Monday, May 27, 2024

The Poetry Corner: “Table” by Edip Cansever


By Norah Christianson

The Turkish poet Edip Cansever  (1928 – 1986) is a well-known representative of modern poetry in Turkey. He was born in Istanbul in 1928 and worked for most of his life as a seller of antiques at the historic Grand Bazaar. He wrote in an unaccustomed, revolutionary  style,—his imagery had, at times, a bizarre quality. I am going to call this “surrealism,” though I can’t find much information about what others have thought.  (“Surrealism is a literary and artistic movement in which the goal is to create something bizarre and disjointed, but still somehow understandable. Surrealist paintings and novels often have a dreamlike quality….” Taken from the site Literary Terms.)


Edip Cansever


A man filled with the gladness of living

Put his keys on the table,

Put flowers in a copper bowl there.

He put eggs and milk on the table.

He put there the light that came in from the window.

Sound of a bicycle, sound of a spinning wheel.

The softness of bread and the weather he put there.

On the table the man put

Things that happened in his mind.

What he wanted to do in life.

He put that there.

Those he loved, those he didn’t love,

The man put them on the table too.

Three times three make nine:

The man put nine on the table.

He was next to the window next to the sky;

He reached out and placed on the table endlessness.

So many days he had wanted to drink a beer!

He put on the table the pouring of that beer.

He placed there his sleep and his wakefulness;

His hunger and his fullness he placed there.

Now that’s what I call a table!

It didn’t complain at all about the load.

It wobbled once or twice, then stood firm.

The man kept piling things on.


Translated from the Turkish by Richard Tillinghast


This poem tickles me. From the start, I am liking this man because he has “the gladness of living.” And then, as this man begins to put his things on the table, I am knowing him more and liking him more. The things he puts on his table are practical things (keys, eggs), things of beauty (flowers, the light from the window), things he’s been thinking about, people he loved (or not), a math equation, the imaginary beer he’s jonesing for, even Infinity (“endlessness”), and he also puts down what he wants to do in life. All these things are this man.  You could say he has laid all his cards on the table, honestly, openly.




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