Ana Til Day Poem

I was born here, I was raised here, it’s all I’ve ever known
Yet all my life I have been taught this is my second home

My first home is where our mother tongue was born
Where she blossomed in the mountains tall
In the valleys, connecting oases
Across hot deserts and snowfall

She taught my parents how to speak
And through them spoke to me
And though right now she is imprisoned
Through my tongue she can be free

While her mouth is clamped closed
My voice will be loud and strong
They may attempt to drown her
But through us her life is long

And through that connection we can learn
Our banned, unrevised history
Be proud of who we are as a people
Full of intellect and glory

We learn to love ourselves at a time
We are told we are backwards and old
We learn the truth of our natures
So we can move forward bold

And while they try rid us of her
We speak truth into our identities
We sing loud the beats of our hearts
And the rhythms in our stories

We keep her alive in our speech
In our letters, we continue to teach
The next generation in this country
Where we can learn of our homes in peace

I was born here, I was raised here, it’s all I’ve ever known
But one day we will go back to our ancestral home
And at that time I will take my mother tongue with me
For though right now she is imprisoned, through us she will be free

 

 

Note: (“here” refers to Australia)

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By the way, I published two more poems in a small literary press’ website last month but forgot to share the news on this blog. You can check them out here. The first one is kinda about showing East Turkistan like it’s in an abusive relationship with China. The second one is about how I live at the intersections of identities, and that’s kind of like what East Turkistan was a for a while, but at what point can we stop being the “central intersection” of cultures and just be our own thing? At what point can I stop giving myself so many different minority identifiers (Uyghur, Muslim, Female, Scientist, Australian, etc etc etc) and just be myself?

Salam Deng

So I asked someone for Uyghur rock song recommendations and she delivered. One of the songs she sent was this one called “Salam” by Tingshighuch (which means earphones haha). She really liked it because the lyrics are actually adapted from a poem by Abdurehim Otkur called Salam Deng. I loved it so much I made a lyric video with English subs on YouTube 🙂

 

But the original poem is a bit longer. So I translated that too. Because I’m procrastinating a lot right now. 

 

Salam Deng

Yelpünüp ötken shamallar, qulaq séling sözümge
Qolgha élip romallar tutung yashliq közümge

Éship taghlar üstidin bérip yéting yurtumgha
Yash yürektin séghinishliq salam éting yurtumgha

Baghqa bérip yetkende güllerni öpüp ötüng
Gul tüwide olturghan dilberni söyüp ötüng

Taghlar éship ötkende chécheklerge salam deng
Derd-elemde örtengen yüreklerge salam deng

Zulum bilen yardin juda mehbublargha salam deng
Qarangghu zindandiki mehbuslargha salam deng

Héch nersedin ghémi yoq bégimlerge salam deng
Atisi zindanda ölgen yétimlargha salam deng

Étizdiki emgeklik déhqanlargha salam deng
Baghda qan-qan yighlighan baghwenlerge salam deng

Yétim oghul, tul xotun bicharemge salam deng
Parche nangha qul bolghan diwanemge salam deng

Yat qollirida xarlanghan chimengülge salam deng
Nomus üchün jan bergen reyhangülge salam deng

Zöhresidin ayrilghan tahirlargha salam deng
Tili baghliq, dili daghliq shairlargha salam deng

Her jayda xar, her nege zar zeiplerge salam deng
Özi miskin, dili ghemkin ediblerge salam deng!

1945-yil Iyun, Lenju

 

Translation:

Say Salam // Send my Salam

To the winds that fan by me, lend an ear to what I say
Hold your scarf up to my eyes and wipe my tears away

Climb over those mountains and reach over to my homeland
From my tearful heart send my homesick salam to my homeland

As you reach the orchards, caress the flowers as you pass by
Kiss the beauty who sits below the flowers as you pass by

As you pass over the mountains, send my salam to the blossoms
To the hearts that have suffered from distress, send my salam

To the lovers separated by oppression, send my salam
To the prisoners in those dark dungeons, send my salam

To the Begs with not a care in the world, send my salam
To the orphans whose fathers have died in gaols, send my salam

To the laborious peasants in the farmlands, send my salam
To the gardeners who bitterly wept in orchards, send my salam

To the abandoned boys, the widowed women, to the wretched, send my salam
To the beggars who slave for a piece of bread, send my salam

To the wild flowers humiliated by outsiders, send my salam
To the basil flowers that died for humility, send my salam

To the Tahirs separated from their Zohres, send my salam
To the poets with orchard tongues and black-stained souls, send my salam

To the feeble, bullied everywhere, longing for all, send my salam
To the destitute writers with sorrowed souls, send my salam!

June, 1945, Lanzhou

 

So I didn’t quite know what to title it. I could have just translated it as “Say Salam” which I think works perfectly fine, but I’m not sure if people outside of the culture would understand it. I almost translated it as “send my greetings” but that would’ve just ruined it, I think. Salam is such a mood. People can look it up. Google is a thing. But yeah idk?

I don’t actually know what “öpüp ötüng” means, even though I translated it as “caress… as you pass by”. Wild guess. The word wasn’t in the dictionary I use. Probably because the poem is from 1945. He also uses the word “Dilber” which is a girl’s name which apparently means “beautiful woman”. I always thought it was a type of flower but I guess not. He does use Chimengul and Reyhangul which are both names of girls as well as plants – pretty sad that Reyhan is a girl’s name in Uyghurche but in English it’s Basil, which is a guy’s name. I ended up translating them to English but the double entendre’s been lost :/

I kept Beg as it is because it’s a type of leader or official and I feel like it works in English the way Sultan or Bey works.

Again, references to Tahir and Zohre, an epic love story/tragedy popular amongst Turk cultures.

Interestingly, he says “bichareMge” and “diwaneMge” which means MY wretched/begger rather than THE, which would’ve been “bicharige” or “diwanige”. I wonder if that was to keep the flow of the poem, or if that was done with some sort of meaningful intent. I translated it as “the” rather than “my” to keep the flow though.

Every morning I wake up and feel like I’ll break down
Every night I carry the weight of a million heads bowed down
Every day I walk with weights bearing heavy on my chest
With the moon filtering upon my face I cannot bare to rest

I cannot bare the sunlit paths that I can freely walk
I cannot bare my tears or smiles when I can freely talk
I cannot bare it yet I must, for only I can breathe
With what little breath I still have left I will see my people freed

But for right now I turn my face to hide my tears away
And all alone I weep while working as every cell attempts to pray
I’m standing tall and my body’s strong yet it feels like a facade
To who? I wonder. To myself? What kind of struggle, what jihad?

As each wave of grief passes over me, I wring my heart to dry
But it is blood, not salt water, that stings and blurs my eyes
At least blood congeals, at least my heart still beats, I think
In this ocean of turmoil, I cannot bare to sink

Mother!

I am so, so lucky my mum is safe and living in a place I can reach, albeit on the other side of the world. I couldn’t know how it feels to never see her again. My heart breaks for those thousands of mothers in East Turkistan and their children in the diaspora who cannot reach them through physical or cyber space. Here’s to those children…

 

 

Mother! I will not speak of how you birthed me
Nor will I speak of your sacrifices
I will not speak of your love or your tears
Your exasperations
I will not speak of your humanness, how you are girl and woman
How you are an individual expected angel
Surely heaven lay at your feet before those feet were hardened by callouses
No, I will not speak of your soft voice which coos me to sleep
Nor of your might when you are resolute
The way you mould like the metal poured into flames
And become the sharp sabre

Mother! I need you like the earth needs rain
Whether you flood me or leave me dry
I will hasten to drink your downpour

Mother! We have been separated by borderlines made by man
In the most unnatural accomplishments of globalisation
During times where earth is smallest and
Water is always available
I am surrounded by a sea of salt
While you by barbed wire and men who spit venom

Let me hold you one last time
Before we are separated by the heavens
Let me hear your voice, aware of your own impending sleep
These devils who hold us apart
Cannot know we are connected by roots deeper than their satellites can penetrate
I will send my soul to the moon who will
Transport me into your dreams
And the birds who travel to distant lands will
Bring to you seeds of my love
And the songs of my heart

I know you never despair, my life
I will not despair either
Though the world may darken through my tears
Let the flames in our heart burn those who dare disconnect our voices
We are the harmonious chord made from light
Refracted upon every crevice of the earth
Our songs will meet once again

Mother!

Forgive me

I love you

I will feel your embrace again.

 

Claiming the mystical self in new modernist Uyghur poetry

Byler, D. (2018). Claiming the mystical self in new modernist Uyghur poetry. Contemporary Islam, 1-20. Link

 

Abstract

By recuperating the Sufi poetics of the Uyghur past, “avant-garde” Uyghur poets such as Tahir Hamut and Perhat Tursun are claiming a right to speak as heirs to both a religious and a literary tradition. For these modernist poets, finding one’s own way forward through the past is a way of reclaiming the discourse surrounding Uyghur identity, and the cultural symbols built into it, as an extension of the self. By channeling affect in such a way that it appears to derive from conventional Uyghur imagery, these poets demonstrate a measure of self-mastery that restores a feeling of existential security in the midst of political and religious change. This article argues that the purpose of their poems is to force the reader to accept new interpretations of images of Sufi embodiment and spirituality as valid and powerful. It further claims that the new indexing of Sufi imagery in this emerging corpus disrupts the unity of Uyghur poetry in the genres of Chinese Socialist Realism and ethno-nationalist Uyghur tradition, not in a negative process, but in order to create new forms of thought and subjectivity. It forces the reader to interpret the world not by trying to return to mythical Uyghur origins or reaching for a Socialist or an Islamic utopia but instead as a means of self-determination and affirming contemporary life itself.

 

The more I read this paper the greater my excitement grew, to the extent where I realised I had not felt this much enthusiasm about academia in years; perhaps I need to change my field lol. Personally, I enjoyed this paper most because it explained so much about the intersections of Uyghur culture, religion, poetry, modernism, and the effects of Chinese occupation, and also recounted what the avante-garde poetry scene in Urumchi is/was like (fascinating!). Byler also describes that thing I’ve been noticing in Uyghur poetry where the author puts their name into the last part of the poem. He explains it in this excerpt where he talks about modern poets referencing Meshrep, a famous Sufi mystic and disciple of Afaq Khoja:

…But the most frequent thing they referenced was the way Meshrep wrote himself into the text of Sufism. They were drawn to the way he ended his poems with a reference to himself in the third-person. One famous example of this was how Meshrep wrote of his dexterity as a derwish who leads other derwishes. He wrote: “Dropped into any pot, I will boil. Hence I am called Meshrep” (Light 2008:120). By naming himself, Meshrep is claiming his position as a mystic who can boil with passion in any context. For contemporary Uyghur poets, this “name dropping,” often found at the end or takhallus of a ghazal, is a way of claiming a position within a Sufi lineage.

Closure at last lol.

It’s interesting to see how modernist poets and traditional(-ists?) don’t see eye-to-eye on various issues, and I think it would be really interesting to see what Uyghur traditional poets/literaries have to say about the avante-garde writers. Give me a literary battlefield any day, I am so ready to watch.

It was particularly interesting when he compared Dilber’s writing (which I loved!) to modernist writing and said how it reflects the yearning for the past and the hope that this Uyghur landscape can be brought to the future, whereas modernists speak more of living in the present (despite still being rooted to the past) (perhaps evolving with the times?). Growing up very much embedded in traditional Uyghur-ness but living in the West and influenced by all sorts of cultures, I feel like understand (and want) both? I would like to read more of both either way, that’s for sure.

Perhaps one day when I’m more fluent I’ll be able to read Uyghur academic papers on Uyghur literature that explores current trends in Uyghur poetry, as well as traditional poetry in the modern context; however, this paper was more than anything I could have hoped for at this point and I am beyond hungry for more.

Also the poems/translations in this paper were gr9

Coincidentally, Kafka is mentioned in there too – I’ve noticed a lot of the things I read (most recently Murakami and Omar Musa I believe?) reference or seem to be inspired by Kafka and I’d literally read some of his work yesterday… I’ll probably talk about him in another post (basically, I think he’s hilarious). Another reference I saw in there was Edward Said which has been recommended to me a number of times in the last few months. Once I finish this degree it’s over for you all…

Freedom

Sought for in the dark
It is the feather reflecting light
From a pale moonrise
Giant and pregnant with glow
With a sprinkle of salt
And the sea on our tongues

It is the feeling of weightlessness
And the caress of gravity
Balancing our bodies in harmony
Our faces held aloft in delight
Like the sunflowers
Raised on stalks of power, peaceful

It is consent
And the ability to concede
The ability to move like
The deer or the falcon
And conceive wolf litters
That speak indigenous

It is a world where the only pressure
Is the atmosphere
The only binds are
relationships
the only anxiety is
whether you made the right decision

I have heard of her
And felt her brush against my face
If only I could grab her hand
And give her to those
Forcibly confined to false cocoons
Designed by malicious eyes
To produce red rayon en masse

But I cannot find her fingers
Nor does she linger for long
She is a heatwave;
An illusion, felt—
Perhaps my only choice is
To describe her, fight for her
And burn those malicious eyes with
My own aura
So that Freedom may float through
a new entrance

 

-munawwar

Uyghurland: The Furthest Exile

Uyghurland: The Furthest Exile
by Ahmatjan Osman (Author),‎ Jeffrey Yang (Translator)

 

In Jeffrey Yang’s collaborative translations from the Uyghur and Arabic, Uyghurland, the Farthest Exile collects over two decades of Ahmatjan Osman’s poetry. Osman, the foremost Uyghur poet of his generation, channels his ancestors alongside Mallarmé and Rimbaud to capture the sacred and philosophical, the ineffable and the transient, in a wholly unique lyric voice. Born in 1964, Osman grew up in Urumqi, the capital and largest city of East Turkistan. In 1982, he became one of the first Uyghur students to study abroad after the end of the Cultural Revolution, spending several years studying Arabic literature at Damascus University in Syria. Uyghurland is the first-ever collection of poetry to be translated from the Uyghur language into English.

 

More commentary

Yighla Shamal (Cry, Wind)

I came across this video by Mukeddes Mijit and now I will probably be reading more poems by Chimengul Awut – finally, a female poet! (Obviously not a first for Uyghur people, but a first for me, an amateur reader). You can find more information about her here (it’s in French, first published in this Uyghur-French journal, but Google Translate is a wondrous invention). I found more of her poems on this website.

So, because there’s a French translation in this video:

I decided to attempt an English translation. First, the Uyghurche:

Yighla Shamal
Chimengul Awut

Yighla shamal, ozung tokken ghazanglar uchun
Yighla shamal, ozong sokken yarlar uchun
Yighla shamal, ozong mokken ormanlar uchun
Men yighlashni oginey, oginey sendin

Yighla shamal, tozighan guller, leylalar uchun
Yighla shamal, kok muz tutqan deryalar uchun
Yighla shamal, derexmu yoq seyna uchun
Men yighlashni oginey, oginey sendin

Yargha baqqan qar kozum bolsun siningki
Yargha eytqan lekhte sozum bolsun siningki
Yighla shamal, baghringdiki oq miningki
Men yighlashni oginey, oginey sendin

Yighla shamal, tagh-u tashning peryadi uchun
Yighla shamal, lachinlarning armani uchun
Yighla shamal, meshuqlarning dermani uchun
Men yighlashni oginey, oginey sendin

 

Cry, Wind

Cry wind, for the leaves you have spilled
Cry wind, for the wounds you have severed
Cry wind, for the forests you have concealed
I will learn to cry, to cry from you

Cry wind, for the flowers, the lilacs you scattered
Cry wind, for the rivers held still with blue ice
Cry wind, for the treeless courtyards
I will learn to cry, to cry from you

Let me offer the dark eyes I attend to my lover
Let me offer the heartbreak I utter to my lover
Cry wind, the bullet in your heart is mine
I will learn to cry, to cry from you

Cry wind, for the anguish of stones and mountains
Cry wind, for the hopes and dreams of falcons
Cry wind, for the vitality of the lovers
I will learn to cry, to cry from you

 

 

 

 

Iz (Trace/Tracks)

Iz was a poem we had to memorise at Uyghur school. I distinctly remember performing it with another student at a Nowruz event. It’s a straight forward yet complicated poem, with some great wordplay that goes beyond my understanding of the language. It gained new meaning in this essay I’ve mentioned before on this blog. In it, there is a translation which I have mixed feelings about (starting with the original):

Iz 

By Abdurehim Otkur

Yash iduq mushkul seperge atlinip mangghanda biz,
Emdi atqa mingidek bolup qaldi ene nevrimiz.

Az iduq mushkul seperge atlinip chiqanda biz,
Emdi chong karvan atalduq, qaldurup chollerde iz.

Qaldi iz choller ara, gayi davanlarda yene,
Qaldi ni-ni arslanlar deshit cholde qevrisiz.

Qevrisiz qaldi dimeng yulghun qizarghan dalida,
Gul-chichekke pukinur tangna baharda qevrimiz.

Qaldi iz, qaldi menzil, qaldi yiraqta hemmisi,
chiqsa boran, kochse qumlar, hem komulmes izimiz.

Tohtimas karvan yolida gerche atlar bek oruq,
Tapqus hichbolmisa, bu izni bizning nevrimiz, ya chevrimiz.

 

Trace

Translated by T. Abdurazak, S. Saydahmat

We were young when we started our journey,
Now our grand-children are able to ride on horses.

We were very few when started our journey,
Now we’re advancing and left traces on the desert.

Our traces are in the deserts and in the valleys,
There are many heroes buried in the desert with no grave.

Don’t say they were left without graves,
Their graves covered with flowers in the Spring.

Left the crowd, left the scene, they are all faraway,
Wind blows, sand moves, yet our trace never disappears.

The caravan never stops even our horses become thin,
Our grand-children or great-grand-children will one day find those traces.

 

And now I found another translation which I think captures more of the poetic essence of it (although I don’t think you could ever translate this poem perfectly). I’ve transcribed it from this Facebook video. He seems to translate “Iz” as “Tracks”.

 

Translated by Michael from Atlan

Young we were when we set out on our great journey
Now our grandchildren have taken up the reigns

Few we were when we set off on our tiresome way
Now we, a caravan, leave tracks in the wilderness

Left were our tracks in the wilderness, even upon the peaks of mountains
Left were our heroes unburied in the dry desert

Yet they were not left unburied where the tamarisks grow red
They lie in tombs of blossoms and flowers of spring

Our tracks remain, our legacy remains, everything remains at a distance
And though the wind may blow, the sands shift, our tracks will never fade

Though our horses waste away, ceaselessly, our caravan presses on
In the end we leave these tracks for our progeny one day to find

 

…I’m not going to attempt this poem until I know Uyghurche better. Enjoy!