Faculty Bookshelf: Mutlu Konuk Blasing

Mutlu Konuk Blasing


Blasing is the author of The Art of Life (U of Texas Press, 1977), American Poetry (Yale, 1987), Politics and Form in Postmodern Poetry (Cambridge, 1995), and Lyric Poetry: The Pain and the Pleasure of Words (Princeton, 2007). She has published articles on Emerson, Whitman, James, Eliot, Pound, O'Hara, Bishop, Merrill, and others. She is the translator, with Randy Blasing, of Nazim Hikmet's work into English, and has published eight volumes of translations. The latest are Nazim Hikmet: Human Landscapes from My Country (Persea, 2002) and Poems of Nazim Hikmet (Persea, 2002).


Nâzim Hikmet: The Life and Times of Turkey's World Poet

"Turkey’s great national poet, who is also, as the subtitle of literary scholar Blasing’s intense biography asserts, of international stature, was fortunate in his art, unfortunate in practically everything else. His extraordinary personality crystallized when he was a student in early Soviet Moscow, and his 19-year-old self became the lifelong touchstone of his poetry and his politics. A romantic Communist, Hikmet (1902–63) constituted a party of one, whose commitment to truth, freedom, equality, and justice led to 12 years of imprisonment in and 18 of years virtual exile from Turkey. He wrote prolifically, both hackwork under pseudonyms to support his immediate family (blacklisted while he was interred and exiled) and a body of lyric, dramatic, and narrative verse that was the bedrock of the new literary language created by founder of the Turkish republic, Kemal Atatürk, when he decreed that Turkish adopt the Latin alphabet, banish Arabic and Persian borrowings, and reflect ordinary Turks’ speech. This was a green light to Hikmet, who shared with poetic modernists worldwide the determination to be understood by the common person. Meanwhile, harassment, jail, and exile undermined his intimate relationships and ruined his health. In enlightening remarks on his work as much as the limning of his life, Blasing shows a great poet becoming a great hero." --Ray Olson

Poems of Nazim Hikmet

A leading modern Turkish poet, Hikmet (1902-1963) once wrote from prison, "In the twentieth century / grief lasts / at most a year." First jailed in 1924 at the age of 22 for working on a leftist magazine, he spent 18 years incarcerated. Hikmet was awarded the World Peace Prize in 1950, the same year as he gained his release from jail, only to be exiled from Turkey in 1951 for the last 13 years of his life. The poet evidently never lost his faith in social justice. His love of life apparently didn't weaken, and his poems resonate with its power: "Shot through ten years of bondage like a bullet, / . . . my heart is still the same heart, my head still the same head." But to consider Hikmet a political poet only is to miss his gift, and a temperament infected with joy. In "Occupation" he writes, "In the afternoon heat I pick olives, / the leaves the loveliest of greens: / I'm light from head to toe." The translations by Blasing and Mutlu Konak convey the power and originality of the work; there are no weak poems here. As Hikmet grew, he delivered a richness and humanity unparalleled in its freedom from bitterness in poems like "Things I Didn't Know I Loved," "After Getting Out of Prison" and "The Last Bus." 

Life's Good, Brother: A Novel

Hikmet's final book--an autobiographical novel about a man who is imprisoned for being a Communist, his friends, and the women he loved. Considered to be a major work in his oeuvre. This is the first publication in English translation.

Lyric Poetry: The Pain and the Pleasure of Words

Lyric poetry has long been regarded as the intensely private, emotional expression of individuals, powerful precisely because it draws readers into personal worlds. But who, exactly, is the "I" in a lyric poem, and how is it created? In Lyric Poetry, Mutlu Blasing argues that the individual in a lyric is only a virtual entity and that lyric poetry takes its power from the public, emotional power of language itself.

In the first major new theory of the lyric to be put forward in decades, Blasing proposes that lyric poetry is a public discourse deeply rooted in the mother tongue. She looks to poetic, linguistic, and psychoanalytic theory to help unravel the intricate historical processes that generate speaking subjects, and concludes that lyric forms convey both personal and communal emotional histories in language. Focusing on the work of such diverse twentieth-century American poets as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and Anne Sexton, Blasing demonstrates the ways that the lyric "I" speaks, from first to last, as a creation of poetic language.