Poets from Japan
I have been told
you have to be responsible
to your own face.
Face could not
hide anything behind.
discovered on the face.
What an ugly
face mine is!
what a serene
face yours is.
You are ever
hiding the power
within the stillness.
You are ever
self-possession is this!
I have lived for
It would be
for me to reach
the stage of this face
being alive for more years.
While the other hundreds Rakans
meditating with hard
you are alone
with your eyes
What is the half-smile?
Is it a scornful smile?
Or a self-scorn?
Are you doubting it
to keep sitting on the rock?
Mysterious is your smile.
It’s muddling up my heart.
How to keep myself?
Are you mocking me?
book SPEAKING TO STONE BUDDHA, 2009
Ogawa: (Our guest Prof. Armagan Cengiz
Büker is a Turkish poet and scholar born in 1942 in Istanbul. His speciality
is Spanish literature and linguistics).
Well, please allow me to call you Arma’n.
It is really a great honour to have you as our first guest poet to be
interviewed for “Poetry Nippon”.
First of all, can you tell us something about your
motherland where you were born. For us Japanese Turkey
is a country geographically not too far, but spiritually quite remote. On top
of that, Turkey
seems to work as sort of crossroad between East and West. How do you think this
idiosyncrasy affects/affected the mentality and culture of your people?
Büker: I am really thankful for your kindness of taking me
for interview in your magazine. It is indeed a great honour for me.
Well, I personally belong to an extinct species of the
original citizens of Istanbul (Istanbullu), with their special peculiarities of character
and manners; that is, I was born in Istanbul
from a free-trading father of the same city.
for us Turks, is one of the admired and beloved countries. Turkish people have
always been curious about Japan
for several reasons. First, because Japan is a far away exotic country.
Secondly because we are interested in different ways of
living of its people. We think they are different and almost mysterious.
They look proud and noble thanks to the Samurai stories and movies, and also
because of the Zen Buddhism books. We think their Kimono and other original
styles of garment are really interesting.
But not only this, we are also interested in, for us
different and original Japanese mentality. We think the Japanese have adapted themselves very quickly to modern technology, while they
have been bravely keeping carefully and fastidiously their own heritage and
their own traditions. For us courage, bravery and pride are very important.
That is why, I think, Turks look at Japanese with respect and with admiration.
Turkey and Istanbul
especially, is indeed a real crossroad not only between East and West, but also
between North and South. Turkey’s
situation is quite special. Istanbul of today,
the contemporary town divided into three parts by water-ways called Bosphorus and Golden Horn
(Haliç) is just in the middle of the four directions.
Two parts of the City belong to Europe, one a
classical European metropolis and one an antique Byzantine museum mingled with
the original Asiatic Turkish character. And the third part is a gate to the so-called Anatolian
civilisations of thousands of years.
A real mixture of human history, a
cradle of civilisations and a real open-air museum. Of course, for the eyes of who knows how to look and what to see.
Many a war, invasion and conquest, the mixing of many
a race, tradition and different way of
believing and mentality ... make a very special and unique idiosyncrasy of high
tolerance and a happy coexistence of varieties, kind of successful exemplary
The Turks still do not know racism nor
discrimination, in spite of actual cruel and violent imperialistic pressure of
the global powers with the aim of creating interior hostilities within the
O: I see. Especially I admire your keyword “symbiosis”. Next, will you
please go on to elaborate on the deeper mentality of the Turkish people?
B: Sure. The Turks,
or better called the Turkish soul is a mixture of East and West.
We are as kind of people, maybe somewhat still nomadic at heart, going from
east to west. Our Turkish history, as I personally believe, going at least
sixteen thousands of years back in the past towards the endless future, is a
legend of migration. In the authentic Turkish psyche there lies the deep mysterious eastern spiritualism and the most modern avant-garde
follies of modernism. The Turkish nation is very adaptable to the modern and to
the rational. There are quite a number of Turkish people today doing business
in every part of the world with the same compatibility.
Recently I made a book of translation from Spanish and
English sources of Dhammapada, in which I maintained
that one of the various religions of the Turks in history was Buddhism, and
therefore there is strong influence of Buddhism in our thinkings.
Recent researchers, however, conclude that there has been no trace of Buddhism
found in the Mediterranean area.
Turkish roots are obviously Asian, not Mediterranean,
of today is accepted as a Mediterranean country. As you see, it is always paradoxical
with us. It is not easy to understand folks. True, Turks are in Europe and they are the very maker of it. But they’ve
also been bringing the Eastern riches, both materialistic and spiritual, to the
West. This is the very mission of my nation; elevating the nivel (level) of humanity.
O: Arma’n, many thanks
for your lecture on the complexity and nobility of the Turkish mentality. By
the way, I have read only several poems of yours translated by Prof.
Yakushigawa on the internet. Among these I was much interested in the subject
of silence and felt your sensitivity seems to be somewhat oriental and close to
ours. Especially your insight on silence leads me to believe it may play an
essential role when we try to be in one with universe. So please describe your
idea of silence.
B: Silence ... a difficult theme that would need quite a long explanation.
Maybe a special study could be made over this matter. Temporarily, just allow
me to tell you that if in the world we had some genuine silence, we would be
much more civilised and much more peaceful.
O: “Silence” reminds me, for example, of my favourite writer Samuel
Becket’s plays, which belong to the Occidental culture. At the same time, silence plays an
integral part in
our Zen Meditation, the core of which is
nothingness. And Ignatius de Loyola wrote “The Spiritual Exercises”.
Considering these, I came to feel what is indispensable for prayer regardless
of any institutionalised religions may be songs (poetry) and silence among
So will you please give us some comment on spiritualism
from the viewpoint of someone who is living in an Islamic culture?
B: Islamic culture ... well, personally, I take religion and every kind of
spiritual ways all over the world as various paths leading to the same searched
andyearned spiritual values, which for me give even
more worth to the world and humanity. Anyway, I am highly interested in Zen
thought and Zen Meditation and we had made a lot of talking about it with Prof
Yakushigawa in Malaga.
I think it is a magic key to open the locked Western mind ..., but as he told
me, it takes a long way to realise and understand it.
As for the Jesuit way of believing and living, just
like many other Christian, Muslim and Anatolian mystic Orders, they are kind of
forgotten and distorted, as seen in many forms of Buddhism in different places
of the world.
So now let’s think about the Rumi
(Mevlevi/Mavlana) Path, which says, “Come, what you
be, how you be, come; be you Christian, be you Muslim, be you fir-worshipper,
be you irreligious, come; had you come thousand times and returned astray
thousand times, come; this way is not a way of hopelessness”. Rumi also thought like you, Kiyoko, and performed the Way
with music. But nowadays it is just tourist-show only ... unfortunately.
O: Listening to your story, I got the impression that you’re quite a
free-thinker and a little sceptical about dogmatic religions.
Speaking of poetry, I have hardly read modern Turkish
literature, to be honest.
But as I personally write on the World Literature in a
monthly magazine, I happened to write an article on Nazim
Hikmet Ran a year ago. He was harshly persecuted by his motherland because he was a communist. Any
political idea is absolutely not what I intend to discuss and the
anti-communistic movement occurred also in pre-War Japan.
Anyway, I was overwhelmed by the intensity and beauty
of the poetic messages Hikmet left for us. Unless you
don’t feel like doing so, could you please give us a short talk on poet Hikmet and the modern Turkish literature?
B: Oh, please, let me have an idea of your Japanese translation of Nazim Hikmet. His poetry no more
belongs to the modern Turkish literature, because, I think, he is rather a
Yes, sure, he was harshly and unjustly persecuted by
some government authorities because he was a socialist. He was lucky he escaped
to Moscow; many
others were legally, illegally and treacherously executed. That’s because it
was a cold-war time; and the world had been divided in two parts, and on both
sides there was only one truth and no freedom of thought. I also wouldn’t like
to discuss any political ideas, but Nazim Hikmet is a universal poet and his tragedy is a universal
We can now only hope that we should see no more
tragedies of this kind. No more poets and no more journalists persecuted,
interrogated or killed!!! But the humanity is not yet as mature as to live
tolerance and freedom in its fullness.
We have to add that the artists and writers and
scientists must always be objective and never tell lies...
O: Yes, and we should not look away from the fact that the persecutions of
poets are still happening all over the world.
Here is the last question to go. I heard that you are
a professor of Spanish literature/linguistics at University of Istanbul.
I’ve always been interested in how literary research and writing poetry can be
compatible with each other. For scholarship requires analyses, whereas creating
art calls for sensibility. It seems knowledge and reason
sometimes spoil art. How do you balance these two precious but different
things in your daily life?
B: Yes, it is true, but it is just partly true ... because I do no more
teaching job officially. I am retired, a pensioner ... as I told before. I
still feel young ... but somehow managed to deceive the years and get retired
in my youth (Joke).
Oh, you’re right ... as long as literature be a
science. But I think literary research is not much different from philosophy
... which is just the very poetry in itself. What do you think? Art ... or
poetry ... is human. And the Human has two brain section, right and left. They
say the two brain parts work differently, but according to my opinion, they
just work interactively and exchange duties reciprocally. And a real Path for
me to unite the human existence is Love... And Love works on both sides of the
O: So I believe our common goal is to seek after a “crevice”, through which
we may envisage a Path of truth. Dear Arma’n, thank
you very much indeed for this culturally interesting and stimulating talk, which
gave us a vivid sense of “crossroad”.
From POETRY NIPPON, Third Series Edition
1, October 2010
Please, take a look at page 187 where there is a poem from Arma’n to Kiyoko, in relation to this interview.
reading a paper Arma’n
interviewed in Radio VOZ
in the 9th CIELE-ICWEL,
2009 during the 5th CIELE-ICWEL, 2005
International Convention of Writers
In the past few days, colours of trees
on western mountains have grown deeper.
After a critical operation, my wife, in a private
looks to the
window, wearing no make-up,
uneasy about her bed’s alignment with the pillow to the
A flock of
gulls return here each day again this year.
When the sun
rises above Mt. Nyoigatake
with its “dai” character,,
they, in formation, fly over from Lake Biwa
and descend upon the Takano River,
their daytime habitat.
undergoes the morning examination by her
lies awake while a nurse changes intravenous injections.
take any food
she dozes off again
through long afternoon hours.
setting sun is reflected on the south building,
the flock of gulls soars skyward
like a tornado.
finished their day’s work, leaving no stragglers,
they go home, filling the sky over Mt. Hiei.
*According to a Japanese superstition, it is
inauspicious for the pillow to be at the north end of one’s bed.
*Every summer, long chains of bonfires are lit on Mt. Nyoigatake in Kyoto, forming the Chinese
character “dai ”
The poem of Takashi Arima in its Japanese version