BookNight with Bejan Matur

Members Thursday 2 June 2016, 7:00PM

Bejan Matur is the most illustrious poet among a bold new women’s poetry emerging from the maelstrom in the Middle East.

From a Kurdish Alevi family in Eastern Turkey, she writes verse which is – as one of her leading champions the great writer on art John Berger says – “impossible to describe …. the reader does not follow word by word, but hand in hand, to touch and recognise piece after piece in the dark”. 

Bejan’s poetry is certainly engaged in her people’s struggles, currently spilling across borders that ill-define ravaged eastern Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. She has been jailed by the Turkish regime, and – with other writers – faces continuous menace and harassment. She writes dissident journalism and a prose work based on interviews with Kurdish men and women became an instant bestseller in Turkey.

Her first book of translations into English, In The Temple of a Patient God, refers in stark terms to an Exodus by stateless people who “… walked with touches of the moon / veiling our pain / but still we were tired”. And more vividly: “My mother shows the dead / to my brother / and has become the journey. / They weep together”. 

And yet there is always this palpable mysticism in her writing, close to nature, imagining dragons and leopards, meditating on creation – a dialogue with God. Or what her translator calls “an endless spiritual quest to understand the nature of being”. And this is what propels a second translated volume, How Abraham Abandoned Me, which Matur wrote after being impelled to abandon a trip to Lebanon and listen to the poetry in her mind inspired by her native Diyarbakir. The result can only be likened to Coleridge’s Kubla Khan – visionary, as though dictated from some outer world, writing of: “A long sleep in the garden / and before roses / and birdsong / the serpent, / his body unfamiliar with earth / would slither along / and steal heaven away from us.” Or: “Where poets / and prayers / and words cannot reach / a lover’s breath / and his throbbing breast / will be the guide. / A lover’s swelling heart / watching the river at night / will summon the tiger”. 

For this very special BookNight, Bejan will talk about her work and people, but – here’s the difference – sections of Bejan’s poetry will be read first in translation, and then by her in Turkish or Kurdish, according to the original.

Recommended readingIn The Temple of a Patient God, and How Abraham Abandoned Me, both published by Arc. 

The evening will start with drinks at 7:00 PM, followed by a sit-down dinner at 7:30 PM.

Three course menu costs £25 per person – drinks not included.

The event will be hosted by Senior Correspondent at the Guardian and the Observer, Ed Vulliamy.

For more information about membership and the other benefits on offer, please contact membership coordinator Aurélie Bourguet.