Translating Turkish-Armenian poet Karin Karakaşlı’s ‘Lilac’ was an extraordinary experience. The group felt it was important to retain the poem’s lyricism – an homage to American singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, to whom the poem is dedicated – and dreamy feel as it slowly unpeels itself, transforming from a fairy tale-like description of love and dreaming to a critique of living in a country you love deeply but is capable of breaking you heart – if not your body. With the Turkish-Armenian experience in mind, we were careful with the choice of words in English that communicate a sense of belonging. For example, ‘dwelling’ felt more alive and assertive than ‘staying inside’. We also felt that retaining an original Turkish flower name –‘fulya’, which stems from Puglia in southern Italy, instead of ‘daffodil’ – retained the original poem’s musicality, while nodding to the word’s Italian origin, a wonderful example of the sponge-like fluidity of language.

Kostya Tsolakis, Poet-facilitator

Additional notes on the translation

[1]Doğmak in Turkish means “to be born” and is also the verb used for sunrise, so in Turkish, the sun literally is born.
[2] içerisinde durduğun: literaly “the one which you were inside of” is in the line before but in English the sentence structure moves. The Turkish line here is: “like a balloon” and the “lilac” referring to the balloon feels suspended in the air at the end of the previous line
[3] These are the lyrics of the song by Jeff Buckley.
[4] The flower names and the different “eflatun/lilac” can be played with here – see a list of definitions for eflatun.
The Turkish “fulya” for “daffodil/narcissus” comes from the word “Puglia” the region in Italy where the flower grows, but I also found out that that specific species is called “Poet’s Narcissus” in English: Narcissus poeticus.
Also note the word for the flower lilac in Turkish is leylak: it is different from the colour, but it sounds exactly like the English lilac, and see how Karin has chosen “leylak” and not “eflatun” in her translation of the song lyrics.
[5] kovuk is a cavity, a hole, a cove.
the verb for “to run” is “koşmak”, and the verb for “to fear/be afraid of” is “korkmak” float: the verb süzülmek has many meanings, here are some examples in context: of tears/sweat running down/pouring/flowing; of birds soaring – flying without flapping their wings; of a boat: moving silently; of a person: going quietly and secretly, as if gliding.
[6] itiraz etme sakın: the word sakın is used to emphasize the negation, like you’d say: “and don’t you dare!” or “Don’t even think about it.” It is like a warning.
the verb “bitmek” means to end, come to an end, finish, expire, cease….
sonunda: in the end, at last, eventually, finally…
“mor” is a colour, it can be purple or violet and can refer to amaranths, the unfading flowers (see Greek etymology)