Saturday 20 June 2020

Klaus Høeck: 'Kurdistan' (1999)


i’ve never been to turkey
not even on a package summer holiday
and not in winter either

when are the almond trees in blossom in urfa
is february full of brass on imrali?
as you can see i’ve not the foggiest
i’m not some sort of martyr

i’ve never been arrested by the turkish
police or been stuck in front of the crescent flag
in some sort of blind man’s buff

i’ve never had nine defence lawyers taken
from me prior to a case never been
forced to eat khaki or bubblegum

i’ve never poured petrol over myself
and put a match to it or delayed
the speed of light with cold sodium

perhaps i just ought to belt up
and not get involved in something
i know nothing about

perhaps what i’ve seen on telly with
my own eyes is wrong perhaps it’s all
just a lousy b film with screwed-up subtitles

perhaps i ought to accept that turkey’s a
constitutional state a member of nato like denmark
perhaps all that torture’s just hearsay

perhaps my heartburn and the bad taste
in my mouth is just a hangover plus aspirin
or getting it all wrong or
simply ignorance when all’s said and done?


on feb the twenty-second
danes can’t get their pizzas

the cucumbers are mourning the citrus fruits are wearing
masks the artichokes are standing on their heads

the greengrocers have shut up shop
the celery’s silent

feb the twenty-second
the kurds are demonstrating for a homeland

10 questions for bülent ecevit

are anemones naive?

is it naive to want to speak your own language?

is bastinado naive?

is it naive to want to live in your own country?

is electric shock naive?

is freedom naive?

is barbed wire naive?

is fighting against repression naive?

is death naive?

is it naive to want to write poetry in your own language?

ars poetica

i’m really sorry about all this
in the middle of my retirement
in the middle of the snowdrops

but seeing that all the younger poets
are obsessed by ivory and darkness
there’s nothing for it

there’s no way out of
coercion and repression than indicating
what’s between the lines

it’s got something to do with
the straw and the camel the heart and death
and when it comes to it with poetry itself

i’m really sorry right in the middle
of the ‘geister’ trio to disturb my readers again
with this preamble about freedom

apo’s confession

i hereby declare that my ex-wife
murdered olof palme

i also admit that i am
responsible for martin luther king’s death

i furthermore confess that i was behind
the assassination of john f. kennedy

my final confession is that i committed
the double murder on peter bangsvej

internal affair

abdullah öcalan’s picture
is off the front pages

that photo where he’s a white blindfold on
his eyes like a tarot card: two of swords

after another week has passed
his name’s still to be found on page nine
among the articles on pyromaniacs

in early march his after-image
is still etched on the retina
like a negative amongst the snow flurries

finally he only burns like a
turquoise in the heart like a spring
that blossoms in the conscience

abdullah öcalan has quite literally
become an internal affair

expert on turkey - key twelve

should i rent a hotel apartment
in alanya for example with direct access to beach
sunny as a pheasant’s wing?

or should i rather try
a cruise in the marmarra sea
round the emerald of the prison island?

to bolster if nothing else
turkey’s economy
to increase the tourist income?

or should i just make do
with these few words in a poem that will
scarcely affect the rate of freedom stocks?

poets of the world...

why the hell write poems?
i know the answer: the red autumn lakes
and the untameable urges of the heart

but also out of a sense of duty and
necessity for paradoxically enough
to defend freedom

not freedom in itself and par excellence
its abstractions its mute ruby crosses
its tiny spasms of the soul

but to defend freedom from
being exploited and used
socially economically and nationally

so if you write poems about kosova and
i write about kurdistan and poet x
about sarajevo and poet y about tibet

(maybe just a break from all this
hackwriting) then the final result is
all the small words written into a larger poem

the pkk game

if you throw a one they are called partisans
if you throw a two they are called terrorists
if you throw a three they are called guerillas
if you throw a four they are called murderers
if you throw a five they are called freedom-fighters
if you throw a six they are called criminals
in this particular poem i threw a seven

contrat poetique

the contract is for at least
thirty poems about repression
no pussy-footing or appendices

no artificial moonlight
no entrophy or redundancy
just craft pure and simple

fine if written down in a book from
china house without cherries and silk
or on a simple homepage

no make-up and no gloss
like abdullah öcalan’s face
in the media when captured

the öcalan gambit

i wonder what abdullah öcalan
is doing right at this moment
wednesday march the seventeeth
on this irrelevant st. patrick’s day?

does he still eat his soft-boiled egg
read the day’s newspapers
or study batsford’s chess openings
to find a suitable gambit?

does he still receive visits from his defence lawyer
exercise in the prison courtyard under heavens’ highlight
or lie in the intensive ward
is he actually still alive?


where is kurdistan?
according to the atlas’ pink shadows
it’s that square which is j4

not mentioned by name
just a word in the index
among other code names

from the kurds themselves i know
however that their homeland’s
yellow topaz is in asia minor

even though it actually exists
it does not even so
or it only exists as

http://kurdistan on the inter
net homepage or in a
collection of poems as


the kurdish new year comes late
beween car tyres and bonfires in the streets

it’s celebrated by police in
armoured cars

and by soldiers searching
cars at all approach roads

and in the mardin province by deporting
four journalists from reuter’s

the kurdish new year falls like quartz that
splinters against turkey’s southeastern corner


straight from the shoulder
i couldn’t care a damn
about kurdish headgear and folklore

i’m not prepared to learn hakkari
or sorrani at a pinch i might
some day read the diwan

chain dance in 3/8 time
you can stuff it as far as i’m concerned
the kurds can dance all night long
with cheesy feet on their bidjar carpets

i’m not a kurd mentally,
emotionally or pediatrically

the kurds can make mincemeat of each other
out of holy inspiration without my intervention
or my poems’ as long as it all takes place
in their own sovereign kurdish state

modus ponens

please excuse me
i can’t manage any more
high-gear poems right now

not even from my own hand
my own ivory tower hand
my own computer hand

i’m forced to make use of
a pattern code to use a topical
idiom as an act of solidarity:

if abdullah öcalan is persecuted
then he will get a death sentence

abdullah öcalan is persecuted
he gets a death sentence
he gets a black fleur de lis


i would just like to emphasise
the fact time and time again that i know
practically nothing about kurdistan and pkk

that i probably know more about http://kurdistan
or @ pkk than about kurdistan

that my knowledge has mainly been gleaned from
homepages websites and lexical searchings
(even though i once actually shook hands with a kurd)


mdt-tv has just blacked out
in brussels under the twelve stars

why aren’t the kurds transmitting from their
own red-and-yellow station any more?

because the world society (i.e. nato)
is about to bomb serbia
and needs the acceptance and consensus of turkey

(in aid of the kurdish fight for emancipation)

sodalin and halmblod: 10 øre
ø p maller: 8 billion kroner
jesk sangetysløger: 7.50 kroner
bolighuset alvi: 10,000 kroner
inu bank: 25 øre
grondfus: 7,000,000,000,000,000 dollars

kurd show
(all proceeds to kurdistan refugees)

hosts: lane jehonsen and elo stephensen

the following artists have performed free of charge:
thamos hilmeg pillesen and palmark
køm sjigren the camerata doltan choir
machiel cørae sis and kørstin
senna solomansen chros mynh diki and ses fønger

the power of words

and what about words
will they last
or are they just words?

hot potatoes in the mouth
coins under the tongue
something to choke on?

we know it oh so well
in the beginning was the word - and finally
i add off my own bat

the word can be repressed and misused
but it can’t be murdered
tortured or beaten to death

words you could say last
unto eternity resting on their laurels
words are immortal

home run

from turkey to syria
and from syria to russia

from russia to italy to
russia to italy once more

from italy to the greek
embassy of balsa wood

from nairobi’s sunstroke
back to turkey’s security


note what’s written in small letters
behind the frontpage headlines

that’s what really counts
whether the font is times or courier

for example: two thousand kurdish villages consumed
by flames petit under an ad for opel astra

notice that the lettering’s small
as when dealing with life insurance and policies

bad luck

bad luck for öcalan this
good friday that smells of paraffin

the news bureaus that have bombed him
ibehind the letters of serbia

abdullah öcalan has almost been
consigned to history like some four-leafed
clover pressed between two pages


myself am almost getting a
bad conscience am tempted rather

to write poems about larks and malachite
than the kurds’ fight for freedom

maybe i should press the escape button
erase http://kurdistan from the screen and the mind

and then surf out across the net’s frozen star
espalier to other electronic realms?


in the turkish elections in april
such a such a number of turks voted

the virtue party lost seats

the ultra right made gains

ecevit’s party got 22% of the vote

141 kurdish partisans
chose death on the irak-turkey border

abdullah lionheart

there’s nothing wrong with my heart
it’s red and yellow like kurdistan

not weighted down with a padlock like
richard’s or öcalan’s with drugs

and alchemy that’ll make it stop
before its time and the ransom and the trial


i hereby declare this summer open
and cut the ribbon for the month of july

on behalf of poetry i proclaim
that the lilacs are burning with magnesium

i declare on behalf of the press
that the case against öcalan has begun

i state this on my own account and that
of internet and my own publishing firm

press photo

the usual tricks
the picture is highly under-exposed
as if taken in hell

the camera angle obliquely upwards
is he on thalidomide you think

a wrong raster that makes
the skin look like an attack of acne

or perhaps apo really looks
like that after three months’ stay
with the turkish authorities?


whitebox brightbox lightbox
trial and error box

where truth cannot
be hidden behind the
bulletproof plexiglass

whitebox brightbox lightbox

where turkey shows
its own shame in
the dazzling white light

trial and error box
whitebox brightbox lightbox


ten minus ten and counting

the judge breaks down in tears
a veteran threatens with his artificial leg
four lawyers boycott the lawsuit

ten minus five and counting

the prosecutor appears as the judge
photos and medals are presented as evidence
paper pellets are rolled in the courtroom

ten minus one and counting

we have lift-off
we have a death-sentence
we have an e-mail to allah

klaus høeck

translation: john irons

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