Controversial Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet Ran (1902-1963) was born on this day in Salonika, Ottoman Empire, which is now Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece. The son of a government official, Hikmet wrote his first poem at age 11.
"Some people know the names of stars by heart," he said. "I recite absences."
With themes of love and freedom, his poems were written in free verse, full of power and emotion. In celebration of the Turkish language that he loved so much, he favored single syllables, vivid images, juxtapositions, and melodic words.
"We must live as if we will never die," he said.
Because he believed in socialism and celebrated Marxism as a person with "flesh, blood, nerves, head, and heart," in the fight of oppression, he was imprisoned for 15 years and his work was banned.
"In Turkey I have to whisper my poems to the ears of my audience," he said. "Thus I have to choose softer words.
Exiled in Moscow, he retained a deep passion for his homeland and campaigned for peace until his death. His poetry has been translated into over 50 languages.
But hope is not enough for me:
I no longer want to listen,
I want to sing the song...
Your arms, like branches, lift up to the sky.