April 18, 2016KR Conversations

Gökçenur Ç.

gokcenur-c-microinterview-carouselGökçenur Ç. was born in Istanbul in 1971. He has six poetry books and has translated selected poetry books of Wallace Stevens, Paul Auster, and Ursula K. Le Guin. He has participated and/or organized poetry translation workshops and festivals in many countries. His poems are translated into twenty-five languages. He is the prime mover and codirector of Word Express and a board member of Delta International Cultural Interactions Association. He is a member of the international committee of Voix de la Méditerranée festival in Lodève, France, and a member of the editorial board of the Macedonian-based international literary magazine Blesok. His poem “Rules of Making Love” can be found here. More poems from the “Poetry in Transylvania” feature in the Mar/Apr 2016 issue of the Kenyon Review are available here.

What was your original impetus for writing “Rules of Making Love”?

In the beginning I had the image of a man who thinks time is not passing. He feels like time is passing very slowly and as it passes, it grinds him. He thinks before he separated from his lover, time used to pass over them without touching like a herd of bees. All started with that image.

Why did you choose to reference Radu Vancu’s work? Was there a specific poem you had in mind as you were composing this piece, or are there other Vancu poems you might recommend?

When I started to write this poem (in my mind) I was sitting in a park in Sibiu, Romania just across from Radu Vancu’s office in the Faculty and I was reading his poems as I waited for him. I don’t want to sound like I’m comparing myself with gods, even disgraced ones referring to the poem, but it all happened like this. I think I was reading a poem from his book titled “Rope in Bloom.” I admire almost every single poem of Radu Vancu. But if I have to suggest, I would suggest readers to read his cantos if they can find them in English. Radu Vancu is one of the best and most inspiring poets of the world in my generation and I am proud to write in the same age with him.

How has your work as a translator affected your own writing?

I think the translating process starts with an active reading of the text. Usually I read my poems tens of times before I finish them. But this reading is not like reading for translating. Sometimes you write a line, it works perfectly in your language, and when you try to translate you see that it is nonsense. Usually it is your editor who says that to you. The questions you ask to your poem to be able to translate it are the same questions the editor asks you.

How has your writing or writing process changed since you started out?

I can’t write after it is dark. I always write in the sunlight. And as an electrical engineer, I work full-time in a managerial position. I am married and I have two kids. You may wonder why I say all this things replying to your question. I used to write poems in longer periods before. Find the first line or image than keep that poem in my mind for weeks. Then work with a computer to write it down. Save it to a Notes folder. A few weeks later, read it aloud for a few times and edit it. Save it to an Unpublished folder. What I am trying to say is I don’t have so much time now. Or so many things keep happening around me and I can’t keep the poem rolling in my mind such a long time. So I write faster. Everything else didn’t change a lot in all this time.

Which non-writing-related aspect of your life most influences your writing? 

Not necessarily in my life but anything I witness and I can empathize with in life influences my writing. But I have to admit as I grow older I find inspiration less in life but more in books.

What is either the best or the worst piece of writing advice you’ve received or given? 

I have received many pieces of advice over the years. Once my mentor told me—it was the very first days of my writing adventure—“listen to all advice, but forget it as soon as you hear it.” This is the only advice that I have been given and I remember.

Let me give some advice, but promise to forget it after you read it. The best writing advice is very much like the worst writing advice.

What project(s) are you working on now, or next? 

I am working on dream poems. First one is about deer dreams, second one is about rain dreams. Now I am working on the third one which is about blood dreams. Every poem has seven chapters and there will be seven poems in the manuscript.