Bu Dunya (This World)

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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.


as grey descends and people laugh

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photo source

The wilting flowers raise their heads
As the sun rises above their hell:
A churning, dead enjoyment
The metal for which they fell

Weakened they stand strong
And pray like angels straight
But they are trapped at short roots
Immobile in their fate

And no one comes to save them
They’re not important enough, you see
So they grey and die and their ghosts rise high
For death is now their liberty


Note: I wrote this on Jan 17th 2010 and decided to edit it today. It is interesting how differently one can interpret a poem based on what they think they know of the author. The poem was originally a description of the photo above, but without the photo and in context of this blog it could easily be interpreted as a metaphor for a hopeless Uyghur situation.

Poetry Translations

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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

Poetry on Post-its #4

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and in those microscopic images
like the rods you see behind your eyes
she spotted a woman,
swirling, twirling amongst fluorescent green
in the night, luminescent,
fragrant like the nostalgia of nailpolish,
criss-crossed with the fates and
DNA of unknown substances,
dancing her life away


Poetry on Post-its #3

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No. Don’t talk to me about your thoughts on the matter/ Another word and my zen-like patience will shatter/ while your head gets fatter with placeholders/ I scatter the remains of my soul on barren ground/ splattered with the red of my older self/ Colder than the remains of a bolder self/ I’m weakened, suffocating in the folds of a shaken breath/ breaking prematurely through a cracked chrysalis Stop. Don’t tell me you’ve watched me long enough to see my mind and read through my actions. A late reaction in form of a retraction but the damage is done/ the world thinks you are the one.


Poetry on Post-its #1

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I found some post-its tucked away in last year’s planner, poetry presumably written while procrastinating in the lab. Perhaps I will make a mini-series. Here is the first:


It’s complementary/ like peaks in Raman and infrared spectroscopy/ indestructive harmony/ creating cascades of music in melodious cacophony/ hard on the ears/ a grip on the heart. Aromas of a romance waft through the air like the notes of a Spanish guitar, tense, melodic, gravitational. A spiral of fallen petals in a small whirlwind appear in front of you, dust attacking watering eyes. The crusts of a long night in the warmth of a hot chocolate.



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I admit, it is difficult to translate poetry. However, the translation of Oyghan on this website was bothering me so I gave it a shot myself.

Here is the original poem:


Abduxaliq Uyghur (9/2/1901 – 13/3/1933)
Turpan, 1921

Hey, peqir Uyghur, oyghan, uyqung yeter,
Sende mal yoq, emdi ketse jan keter.
Bu olumdin ozengni qutqazmisang,
Ah, sening haling heter, haling heter.

Qop! Dedim, bexingni koter, uyqungni ach,
Reqibning bexini kes, qenini chach.
Kuz echip etrapqa obdan baqmisang,
Olsen armanda, bir kun yoq ilaj.

Helimu jansizgha ohxaydu tening,
Xunga yoqmu anche olumdin gheming.
Qichqirsam qimirlimayla yatisen,
Oyghanmay olmekchimu sen xu peting.

Kozungni yoghan echip etrapqa baq,
Oz istiqbaling heqqide oylan uzaq.
Ketse qoldin bu ghanimet, purset,
Kelichek ixing chataq, ixing chataq.

Echinar konglum sanga, hey Uyghurum,
Sebdixim, qerindixim, bir tuqqunum.
Koyunup halinggha oyghatsam seni,
Anglimaysen zadi, neme bolghunung.

Kelidu bir kun puxayman qilisen,
Tektige gepning xu chaghda yetisen.
“Hep” deseng xu chaghda olgurmey qalur,
Xunda, Uyghur, sozige tengberisen.’


Here is their translation:

Wake Up!

Hey, poor Uyghur, wake up, it is enough to sleep,
Now you have nothing, the only thing to lose is your life.
If you do not rescue yourself from death,
Ah, your condition will be fatal, will be fatal.

Stand up! I say you, raise your head, wake up of your dream.
Cut the head of your enemy, spill his blood!
If you do not open your eyes and look about,
You will die asleep one day, that is your only chance.

Already, your body looks like lacking a soul,
May be that is why you do not care much about death?
I am calling you, but you are lying motionless,
Do you want to die asleep?

Take a broad view of things, look about,
Think well about your future.
If this chance is lost,
Your future will be bad, will be bad.

I worry so much about you, hey, my Uyghur,
My trench mate, my brother, my relative.
I am worrying about you, I am waking you up,
But you do not listen to me at all, what is wrong with you?!

The day will come, you will be so sorry,
Then, you will understand the real meaning of my words.
You will say “Oh”, but it will be late.
Then, Uyghur, you will think about my calls.

Translated by Abdurahim Ayitbayev


Here is another translation I found published in “Some Kind of Beautiful Sign”

To Wake Up

Ay! Uyghurs, my people, wake up, you have slept enough,
Nothing left to lose but precious life.
If you want to save yourselves from extinction,
Ah! Wake up! Our life is threatened, the situation is worsening.

Stand, I say, raise your head, and wake up,
It is time to raze the enemy, I call, be brave, fight, shed blood.
If you do not open your eyes and look carefully around you,
You will die with regret. No choice but to wake up.

Is there no difference, even now, between you and the dead?
Is this why you are still unmoved, as death quickly approaches?
Please, act now, join the call, awake from your deep sleep.
Or would you rather die sleeping? To never wake?

Open your eyes, be strong and unwavering, face the real
In thinking of your fate and the future of the Uyghurs.
If our nation loses this rare and precious chance,
Uyghurs will suffer, our loves will be misery.

My heart is bleeding, ay, my fellow Uyghurs,
My friend, my brothers and sisters, my family.
With my injured heart, with love, I try to wake you,
What is happening? Why don’t you listen and rise up?

When that day comes, how sorry Uyghurs will be,
Then, you will understand the meaning of my call.
It will be too late for regret, too late to wake,
Only then, Uyghurs, my people, will you remember me.

Translation by Dolkun Kamberi and Jeffrey Yang


I found sections of another translation in a book called Factory Girl by Josanne La Valley:

Hey, poor Uyghur, wake up, that is enough sleep…

Hey, poor Uyghur, wake up, you have slept long enough.
You have nothing. What is now at stake is you very life.

Stand up! I tell you. Raise your head, wake up from your dream.
Cut off the head of your enemy, spill his blood!

If you do not open your eyes and look about,
You will die asleep one day, that is your fate.


Here’s my attempt:


Awaken poor Uyghur, you’ve slept long enough,
You have no livelihood, only your life to spare.
If you do not save yourself from your own demise,
Your status is endangered, your state’s jeopardized.

Stand! I say, raise your head, come out from your slumber,
Spill the blood of your enemy, set their heads asunder.
If you do not open your eyes and inspect your surroundings,
You’ll die in regret; there will be no second chance.

Even now your body resembles the dead,
Is this why death is not a cause for concern?
I call for you and you lie there, immobile,
Will you die like this, never awakened?

Open your eyes and peruse your surroundings,
Contemplate carefully upon your future.
If you let go of this precious opportunity,
You will be in great trouble, in great difficulty.

My dear Uyghur, my heart goes out to you;
My trench mate, my family, my relation.
I try to wake you, worried for your condition,
But why is it that you never listen to me?

The day will come when you will lament.
It’s then you will understand the words I say to thee.
“Oh,” you will utter, but much too late,
It is then, Uyghur, when you’ll hearken me.


I’m not sure if that’s better but trying to translate it myself has settled those bothersome feelings. I will probably attempt to translate it again in a few years.