Two Poems by Efe Duyan

22 December, 2023,

Efe Duyan translates the silent intention behind our instinctive, urgent need of human expression and connection. Duyan’s poetry is based on finding unique linguistic forms that fit the respective content of the poem. Through a visible structure, he combines complex metaphors in a rhythmic way, to integrate the daily language by decontextualizing it, and to construct a network of meaning in the background. He is influenced by the art movements of Futurism, Surrealism, conceptual art, and medieval Middle Eastern poetry as well as the modern conception of functionality in architecture.

Some poems, built like houses with architectural intention, draw us in through their overall design, clean fine lines breaking at striking angles, guiding our eyes through carefully defined spaces opening to hallways that irresistibly lead us to unexpected enclosures where natural light plays among the walls breathe life into the lives for which they are intended.  Where form and function are inseparable, the space is not merely for dwelling. It asks to be experienced. Physically, materially. 


Efe Duyan


The Behavior of Words, poetry by Efe Duyan
The Behavior of Words is published by White Pine Press.

Call Center

to relive the day you met your school friends
please press your lucky number
for the times you ran tirelessly around the yard
press random numbers
for the steamed-up
windows of truck stops
enter the year of your last family summer vacation

everybody has times they’re ashamed of
pick a number and keep it to yourself
for the tea and poğaça breakfasts on the campus green
put the receiver down and run to the balcony
if you wish to complain about time rushing helter-skelter
please press and hold zero with all your strength
if you can’t quite remember your grandfather
look in the mirror

for the dust smell in vintage bookstores
say the third letter of the name
of a laborer who can’t read or write
for your neighborhood tailor who was found dead in tattered clothes
please hold

for the woman in your sleep
for that unforeseen moment when you touched her neck
wait for the beep then
press the same number over and over

the day after you were ditched
write in your notebook one hundred times
I will never fall in love again


Maybe One Day

the stubborn habits
we pluck like loose buttons
in a fit of laughter

the unacknowledged grief
we share
like a birthday cake

we slice finely with a large bread knife
and turn into an architectural whimsy

the absence of a departed we receive like a gift
and place in the most special corner
of the house

the fear of death
we throw in the bonfire
along with dry branches to add spark to our joy

everything lost to my memory
I blow into
a colorful balloon

all the words
into polysemous words
as acts of political dissent

the evil that the world serves in a picture-menu
after we confess we can’t know everything
in the name of everyone

the seed of a hostile instinct
before it turns
into a massacre that we will read about in books

the plans to save the world
after asking the world
how it wants to be saved

seizing our own puppet strings
every incontestable taboo

no, absolutely
ourselves too


Efe Duyan, poet and architect, was born in Istanbul in 1981. As an internationally recognized poet, he has been invited to numerous international events, including the Hurst Professorship at St. Louis University and IWP at Iowa University. His poems have been translated to over 25 different languages. His poetry collections are Sıkça Sorulan Sorular (Frequently Asked Questions, 2016), Tek Şiirlik Aşklar (One Poem Stands, 2012) and Takas (Swap, 2006) and his debut novel Başka (Other) has appeared in 2022. As an advocate of freedom of expression and creative thinking, he has been an active cultural actor curating international events, workshops and conferences. He has co-created the Offline Istanbul Poetry Festival, Turkish American Poetry Days and Mosaics: Gaziantep International Poetry Festival. He is currently teaching architecture at RISEBA University, Riga. He has affiliated with several universities for research or guest lectures, such as Berlin Technical University, Ca’ Foscari University, Minnesota University, Istanbul Technical University, Atlanta University, Iowa University, George Washington University, and Boston Massachusetts University.

Aron Aji, Director of MFA in Literary Translation at the University of Iowa, joined the faculty in 2014. A native of Turkey, he has translated works by Bilge Karasu, Murathan Mungan, Elif Shafak, LatifeTekin, and other Turkish writers, including Karasu’s The Garden of Departed Cats, (2004 National Translation Award); and A Long Day’s Evening, (NEA Literature Fellowship; short-list, 2013 PEN Translation Prize). His forthcoming translations include Ferid Edgü’s Wounded Age and Eastern Tales (NYRB, 2022), and Mungan’s Tales of Valor (co-translated with David Gramling) (Global Humanities Translation Prize, Northwestern UP, 2022). Aji was president of The American Literary Translators Association between 2016-2019.  He leads the Translation Workshop, and teaches courses on retranslation, poetry and translation; theory, and contemporary Turkish literature.

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