Turkish is grammatically a non-gendered language without gendered pronouns, articles, or adjectives. Some nouns are intrinsically gendered, such as kadın/erkek (woman/man), kız/oğlan (girl/ boy), anne/baba (mother/ father). Aside from these clearly marked nouns, there is nothing on the level of syntax that is gendered. The only pronoun is the gender-neutral “she/ he” that appears on its own or modifies verbs and adjectives accordingly. Thus, it is through cultural codes and context that the language marks – or rather, hints at – gender.
All Turkish poets rely on cultural codes to mark the gender of their characters, should they desire to do so, because those are the means by which gender can linguistically be represented. Second, poems always have to be situated within their specific temporal and cultural contexts. Most of the time, regarding gender, the contexts reaffirm traditional relationships (read: monogamous and heterosexual) and stereotypical dichotomies (male/ dominant/ active and female/ submissive/ passive). Thus, even while Turkish may seem more inclusive in terms of gender representations; linguistically, due to the constant situatedness in conservative cultural contexts, it can be quite constricting.*
Gülten Akın (January 23, 1933 – November 4, 2015) is among the important poets of Turkish Literature. She dealt with the concept of “I” in almost all her poems. Her understanding of poetry progresses from the individual to the social, without leaving the concept of self. Sometimes there is a happy, sometimes unhappy, loving, longing, bored, depressed, lonely young woman and the reader sees the emotional swings in her poems.
Akın won many awards for her poetry and some of her songs have been performed as songs.
|Read poem in Turkish||Read poem in English|
Kestim Kara Saçlarımı
I Cut My Black Hair
Uzaktı dön yakındı dön çevreydi dön
Yasaktı yasaydı töreydi dön
İçinde dışında yanında değilim
İçim ayıp dışım geçim sol yanım sevgi
Bu nasıl yaşamaydı dön
Onlarsız olmazdı, taşımam gerekti, kullanmam gerekti
Tutsak ve kibirli -ne gülünç-
Gözleri gittikçe iri gittikçe çekilmez
İçimde gittikçe bunaltı gittikçe bunaltı
Gittim geldim kara saçlarımı öylece buldum
Kestim kara saçlarımı n’olacak şimdi
Bir şeycik olmadı – Deneyin lütfen –
Aydınlığım deliyim rüzgârlıyım
Günaydın kaysıyı sallayan yele
Kurtulan dirilen kişiye.
Şimdi şaşıyorum bir toplu iğneyi
Bir yaşantı ile karşılayanlara
Gittim geldim kara saçlarımdan kurtuldum
It was far, it was close, it was around, it was around
It was forbidden, it was a law, it was a tradition, come back
I’m not with you outside
My inside is shame, my outside is living, my left side is love
How was this life, come back
It wouldn’t be without them, I had to carry, I had to use
Captive and arrogant -how ridiculous-
Her eyes are getting bigger and unbearable
I’m getting more and more depressed
I went and came and just found my black hair
I cut my black hair what will happen now
Nothing happened – Try it please –
I’m bright, I’m crazy, I’m windy
Good morning mane waving apricot
To the resurrected person.
Now I’m amazed at a pin
For those who meet with a life
I went and came and got rid of my black hair
Akın starts by cutting her hair to escape the depressed state she is in. If we give an example of this from daily life, we can say that women start a change with their hair first. It is a sign of change, of re-existence. In a way, this movement bears the traces of rebellion against the patriarchal mentality of the society.
In a sense, cutting hair is an opposition to existing in captivity and male domination. This change is a step towards freedom, because she is a woman of her age in the Middle East. Long hair has often been one of the most prominent symbols of femininity in Middle Eastern society. Akin knows that something has to change. That may be why she cuts her hair, perhaps as a sign of passive resistance, in her poetry. Will the poet be able to get rid of what she wants to get rid of when she cuts her black hair? Even though the pressures of tradition, spouse, family, and social norms had suffocated her so much, the only thing she got rid of was her hair… Nothing else has changed, and there is no path to salvation in her life. Beyond that, she waits, broken, and neglects herself.
*This poem was curated by Gülşen Şencan, a member of NML’s Language Leadership Council representing Turkiye.
Akın, G., 2016, Kestim Kara Saçlarımı, Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul. pg.100.
Büyükbay, T. Zeynep, XII. Uluslararası Türk Sanatı, Tarihi ve Folkloru Kongresi Sanat Etkinlikleri, p.5.
Louie, E., 2019, A Woman’s Voice: Methods and Obstacles of Feminist Translation in Persian, Spanish and Turkish Poetry, A Thesis, pg. 82.
YılmazG, E., 2016, Yalnızlık ve Kadın Bağlamında Gülten Akın’ın şiirleri, Mecmua Uluslar arası Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, pg. 35-36.
(online) https://siirtutkusu.com/kapici-kadinlar-siiri/, Access date: 14.08.2022.
(online) https://www.siir.gen.tr/siir/g/gulten_akin/kestim_kara_saclarimi.htm, Access Date:14.08.2022.