I Cut My Black Hair
by Gülten Akin

Notes

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.*

About the Author

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 TurkishRead 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

Analysis

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.

Sources

*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.

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Fanni is Radnóti's wife
Located near the Tang capital city of Chang’an, site of the modern city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province, in central China.
Soldiers of that time commonly wore a white head cloth, similar to what is still worn by some peasants in China today.  The implication is that the conscripts were so young that they didn’t know how to wrap their head cloths, and needed help from elders.
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
The area of Guanxi, meaning “west of the passes”, refers to the area around the capital city of Chang’an.
This is an alternative name for a province in western China, now known as Qinghai, which literally means “blue sea”.  Kokonor Lake, located in Qinghai, is the largest saline lake in China.  
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
Oulart Hollow was the site of a famous victory of the Irish rebels over British troops, which took place on May 27, 1798. The rebels killed nearly all the British attackers in this battle. (Source: Maxwell, W. H. History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. H. H. Bohn, London 1854, pp 92-93, at archive.org)
The phrase "United Men" is elaborated upon in the Notes section below.

Ghetto


An Italian word meaning “foundry.” It originally referred to a part of the city of Venice where the Jews of that city were forced to live; the area was called “the ghetto” because there was a foundry nearby. The term eventually came to refer to any part of a city in which a minority group is forced to live as a result of social, legal, or economic pressure. Because of the restrictions placed upon them, ghetto residents are often impoverished.

"You’re five nine, I am do-uble two"


A reference to the year 1959 and the year 2020.

"The Currency"


Meaning US dollars - this is drawing attention to the fact that Cuba is effectively dollarized.

"Sixty years with the dom-ino stuck"


This sentence is a reference to the Cold War notion that countries would turn Communist one after the other - like dominos. Cuba was the first domino, but it got stuck - no one else followed through into communism.

رحلنا


رحلنا, or "rahalna," means "we have left."

Habibi


Habibi means "my love."

Ra7eel


Ra7eel, or "raheel," means "departure."

3awda


3awda, or "awda," means "returning."

أهلاً


أهلاً, or "ahalan," means "welcome."

a5 ya baba


a5 ya baba, pronounced "akh ya baba," means "Oh my father."

golpe


Treece translates "golpe" as "beating", which is correct, however misses the secondary meaning of the word: "coup".

Carlos


The “Carlos” referred to in the poem is most likely Carlos Bolsonaro, a politician from Rio de Janeiro and the second son of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president. His and his father’s involvement in Marielle’s murder has been questioned and investigated.