Nazım Hikmet - Poet
Nazım Hikmet was born on 21 November 1901 in Salonica. His father was a civil servant at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his mother, Celile Hanım, was interested in fine arts . She played piano and painted pictures as well as professional artists. Nazım Hikmet graduated from the Naval School and started to work as intern deck officer on the Hamidiye Cruiser. However due to his health problems, he was discharged as unfit for duty.
He could not participate in the Turkish War of Independence as a soldier, but he was appointed to Bolu as a teacher. During this period he became interested in Communist revolution and sailed to Batum and then went to Moscow. He studied economics and politics at the Communist University of Eastern Laborers (KUTV).
As he had done while leaving the country, he returned to Turkey by crossing the border in secret in 1924. He started working at the "Aydınlık" periodical. Nazım Hikmet was arrested because of his poems and articles published in Aydınlık and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1925. Then he secretly fled to the Soviet Union once again.
Nazım Hikmet retuned to Istanbul in 1928, benefiting from the general amnesty. He worked as a journalist, wrote poems, scripts and plays. He took Marxist ideology as a lifestyle and was thus followed by police as a result of the "red scare" of the era.
In 1938 he was arrested and sentenced to 28 years in prison on the charge of "provoking military personnel to rebel against their superiors". He was sent to Istanbul Prison, then to Çankırı Prison, and finally to Bursa Prison in 1940. During the twelve years he stayed in these city prisons, Nâzım Hikmet continuously wrote poetry even though he did not have the opportunity to have them published.
He went on a hunger strike in 1950 and was freed in the same year with a special amnesty.
Although he was outside, he was followed continuously by the police. He was called to complete his military service immediately. He went to Romania and proceeded to Moscow.
Nazım Hikmet was stripped of his Turkish citizenship on July 1951 by a decree of the Council of Ministries. He than became a Polish citizen.
Nazım attended many international congresses and visited several countries, becoming a world-famous poet. His writings were translated into several languages. Many of his books were published and his poems were set to music and sung by famous singers.
He died of a heart attack in Moscow in 1963. He was buried in the Novodeviciy Cemetery.
His grave has not been transferred to Turkey despite all attempts. His name was almost taboo in Turkey until the 1980s; however, today his poems, memoirs, letters and articles are on the shelves of all bookstores and his plays are being staged in State Theaters.
Nazım wrote his first poem when he was 11 under the influence of the defeat of the Balkan War. Literature critic Asım Bezirci stated that individual themes, especially that of melancholic love, predominate in Nazım's poems written between 1913 and 1920.
During his education in Russia, Nazım acquired a new vision and his approach to events and human relationships completely changed. Although he was dedicated to Marxism and adopted the theories of dialectic and historical materialism, he could not get rid of all of his old patterns.
His first poems were written in syllabic meter, but he changed his form and preferred writing in free-verse which harmonized with the rich vocal properties of the Turkish language. He changed the traditional verse structure and introduced an order with steps. He cut words in the middle and even reduced them to a single syllable. Sometimes he wrote certain parts of his poems with capital letters, he used various typefaces and fonts, making the page layout a unique structure. The pages, words and lines are free from each other. The appearance/form of the poem, rather than the meaning, is at the foreground. Nazım Hikmet used these visual elements for a new style of art and sometimes as a kind of uprising.
After 1932, the importance of form in Nazım's poems left its place to orchestration
in the words. The length of the verses, separation of the words, selection of
the rhymes and usage of prosody and syllable meters altogether echo the melodic
structure of a choral piece of music.
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