About the Work
by öykü tekten
It has been more than twenty years since I first encountered Betül Dünder’s poems in a Turkish literary journal I picked up in a bookstore in Ankara. What I remember from this initial encounter is a voice dipped in honey and unmistakable tenderness toward words, contrasting with her featured subjects of death, ancient pain, war, and a vast sea of grief. Betül’s voice was distinct from most other contemporary poets at the time, as the dominant figures in the poetry world preferred high, didactic tones and clichéd imperatives to teach us how to be and behave.
I left Turkey right when women poets began to appear in significantly larger numbers in the literary scene, publishing their work in major and minor literary journals, and getting their first or second books out despite the opposition and actions of poetry overlords. A couple of years ago, I decided to catch up on Turkish poetry written by women of my generation and the generation before mine, with a vague idea of publishing an anthology of them in English translation. Although I didn’t know most of the poets in person, I felt as if I were meeting old friends who greeted me in an affectionate way that transcended time and distance. This is how Betül re-entered my life, not only as a poet whom I now translate, but also as a new friend whom I’d met long ago in a bygone world.
“Something Red” is a poem from Betül’s second book, Inside Other Worlds (İkaros Yayınları, 2013). The poem speaks for itself.
Born in Istanbul, betül dünder is a poet, scholar, and editor. She earned a BA in Sociology from Anatolian University and an MA in Fine Arts from Mimar Sinan University. In 2005, she received two of the most prestigious literary awards in Turkey: Rıfat Ilgaz Poetry Award and A. Zekai Özger Jury Special Award. An excerpt from her MA thesis was published under the title Being a Woman among Poets: A Book of Conversations by Paradoks Yayınları (2013). Her poetry books include Mirror Fatigue (Mayıs Yayınları, 2005), Inside Other Worlds (İkaros Yayınları, 2013) and A Brief History of Forgetting (Yitik Ülke Yayınları, 2018). Her last book received the Ruhi Su Poetry Award in 2018. She is the moderator of “Purple Passage,” a literary conversation series featuring women at Kıraathane, Istanbul Literary House.
öykü tekten is a poet, translator, editor, and archivist living between Granada and New York. She is also a founding member of Pinsapo, NY-based collective and press with a particular focus on work in and about translation, as well as a contributing editor and archivist with Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative. Her work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Magazine, Words Without Borders, World Literature Today, and World Poetry Review, among other places. She is the translator of Selected Poems by Betül Dünder (Belladonna* Collaborative, 2023) and the co-translator of Separated from the Sun by İlhan Sami Çomak (Smokestack Books, 2022). Currently she works as a co-editor for the Best Literary Translations Anthology (Deep Vellum, 2024) and the general editor of Kurdish Poetry Chapbook Series (Pinsapo Press).