Semi Circle

Poems by Nurduran Duman
translated from the Turkish
by Andrew Wessels

Praise for Semi Circle

“It’s lucky for the Anglophone world that the beautifully wrought poems of Nurduran Duman made passage to poet-translator Andrew Wessels. Acutely aware of the limitations of language to represent what can actually be seen and said, Duman’s poems instead present a world unavailable without her. Here you will find the poet’s mediation with what is called ‘the outside’ world seined throughout with that which is called the “inside world,” that place of consciousness only the truly gifted can offer with clarity. Wessels’ translations luminously capture the troubled, moral effort of Duman’s poetic project. In case you had forgotten, or indeed if you had never known, Duman will remind you: ‘the person who plants the growing trees mixes himself with the infinite.’ No one in any language goes further than that.”
“Why read poems? Some might say that poetry’s penchant for succinct expression gives clarity, and in that we might find solace. But I think a more subtle reason may be that, in the best poems, we encounter the risk present in all attempts to communicate, and we come to understand what is at stake when we trust the language we use to frame our awareness. In reading a poet like Nurduran Duman, I find the courage to appreciate that ‘there’s no word to give sound,’ and so I come to respect the ultimately impossible task of bringing experience into language. Yet the paradox here is that Duman does communicate, in her candid diction and surprising detail, a sense of what it means to hear the ‘no sound [that] will be uttered.’ In that ‘no sound’ we can feel our humanity as we shudder at the depth of what is fathomless event. We sense it in every line of Andrew Wessels’ deftly poised translations, where ‘no sound will be uttered / a few birds strike / dead against my window.'”
“I hope these citations give some sense of the literary merit of Duman’s writing, which is consistently amphibious and unpredictable, swiveling between compressed bursts of syntactic disturbance and lyric clarity, between elegiac grace and off-hand humor. […] As a translator, Andrew Wessels is delicately attentive to the details of Duman’s poetics—the shifts in register, the way she uses punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks. Published in a beautiful bilingual edition, Semi Circle stages a confrontation or a crossing or a collaboration between the two languages. Indeed, part of the work of Wessels’s translation is to call into question the relationship between these languages, to interrogate the hierarchies and economies of prestige which structure international literary production and reception. […] But his translation does not explicitly or polemically settle these questions, establishing new hierarchies. Rather, it propagates border crossing and confusion. It creates a porous and permeable space in which poetry enacts continuous passage between languages and nations. In this sense, I think that Wessels’s work as a translator both extends and expands Duman’s poetics, which he tales up as a translation practice, as the aim of translation itself.”

Read the full review in “Transitory Poetics: April 2016” at Entropy.