Culture, Life

PROFILE – Ozdemir Asaf: A gentle poet

Renowned Turkish poet was known to be gentle, life-loving person throughout his life

Erdogan Cagatay Zontur   | 28.01.2020
PROFILE – Ozdemir Asaf: A gentle poet


Turkey on Tuesday has remembered Ozdemir Asaf, a unique poet of contemporary Turkish literature, on the 39th anniversary of his death.

Born in Ankara, the Turkish capital, on June 11, 1923, Asaf was known to be a man with gentle characteristics and love for life.

After completing his primary education in Ankara, Asaf had moved to Istanbul with his family. He graduated from Kabatas High School in 1942.

Asaf met his first wife Selma Tezakin when he was a law student at Istanbul University in the 1940s.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency about his father, Seda Arun said she first discovered that his father was writing poems during the frequents visits of renowned poets of the era, including Fazil Husnu Daglarca, Sait Faik Abasiyanik, Peyami Safa and Bedri Rahmi Eyuboglu back in 1954.

“During these conversations at home, I learned that my father also wrote something,” Arun said.

“I didn't know if he was writing proses or poetry. He was reading a poem. Moreover, he insistently read the same poem. I asked my dad who wrote it, and he said that it was him.”

In 1951, Asaf established the Art Printing House and started to work as a printer. In 1955, he founded a new publishing company, Round Table Press, and started to publish his poetry books.

“In 1955, he published his first poetry book called Dunya Kacti Gozume (The World Caught My Eye), and he prepared the cover of the book himself with his manual cutting machine,” Arun said.

“There was no crew fault in the book. Because he was the crew. The first evening he brought his book, I never forgot his enthusiasm at home,” she added.

Asaf participated in the Belgian International Poetry Biennial in 1959, representing the Turkish Literary Union, and in 1966, he joined the Poetry Congress in Yugoslavia at the invitation of the Macedonian Writers Association.

The poet, whose translations and poetry books continued to be published, closed his printing and publishing companies in 1970.

Asaf’s early poems feature semi-lines and quatrains. He often kept the number of lines in his poems at minimum. The poet also applied to irony and verbal speech.

In his distinguished poem Lavinia, Asaf poeticized unrequited love around a theme of longing. He hides the name of the loved one but nicknames her as Lavinia.

Lavinia (1957)

I won't ask you not to go.

You are cold, take my jacket.

These are the loveliest times of the day.

Stay with me

I won't ask you not to go.

But Lavinia, don't go.

I will keep your name as a secret

Even you shall not know, Lavinia.

The themes of love, separation, death, which the poet used a lot, gradually left its place to the uneasiness of escape and despair.

In early December 1980, Asaf began receiving treatment for a lung disease at Vakif Gureba Hospital in Istanbul.

On Jan. 28, 1981, he died of a brain tumor at his home in Istanbul’s Bebek district. He was laid to rest in the Asiyan Cemetery upon his request.

“My father, who everyone thought was a painter and later learned that he was a poet, always has a cigarette in his hand and walks fast with big steps,” Arun wrote for her biography assignment in the middle school.

“My father, always looking angry at first sight with his brown eyes, mustache trying to cover his whole face, his bony nose, his tallness and his books between his hands, is always cheerful," Asaf's daughter said.

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