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The Turkish poet and the Armenian - Nazim Hikmet and Missak Medzarents Armenian News Network / Groong May 20, 2002 By Eddie Arnavoudian This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Nazim Hikmet's birth. In none of the deserved tributes to this fine Turkish poet and communist activist will there be even a passing comment on a remarkable poetic affinity with the Armenian and essentially apolitical poet Missak Medzarents. Alas, that the world, and the Armenian world by and large as well, is ignorant of Medzarents' legacy. Be that as it may, a juxtaposed reading of a few of their poems reveals a common generosity of spirit, a common sense of human solidarity and a remarkable parallel of poetic imagination and technique. In 'The Rain' Hikmet writes: 'If I were a door I would open for the good and shut for the wicked If I were a window, a wide open window, without curtains, I would bring the city into my room if I were a word I would call out for the beautiful, the just, the true, if I were a word I would softly tell my love.' As with Hikmet, in Missak Medzarents's string of gems entitled 'Ellai' (Oh That I Were...) the poet and his person are transformed into a harbour and a refuge where safety, justice, truth, comfort and love meet all those who wander by. Medzarents' sentiment can be gleaned from the following: 'Oh that I were an inn on the path that crosses the field or at the foot of the mountain there to meet the (lone) traveller.' In another, he writes: 'Oh that I were the morning to flood light and warmth into dark and barren hovels. Oh that I were the morning that would give even a single spark from my fire to the frosted lanterns of gloomy spirits.' The two poets were from different ages and differing nationalities, and Nazim was only six when Missak died in 1908 at the age of 22. Is there a common heritage from which each poet draws? Both writers were from the same region of the world and could have tapped the same rich vein of natural beauty and the undoubted osmosis of cultural legacies. The question is worth pondering. But their affinity perhaps also reaffirms that feature of the best of 20th century poetry remarked on by John Berger in one tribute to Hikmet: 'Sometimes it seems to me that many of the greatest poems of the 20th century - written by women as well as men - may be the most fraternal ever written. If so, this has nothing to do with political slogans. It applies to Rilke who was apolitical, to Borges who was a reactionary, and to Hikmet who was a life-long communist. Our century was one of unprecedented massacres, yet the future it imagined (and sometimes fought for) proposed fraternity. Very few earlier centuries made such a proposal.' ------------------------------------------------------------------- Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from Manchester, England, and is Groong's commentator-in-residence on Armenian literature. His works on literary and political issues have also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open Letter in Los Angeles.