A range of experiences and emotions have touched the process of translating and editing these poems, from curiosity and enthusiasm to collective pain. Preparing this folio of Jewish poets writing in Turkish was a joyful and meaningful bilingual journey, but it concluded in deep grief, in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquakes in southeastern Turkey in February 2023. What is the “use” of reading, translating, and sharing poetry—reflecting on belonging, exile, and exclusion—caring for word, nuance, and sound at a time like this? (A time sure to repeat itself, we are told constantly.) We lose ourselves in translation and interpretation but cannot bracket the disaster groaning below the surface of our activity. Even the depths of language cannot hold at bay our constant thinking and feeling about the apocalyptic devastation visited upon people, animals, and cities, or our fear of “the next one” on the horizon. How can we face the fact that the scene of catastrophe is the site of our history and our home—as well as a Moloch that sacrifices its children? We turn to Theodor Adorno’s revision of his dictum about the ethics of art after Auschwitz: it is “in art alone,” he wrote, “that suffering can still find its own voice, consolation, without immediately being betrayed by it.” Poetry cannot defeat power, but perhaps it allows a voice—not as a redemption, but as a necessity. And, in a landscape of denial: an affirmation.
As many thousands are still homeless in the wake of the earthquakes, we ask you to support relief efforts if you can, through non-governmental efforts like the Turkish Philanthropy Funds (tax-deductible for US contributors).