Efe Duyan

- Turkey -

Efe Duyan was born in 1981, İstanbul, Turkey.

He has been invited to several workshops, poetry readings and international organizations since 2009, including Turkish Poetry Evenings in Copenhagen, Word-Express Project (series of poetry readings in several Balkan Countries), Edinburgh Book Festival, London Book Fair, Berlin Poetry Festival, Lodeve Poetry Festival, Riga Poetry Days, Malta İnizjamed Poetry Festival, Transylvania Poetry Poetry Festival, Palabra En El Mundo in Venice, Sofia Poetics Festival, Chisinau Poetry Festival, Enemies Project & European Poetry Night in Britain, Shaar Poetry Festival in Israel, Sidi Bou Said Poetry Festival in Tunisia, Venice Dropping Seeds Project, European Poetry Biennale in Brasov, Swiss PEN's Day of Writers in Prison Meeting in Geneva, Goran's Spring Festival in Croatia, Felix Poetry Festival in Antwerp, Writer’s Month Reading Series in Slovakia, Czechia, Poland and Ukraine, Mexico City Poetry Festival, Divan: Berlin-İstanbul Project, Eurovision Poetry Series in Berlin, İzmir Literature Festival, Iowa University International Writers Residency, and Hurst Visiting Professorship at St. Louis University. 


He gave guest lectures on poetry at Ca-Foscari University, Atlanta University, and George Washington University, affiliated to Boston Massachusetts University as a short-term scholar.


Some of his poems have been translated into Bosnian, Czech, Chinese, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, French, Greek, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Kurdish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Rumanian, Macedonian, Maltese, Occitan, Polish, Slovenian, Slovakian, Spanish, Swedish, Ukrainian and Welsh.


His translation works in poetry includes poetry collections of Radu Vancu (Romania), Matthias Göritz (Germany) and Lloyd Schwartz (USA).


He co-created poetry workshops with British, French, Italian, Israeli, Bulgarian, German, Swedish, Dutch, Japanese, Hungarian poets and the Istanbul Offline International Poetry Festival, Turkish American Poetry Days and Gaziantep International Poetry Festival. He acts as the Turkish co-editor of Rotterdam Poetry Foundations’s Poetry International Archives and advisor to Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Festival in North Carolina.


He has been included in the anthology of Turkish Poetry PAPER SHIP (Great Britain, 2013), European Poetry Anthology GRAND TOUR (Germany, 2019), and EUROPOESIE – 21st Century Poetry Anthology (Great Britain, 2019).


He worked in the editorial committees of literature magazines Nikbinlik (2000-2005) and Sanat Cephesi (2006-2010) and Istanbul Offline Magazine (2016-2019). His critical essay The Construction of Characters in Nâzım Hikmet’s Poetry has been published in 2008. He edited a contemporary poetry anthology Bir Benden Bir O’ndan (2010) and is a member of the editorial board of the acclaimed literature magazine Offline Istanbul. 


His poetry collections are Sıkça Sorulan Sorular (Frequently Asked Questions, 2016), Tek Şiirlik Aşklar (One Poem Stands, 2012) and Takas (Swap, 2006). 


He is currently teaching history of architecture at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul.



Matthias Göritz


Up to now, it is a work full of echoes that the Turkish poet Efe Duyan creates in his four poems. Echo chambers are in front of us and in us. Poems of Berthold Brecht, Nazım Hikmet or Cemal Süreya appear as echo chambers, adverts as tradition and disappear again in the linguistic constellation of the exact observation of the here and now. The reading of Duyan’s poems already offers both with great love poems, great political poems and it is like going through lost houses, dark streets, busy rooms and wide streets that are lost in the horizon. 


Duyan was born in 1981 in Istanbul, in a city he hates and loves, like so many form Istanbul. Duyan is a faculty member as an architecture professor at Mimar Sinan University, he regularly publishes, organizes conferences,  has an active position in a group of poets, that form loosely Offline around his relatively new literary magazine called Istanbul, he translate other poets, he travels and established literary networks. It is no wonder, that Duyan's poems often resemble architechtural installations and unfold an inviting undertow of sentences that are characterized by repetitive structures and always have something tremendously fresh and new about them, as if you were walking into a house that you have long known from looking outside, but did not dare to enter. 


Duyan understands such in the poems "On Each Other" and "We Could Only" from the Line "Frequently Asked Questions" how to build the rhythm of a text of simple basic elements that branch out further and further. 


If only we could -

the heaven and hell 

we carry with us like a swiss army knife


If only we could - 

our malicious nature, 

which we likened to compassion thanks to 

dictums and special effects


If only we could - 

the idleness 

surrounding pretty ideas

by suppressing them into the detergent water


If only we could - 

our good will

with a steel pliers


Efe Duyan writes about Nazım Hikmet, the first avant-garde poet (and first exile) of modern Turkish poetry, that he has the power to use abstract political concepts to write poetry with very concrete emotions. This is a characteristic that mark the own poems of Efe Duyan. 


'everything flows,' said the Ancient Aegean
since the very first rain-charm 

but everywhere along a river
poverty is much the same, it is like a birth mark  



you notice Asi has
its hand on Syria's knee

if you ask me Meriç is
a child sleeping restlessly between its mitera and baba 

as for Sakarya and Susurluk
they are close relatives who only visit each other once in a long while
like words from the Kurdish and the Turkish ends of the country

although everything flows from day to day
the Tigris and Euphrates are arm in arm
much the same, don't you think, as the shackled slaves
in those souvenir photos, transported from Africa?


Duyan's poems set free the cascades of comparisons that probe a realistic universe for its possibilities. Relationships, friendships, working environments, political protests, these appear in Duyan's poems not only as things and feelings, but these are just concrete and solid there, these cannot just be picked up in language, and so good; Duyan’s poem will  continue; wishes go in mutual protest on the street - or measure the happiness surface of the living room.


we need a single bed:

I guess 80 cm is enough

a small airport:

for the living room

a 1:100 model of hell 

my place there is guaranteed anyway

a garden full of untrimmed plants:

this is for the kitchen


"A house," says Hikmet, about whose poetry Duyan repeatedly wrote essays, "a house cannot be build such singing a song./ The work on it is a bit harder./Yes,  it is harder but/ “ the house grows and grows.” Hikmet's experiences, his poetry during his study time in Moscow in the twenties shaped from the meeting with Wladimir Majakowsky and the Russian constructivists, is transformed in Duyan's poems to movements in the interiors of relations and on the street. 


revolutions too

like grand plans

can’t be plotted in great detail


like punctual trains

offer peace

and never look back once set off


Architecture is so fascinating because it is an art of balance; architecture creates spaces in which we live, it needs the abstract and concrete at the same time. The poems of Efe Duyan do just that. They set rooms out of sentences, full of references from reality, full of details, full previews and hindsight. Poems are an invitation to make experiences, by itself,  perhaps also to withdraw from oneself and then to gather again. They are alive in the best terms of the word, and, have as beautiful ontological character, having parts in our needs to show each other the ways into language, and the ways out of it.

with sailor’s knots indeed, which can easily be untied

    if pulled from the right point


Exactly. And if one has found the correct point - then the one is free. 


                Published in German in SPRITZ Magazine in 2017




Aron Aji    


Some poems, like houses built for their architectural intention, draw us in through their design. Clean, fine lines breaking at angles guiding us through carefully defined spaces, opening to hallways that lead to unexpected enclosures where light plays on the walls. This is how I first experienced the work of Efe Duyan, the Turkish poet who is also, unsurprisingly, a scholar of architectural history at Mimar Sinan University, an institution named for the great Ottoman architect whose breathtaking structures lend Istanbul an unrivaled beauty.

Efe Duyan’s verses are composed so meticulously that they might have been drawn rather than written. The lean interlacing of the words, the sparseness of the stanzas, the slow accretion of meaning—one almost feels as though the poems are taking shape as one reads them.

In these translations, done in collaboration with Duyan, my principal aim has been to strip the English to its leanest to foreground the formal ingenuity of the poems. Given the famous incommensurability of English and Turkish grammar, the process required forcing Turkish syntactical order on the English in order to convey the physical direction of the verse and the gradual accretion of meaning.

In the Turkish originals, the verses often bring the reader to surprising semantic shifts and reversals, and the movement through the poem builds on these surprising turns. To follow Duyan’s meaning is to follow the lines as if on an architect’s blueprint. The initial drafts were principally concerned with getting the meaning across as fully as possible; only then did I concentrate on recreating their elegance, their seemingly effortless flow. At best, I tried to create poetry written in English inside intrinsically Turkish forms, resonant with the sounds and shades of the original language.


Published in Harvard Magazine: