict” in Turkish Cypriot poetry following the line of a group of young poets known as the 74 generation, or Rejection Front (Mehmet Yashin, Neshe Yashin and Hakkı Yucal are the leading poets).

Fikret Demirag is the poet of “Cypriotism” which is a kind of anti-nationalistic affiliation and a means of connection with the so called enemy, the Greek Cypriots. Cypriotism is a kind of cultural hybridity where there are traces of all the civilisations that passed from Cyprus. At one point in his career, Demirag defines himself as a Mediterranean poet. This is also an escape from the prison of “Turkishness.” It’s a way to connect with the world, to be part of a bigger unit, but also a way to coexist with the Greek Cypriots.

Neşe Yaşın was born in 1959 to Turkish Cypriot parents. Her father is the accomplished poet and author Özker Yaşın and she is the sister of the award winning poet Mehmet Yaşın. She studied sociology at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara and currently teaches in the Department of Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cyprus, Nicosia.

VII International 21st March Poetry Day Ceremony

Organised by the Turkish Cypriot Artists and Writers Union

Venue: Naci Talat Vakfi Baris ve Dostluk Evi Lefkosa

On Monday, March 21, 2011

19:00 – 19.30 : Meeting poets

19.30 – 21.00 : Music and Poetry

Introduction: Classic Guitar – Beril Bozkurt


Senem Gökel

Jenan Selçuk

Gür Genç

Tamer Öncül

Neşe Yaşin

Zeli Ali

Filiz Naldöven

Feriha Altiok

Neriman Cahit

Niki Marangou

Stephanos Stephanides

George Christodoulides

Ana Luisa Amaral (Portugal)

Anna Aguilar-Amat (Spain)

Sigitas Parulskis (Lithuania)

Tadeusz Dabrowski (Poland)

Adrian Grima (Malta)

Pelin Özer (Turkey)

Vassilis Manoussakis (Greece)

The World Poetry Day on the 21st March was founded by UNESCO in 1999 to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry around the globe.

Last time poets and guests met in the same building was to remember Fikret Demirag (1940-2010 on his birthday on January 10, 2011, and on this day of celebration on March 21 he will be commemorated.

Many of the writers who read at the World Poetry Day event also took part in the Poetry and Translation Workshop held in Nicosia between 17 – 22 March 2011. The workshop was a collaborative effort among the Home for Cooperation of AHDR (Association for Historical Dialogue and Research), University of Cyprus, and the EU-funded network Literature Across Frontiers. The workshop brought together Cypriot poets writing in Greek, Turkish, or English into a poetic dialogue through translation with international poets writing in Portuguese, Catalan, Polish, Lithuanian. The theme of the workshop was POETS IN NO MAN’S LAND.

Participants were invited to present poems that reflected this theme freely interpreted so as to elicit different voices and perspectives on the poetics of “no man’s land,” translation as negotiation through no man’s land, contending places and spaces, histories and legacies.

The chosen location for the workshop – the buffer zone near the Ledra Palace checkpoint – also reflected the theme of the workshop. The idea of translation is both metaphor and practice as translation is a space between cultures where negotiation of meaning takes place.

Some of the results of the workshop were presented in the literary readings in North and South Nicosia (Weaving Mill, March 20th), and at the Naci Talat cultural centre in North Nicosia (March 21st) hosted by the Turkish Cypriot Writers Union. Reading was in the original languages and in translation.

VII International 21st March Poetry Day Ceremony 2011

Naci Talat Vakfi Baris ve Dostluk Evi Lefkosa

The event was organized as a first event in the process of establishing a Centre for Writers and Literary Translators in the House of Co-operation with the support of the Embassy of Sweden.

The poets taking part in the workshop were Anna Aguilar-Amat, Catalan language poet; Ana Luisa Amaral, Portuguese language poet; Tadeusz Dabrowski, Polish language poet; Vassilis Manousakis, Greek language poet; Sigitas Parulskis, Lithuanian language poet; Giorgos Christodoulides, Greek language poet; Gur Gench, Turkish language poet; Niki Marangou, Greek language poet; Jenan Selchuk, Turkish language poet; and Stephanos Stephanides, English language poet. The Cyprus Organizing Committee was composed of Stephanos Stephanides (Professor in Department of English Studies UCY, poet, translator), Dalia Staponkute (PhD UCY, writer, translator) and Vassilis Manoussakis (PhD, visiting lecturer in literary translation, Department of English Studies UCY, poet, translator).

At the Weaving Mill event, Adrian Grima read his poem “Kwarta ‘l Bogħod” in Maltese, with an English translation by Maria Grech Ganado (“Fifteen Minutes Away”).

At the event organized by the Turkish Cypriot Writers Union, he read his poem “Ċelel” in Maltese (a Turkish translation was also read) and a translation of his poem “Kullimkien ir-Ritratti Tagħha” in English (“Her Photograph Everywhere” by Catherine McGrotty and the author).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s