Uyghur Poetry

Men Olmidim (I Am Not Dead)

Posted on Updated on

One of my favourite songs of Kuresh Kusen when I was a kid was Men Olmidim, which is quite telling of my childhood and politics lol. The song is one that gives strength and drive when everything is going wrong, and is a particularly good motivator and hype-song before protests (side-note: I should suggest this to the community). Here are the lyrics, followed by my attempt at a translation:

Men Olmidim

Ejdatlarning izidin mangmay turup,
Qisas uchun xenjerni almay turup,
Armanlirim emelge ashmay turup,
Meni oldi dimenglar hey ademler,
Men olmidim, olmeymen yaq olmeymen!

Kok bayraqni wetenge asmay turup,
Dushmenlerni tamami atmay turup,
Azap otining tangliri atmay turup,
Meni oldi dimenglar hey ademler,
Men olmidim, olmeymen yaq olmeymen!

Ghalibiyet marshini eytmay turup,
Wetinimdin bu zulum ketmey turup,
Putun dunya Uyghurni bilmey turup,
Meni oldi dimenglar hey ademler,
Men olmidim, olmeymen yaq olmeymen!

Men olmidim, olmeymen,
Kuresh olmeydu!

 

I Am Not Dead

Before I walk the footsteps of my forefathers
Before I take up my dagger in revenge
Before my hopes and dreams become reality
Do not say that I have died, oh people
I am not dead, I will never die, no, I will not die!

Before flying the blue flag over our country
Before shooting down every last one of our enemies
Before shooting the bullets of grief and agony
Do not say that I have died, oh people
I am not dead, I will never die, no, I will not die!

Before singing the anthem of victory
Before this oppression leaves my country
Before the entire world knows about Uyghurs
Do not say that I have died, oh people
I am not dead, I will never die, no, I will not die!

I am not dead, I will never die
Kuresh* will never die!

 

*Kuresh is the author’s last name, but it also means struggle, especially in terms of conflict or revolution. It is interesting how Otkur also did something similar in Uchrashqanda. Perhaps it is a technique used in traditional Uyghur poetry? I have no idea but it’s cool.

I first translated this as “I have not died” instead of “I am not dead” – which one is better? Or perhaps “I did not die”?

Advertisements

Bu Dunya (This World)

Posted on Updated on

I have always enjoyed Kuresh Kusen’s music. I remember our local mosque sold Kuresh Kusen CDs one time, and my dad brought one home. We listened to it on road trips interstate. As a young child growing up in the west, I’d had a bit of an aversion to very traditional Uyghur music, but somehow that didn’t matter with Kuresh Kusen. There was something about his music that I really connected to. So, recently, I remembered how great his songs were and have been looking up the lyrics. Here is a translation of one I found on this forum thread:

Bu Donya

Bu donya, obdan donya
Qayghuluk zindan donya
Qoynida hikmet tola
Undimes pinhan donya

Bu donya shundaq donya
Tulkiler owlaydu yilpiz
Yolwisi ketken tugap
Maymoni sultan donya

Bu donya shundaq donya
Burkiti tezgen donya
Hoqushi towlaydu ezen
Quzghuni mezin donya

Bu donya shundaq donya
Ussughan cholde yatar
Alimi ketmen chapar
Zalimi haqan donya

 

My translation:

This world is a good world
A prison-for-sorrow world
Plenty of wisdom in its hold
A secret, silent world

This world is that kind of world
The foxes stalk the leopard
The lions have left, extinct
The monkey-becomes-Sultan world

This world is that kind of world
The eagle-reined-in world
The owl calls the Azaan yet
The raven-becomes-Muezzin world

This world is that kind of world
The thirsty lie in the deserts
The intellects work the fields
The tyrant-becomes-Khan world

 

Comments? I was wondering if I should keep it as “The” or change it to a possessive “Its” as that might be more accurate. It’s the world’s monkeys that become Sultans… Anyway, I’m not totally sure if I’m right about this, but the poem sounds a bit sarcastic, but at the same accepting of the unfairness in the world. Like a double- or maybe triple- negative.

Tahir Hamut

Posted on Updated on

From the description on the website:

Tahir Hamut was born in 1969 in a small town near Kashgar, in the southwest of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. He published his first poem in 1986, and has since been recognized as one of the foremost modernist poets writing in Uyghur. His poetry has appeared in translation in Crazy HorseBerkeley Poetry Review, and Off the Coast. Since the late ‘90s he has worked as a film director, and has founded his own production company Izgil, which specializes in documentaries, advertisements and music videos. He lives in Ürümchi, Xinjiang’s capital with his wife and two daughters.

I found more translations of Uyghur modernist poetry, this time translated by Darren Byler and Dilmurat Mutellip (bios in link). Again, fascinating to read and I wish there were more.

Ürümchi

A city.
Inside the dead ice
its significance removed
by a cold wind that remains from long ago.
Soaked to the bone
a reflection of stars on the water;
I saw sobbing in broad daylight
where steam seeped out from underground.

A city—
A repeated, chaotic story,
but, I am removed from it.
Even
on a sunny day long years ago,
when a frail girl disappeared from this city,
fearing love.
She didn’t want to understand
the Uyghur words “I love you!”

A city,
as exhausted as I am;
A city,
which abandoned the spring and autumn;
A city,
Fading away in the fog.
March 2007

ئۈرۈمچى

.بىر شەھەر
ئۆلۈك مۇزلار ئىچىدە
ئېلىپ كەتكەن قەدرىنى ئۇنىڭ
.ئۇزاق زامانلاردىن قالغان سوغ شامال
چىلىق-چىلىق ھۆل بولۇپ كەتكەن
يۇلتۇزلارنىڭ سۇدىكى ئەكسى؛
يەر تېگىدىن ھور چىققان يەردە
.ئېسەدەشنى كۆردۈم كۈندۈزى

–بىر شەھەر
،تەكرار سۆزلەنگەن قالايمىقان بىر ھېكايە
.لېكىن، بۇ ھېكايىنىڭ ئىچىدە مەن يوق
ھەتتا
،ئۇزۇن يىل بۇرۇنقى ئاپتاپلىق كۈنى
مۇھەببەتتىن قورققان پېتى
،بۇ شەھەردىن يوقاپ كەتكەن كېسەلمەن بىر قىز
چۈشىنەلگىلى زادى ئۇنىماي
.سىزنى سۆيىمەن!” دېگەن ئۇيغۇرچە گەپنى”

،بىر شەھەر
ماڭا ئوخشاش ھارغىنلىق يەتكەن؛
،بىر شەھەر
باھار ۋە كۈزنى تەرك ئەتكەن؛
،بىر شەھەر
.تۇمان ئىچىدە يىراقلاپ كەتكەن

2007
يىل مارت

City Night

From the airport to the train station and bus station
Myriad people emerge
Crazily they throw themselves at the city
Seeping with anger into the ground like dirty water, splattered
But I enter its night, walking

Glimmering in front of my eyes
Stubborn streets, angry cars, humpbacked buildings, glaring lamps, immoral
Roads, lonely trash, beautiful dungeons, naked concrete
I have come again, as I often come
Yet it is as if I have never been here before
The prowess of the city, the gift of the night
To become a black cat, a white goat
Crossing in front of me on and on
This is all I can do:
The mountain and I hold the two hands of the city
And pull it in opposite directions
Actually
I am not interested in anything about this city
I don’t even think of it as a proper place to die
It is just that its night is crazy about me
Out of pity I stroke its head1 and look into its shifty eyes
Grasp its hand and pull it down
Wearing its fog, I lie with it

In this city I am the enemy that fights my self
February 2, 2015

شەھەر كېچىسى

ئايرپوتتىن، ۋوگزالدىن، پاساژىر بېكىتىدىن
چىققان سانسىز ئادەم
ئەسەبىيلەرچە ئۆزىنى ئاتار بۇ شەھەرگە
سىڭىپ كېتەر غەزەپ بىلەن يەرگە چېچىلغان پاسكىنا سۇدەك
لېكىن مەن پىيادە كىرىمەن ئۇنىڭ كېچىسىگە

چاقناپ ئۆتەر كۆز ئالدىمدىن
جاھىل كوچىلار، سەپرا ئاپتوموبىللار، مۈكچەيگەن بىنالار، چەكچەيگەن چىراقلار، قىلىقسىز
يوللار، غېرىب ئەخلەتلەر، چىرايلىق زىندانلار، يالىڭاچ بىتونلار
مەن يەنە كەلدىم، دائىم كېلىمەن
خۇددى ھېچقاچان كېتىپ باقمىغاندەك
بۇ شەھەرنىڭ ئىقتىدارى ۋە بۇ كېچىنىڭ ماھارىتى
بىر قارا مۈشۈك ۋە بىر ئاق ئۆچكە بولۇپ
كېسىپ ئۆتىدۇ ئالدىمدىن ھەر قېتىم
:مېنىڭ قولۇمدىن كېلىدىغىنى شۇ
تاغ بىلەن ئىككىمىز بۇ شەھەرنىڭ ئىككى قولىدىن تۇتۇپ
ئىككى تەرەپكە سوزىمىز
ئەمەلىيەتتە
مەن بۇ شەھەرنىڭ ھېچنېمىسىگە قىزىقمايمەن
ئۇنى ھەتتا ئۆلۈشكە مۇۋاپىق جاي دەپمۇ قارىمايمەن
ماڭا چاپلاشقىنى ئۇنىڭ كېچىسى
ئۇنىڭ بېشىنى سىلاپ قويىمەن، ئوغرى كۆزىگە قاراپ قويىمەن
قولىنى تۇتۇپ پەسكە تارتىمەن
تۇماننى يېپىنىپ، ئۇنىڭ بىلەن بىللە ياتىمەن

بۇ شەھەردە مەن بىر دۈشمەن ئۆزۈمگە قارشى

2015
يىل 2-فېۋرال

My Habitat

This place – slightly to the east of the city
A name remembered by many
Lulling them to sleep

I swear
Fish couldn’t dream that a place like this exists
And the nest of the horned wind is also here

I don’t threaten anything here
Yet if my name was not properly connected to my father’s
I would be worth less than a stone

This neighborhood with twenty-six buildings, is where my house is lofted
I, my wife, and my two girls
Floating like four balloons

Here
The meditating walls will never hear
The way the neighbor girl mimics a dog’s barking

Here
Like indecent viewers, countless windows
Gaze steadily at the naked mysteries within

A door with three locks which I have to open everyday
A pair of red eyes which I have to close everyday
A four-room house where I put on and take off my skin everyday

This is my habitat
I am a captive here
It is as clear as my five fingers who has captured me
April 21, 2015

مېنىڭ ماكانىم

بۇ – شەھەرنىڭ قىيپاش شەرقىدىكى
ئىسمى نۇرغۇن ئادەملەرنىڭ ئېسىگە يېپىشقان
ئۇيقۇ كەلتۈرىدىغان بىر جاي

ئىمانىم كامىلكى
دۇنيادا بۇنداق يەرنىڭ بارلىقىنى بېلىقلار بىلمەيدۇ
بۇ يەر ھەم مۈڭگۈزلۈك شامالنىڭ ئۇۋىسى

مەن بۇ يەردە ھېچقانداق نەرسىگە تەھدىت سالمايمەن
مېنىڭ ئىسمىمغا دادامنىڭ ئىسمى قېتىلمىسا
بىر تال تاشچىلىكمۇ ئەتىۋارىم بولمايدۇ

بۇ – يىگىرمە ئالتە بىنا بار قورۇ، مېنىڭ ئۆيۈم مۇئەللەقتە
مەن، ئايالىم ۋە ئىككى قىزىم
تۆت تال شاردەك لەيلەپ تۇرىمىز

بۇ يەردە
قوشنا قىزنىڭ ئىتنىڭ قاۋىشىنى دورىغان ئاۋازىنى
خىيالغا چۆمگەن تاملار ھەرگىز ئاڭلىمايدۇ

بۇ يەردە
رەزىل تاماشاچىلاردەك سانسىز دەرىزىلەر
يالىڭاچلانغان سىرلار ئىچىدە تەمكىن قاراپ تۇرىدۇ

مەن كۈندە ئېچىشقا مەجبۇر ئۈچ قۇلۇپلۇق ئىشىك
مەن كۈندە يۇمۇشقا مەجبۇر بىر جۈپ قىزىل كۆز
مەن كۈندە تېرەمنى سېلىپ كېيىدىغان تۆت ئېغىز ئۆي

بۇ يەر مېنىڭ ماكانىم
مەن بۇ يەرگە بەند قىلىنغۇچى
مېنى كىمنىڭ بەند قىلغانلىقى ماڭا بەش قولدەك ئايان

2015
يىل 21-ئاپرىل

 

1. In Uyghur this refers to the actions of friends and relatives toward someone in pain. 

Living Otherwise with Uyghur Poetry

Posted on Updated on

tumblr_inline_o6bj9sK52m1qfb2ol_500
Untitled by Carolyn Drake, from Wild Pigeon project

This is a little article I found on Uyghur modernist poetry. Here is a description provided:

We recently released Issue 11 of Banango Street, which included Uyghur translations of the modernist poet Tahir Hamut by Darren Byler and Dilmurat Mutellip. Below, Darren describes the development of Tahir’s work in the context of Uyghur poetry.

And here is the beginning of said article:

Beginning in the early 1990s Tahir Hamut brought newness to the world of Uyghur poetics by shattering traditional imagery and forms of feeling and pulling the shards of what remained together in new ways. Like other members of his modernist cohort he used language to reinvent what it meant to be a Turkic Muslim Uyghur in Northwest China. That is to say, among Uyghurs, poetry is one of the most dominant forms of cultural expression. Thousands of Uyghurs self-identify as poets; hundreds of thousands regard themselves as poetry critics. It was no small feat to radically transform the genre, yet that is precisely what Tahir and others in his group of avant-garde poets have done. They have taken the Sufi imagery that suffused conventional poetics out of formal rhythm and given the quotidian and mundane its place on the page. In doing so they are staking a claim to the modern human experience, pulling traditional knowledge forward, and demanding a space in world literature.

Like elsewhere in the world, the life of a modernist poet is a struggle. For the past 20 years Tahir has been balancing his passion project with his job as media producer. Many times the busyness of work and fatherhood has taken center stage, yet around the end of 2014 a flurry of new poems began to appear; fragments written on an iPhone began to coalesce into fully-formed thoughts. By early 2015 he began to talk about a collection of 60 poems that brought together dozens of new poems and with an assortment of poems from the 90s and early 2000s. A fellow translator, Dilmurat Mutellip, joined in these conversations and over endless cups of coffee we talked out the lore, the friendships, the longings these poems evoke. Plans are in the works to submit this trilingual collection for publication sometime in the near future.

Click here to read more

Yet another fascinating review of Uyghur poetry and modernist writings within the community! I wonder where one can read these poems as they are released, in the original Uyghur?

Introduction to Uyghur Poetry

Posted on Updated on

Two-Lines_17_780X504

Two Lines 17: Some Kind of Beautiful Signal

The Center for the Art of Translation produces translated collections of poetry and prose from all over the world through “Two Lines Press”, with notes and comments from the translators. In its 17th issue, the central theme was Uyghur poetry. The book includes a long foreword from its editors on Uyghur people and their history, then Dolkun Kamberi and Jeffrey Yang take the reigns in introducing, explaining, and translating Uyghur poems from various authors. I included their translation of “Oyghan” in my post about the poem, which seems like a simple poem but the more you read it the more difficult it becomes. The other translations are really fascinating to read, as they introduce old works from the Diwan Lughat al-Turk, medieval Uyghur Buddhist work from the Turpan Basin, as well as contemporary works from writers such as Dilber Keyim Kizi, Abdurehim Ötkür and Abduhalik Uyghur. A look online finds an “Introduction to Uyghur Poetry” by Kamberi and Yang:

The Uyghurs are an ancient people whose forebears are thought to be Turk-Tocharian, and have lived in Central Asia since the first millennium BCE. This area has played an important role since early times because of its favorable geographic location on the ancient trade routes between the East and the West, connecting Greco-Roman civilization with Indian Buddhist culture and Central and East Asian traditions. Burgeoning commerce and cultural exchange brought a cosmopolitan character to the region, marked by linguistic, racial, and religious tolerance.

Over hundreds of years, the Uyghurs have developed a unique culture and have made significant contributions in the history, literature, sciences, architecture, music, song, dance, crafts, and fine arts of Central Eurasian civilization. Most of the ten million Uyghurs today live in the Uyghur Autonomous Region that comprises roughly one-sixth of China’s territory, though diasporic Uyghur communities have settled all around the world. Uyghur religious beliefs are a mix of Shamanism, Buddhism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism, and Islam, which was adopted as the official religion in 960 CE, during the rule of King Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan.

The word Uyghur (also transliterated as Uighur or Uygur) means “unity” with undercurrents of “union,” “coalition,” and “federation.” The name’s earliest known appearance can be traced to the Orkhon Göktürk inscriptions carved on stone monuments in Central Mongolia, and can be found in medieval Uyghur, Manichaean, and Sogdian scripts, as well as Arabic-Persian scripts. Apart from these Inner/Central Asian designations, the name appears in diverse Chinese manuscripts throughout history, where it has been transliterated into more than one hundred forms: Die, Chidie, Hu, Saka/Scythian, Hun, Uysun, Dingling, Qangqil, Sogdian, Tokharian, Hugu, Huihe, Yuanhe, and on.

Click here to keep reading – I really recommend it!

 

Poetry Translations

Posted on Updated on

While searching for examples of Uyghur-English translations, I came across Joshua L. Freeman’s many publications of his translations of Uyghur poetry. He seems to focus on modernist writings, and this was fascinating firstly because I was brand new to the Uyghur literary scene and had no idea there was an entire modernist movement, and secondly because the translations felt like poems, too, which I had not seen in translations I had read before. This is not to say that I had been keeping a close watch on the poetry-translating side of the internet, but I had attempted to find translations of Uyghur poems back when I was an avid amateur writer myself – but the only translations then were the ones on the London Uyghur Ensemble website, which, although better than nothing, were far from the sort of literary translations I was looking for. So here are a list of Freeman’s publications, and I will also link to his Academia website for more of his writings/background.

Three Poems by Exmetjan Osman Sinoturcica
Two Poems by Perhat Tursun Morning Feeling, Elegy 
Two Poems by Tahir Hamut Journey to the South, Eve of Qurban Eid, ’93 
Returning to Kashgar by Tahir Hamut
The Nights Passing Endlessly through Scheherazade’s Mouth by Exmetjan Osman. Words Without Borders
Summer is a Conspiracy by Tahir Hamut. Berkely Poetry Review
Common Night by Merdan Ehet’éli. Asymptote Journal
The Past by Tahir Hamut. Words Without Borders
Chronicle of an Execution by Ghojimehummed Muhemmed. Words Without Borders
Against Tradition by Osmanjan Muhemmed Pas’an. Words Without Borders
The Old Era and the Wolf Girl by Abduweli Ershidin Bozlan. The Harvard Advocate
Burning Wheat by Perhat Tursun. The Harvard Advocate
I Opened My Door by Ghojimuhemmed Muhemmed. FWJ Plus
Three Poems by Tahir Hamut Road, The Border, The Distance. Asymptote Journal
All Colors Extinguish Without Trace History and Colorful Words by Ghojimuhemmed Muhemmed, Only When We Start Moving Apart and No One by Osmanjan Muhemmed Pas’an. Harvard Review

Zunun Kadir’s Ambiguity: The dilemma of a Uyghur writer under Chinese rule

Posted on Updated on

Thwaites, D. (2011). Zunun Kadir’s Ambiguity: The dilemma of a Uyghur writer under Chinese rule. [Link] [PDF]

Description:

This thesis considers the work of the influential Uyghur writer Zunun Kadir (1912-1989), and through it charts some aspects of Uyghur identity and aspiration, while explaining the background of his work in relation to the culture and history of the Uyghur people of East Turkistan (Xinjiang). Growing up in a poor and conservative family under Chinese rule, Zunun developed a commitment to nationalism and socialism in the belief that these would serve as the best basis for the advancement of the Uyghur people. In middle age he witnessed the absorption of the East Turkistan Republic into the People’s Republic of China (PRC) established by the Chinese Communist Party, and he adapted himself to work under that government. This involved accepting a political agenda that called upon him to support a unified greater China to the detriment of Uyghur national interests. This situation presented Zunun Kadir with an enduring dilemma: how to resist the cultural domination of the Han Chinese and maintain the distinct cultural identity of the Uyghur people, while ensuring his freedom to write and publish in an environment controlled by the CCP. In the volatile political environment of the PRC, this balance could not be maintained indefinitely and Zunun was eventually subjected to official criticism and sent to the Tarim desert to undergo labour reform. After 17 years of exile he was rehabilitated in the Deng Xiaoping era, and he returned to Urumqi to resume his career as a Uyghur writer. His later work indicates a degree of disillusionment and caution, but also shows how he reconciled his choices by balancing his idealism with the reality of his environment. The use of ambiguous language and imagery allowed Zunun Kadir to pass the political scrutiny required of a publishing author in the PRC, and at the same time to offer different layers of meaning to his Uyghur-reading audience through cultural and historical references to Uyghur life.

Picture1Picture2

This paper includes the English translations of many songs and poems, and the appendices has the translations of Ghunchem (play), Gherip & Senem (opera), Hessen (story), On the Journey (story), The Road in Quest of Knowledge (story), The Bahkshi Woman (story), folktales “Hizir Peygamber” and “Buhem” from the story “Grandma Perizhan” and “Leelshah”, and two of Zunun’s Fables (The Chick and the Magpie, The Drain and the Nightingale). There are also some translations of Zunun’s poetry as the author analyses his poetic forms and styles.