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Syndic Literary Journal

I’ve Learned Some Things

Written by Ataol Behramoglu

Translated from the Turkish by Walter G. Andrews

Narrated By Bill Wolak


I’ve learned some things from having lived:
If you’re alive, experience one thing with all your power
Your beloved should be worn out from being kissed
And you should drop exhausted from the smelling of a flower

A person can gaze at the sky for hours
Can gaze for hours at a bird, a child, the sea
To live on the earth is to become part of it
To strike down roots that won’t pull free

If you cling to anything, tightly hold a friend
Fight for something with every muscle, whole body, all your passion
And if you lay yourself for a time on the warm beach
Let yourself rest like a grain of sand, a leaf, a stone

To your utmost, listen to every beautiful song
As though filling all the self with sound and melody
One should plunge head-first into life
As one dives from a cliff into the emerald sea

Distant lands should draw you, people you don’t know
To read every book, know other’s lives, you should be burning
Exchange nothing for a glass of water’s joy
No matter how much the pleasure, fill your life with yearning

You should know sorrow, honorably, with all your being
Because the pains, like joys, make a person grow
Your blood should mingle in the great circulation of life
And in your veins, life’s endless fresh blood should flow

I’ve learned some things from having lived:
If you’re alive, experience largely, merge with rivers, heavens, cosmos
For what we call living is a gift given to life
And life is a gift bestowed upon us


Ataol Behramoğlu is an eminent Turkish poet, essayist, play writer who was born in Çatalca (İstanbul). His poetry has been translated into several languages and awarded a number of national and international prizes including the Lotus Prize (1982) Pouchkine Prize (2008), Mihai Eminescu Prize (2016), European Homer Prize (2016), and others.
Walter G. Andrews (1939-2020) was a professor of Turkish and Ottoman Studies.  He was one of the founding faculty members of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization (NELC) at the University of Washington. He was an original and engaging scholar, author, and translator of Ottoman and Turkish poetry.


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