ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



So those who emigrated, and were expelled


from their homes, and suffered harm in

      My cause, and fought and were slain, assuredly,


I will remit from them their sins, and admit them



Flowering Sky

By Arif Ay

 Poems Translated by Mevlut Ceylan


Arif Ay  born in 1952. One of the most influential poets of his generation published nine collections. Revolutionary themes lie at the heart of his inspiration. Also written short stories, and articles on literature and politics. Graduated from Ankara University where

he read Turkish Literature and Islamic Theology. The author of numerous short stories, he graphically describes the poverty of the common man in Turkey. His prose is informed by the same lyrical fervour as marks his verse.


Arif Ay’s first book bears the title HIRA. The name is significant; Hira is the name of the cave where The Prophet Muhammad first received a revelation. Ay sees the poetic role as closely paralleling the prophetic: both prophet and poet exemplify the vates. This essentially religious vision of the poet’s place in society pervades all his work and helps explain the unpoetic title of his second collection: Dosyalar (dossiers). A dossier is a file the secret police keeps on a person, particularly if he be a dissident.

Ay dissents from the received view of Turkish history as imparted by state organs and institutions; he views with dismay the collapse of national institutions following the first World War, when they were replaced with institutions on the western model. In his verse he laments the passing of a culture and its replacement with a wasteland of the spirit; but his work with its appeal to the youth who flock to his readings in Ankara, makes Yevtushenko seem a closer analogue than Eliot. The secret of his appeal lies not only in his scorn for the conventional hypocrisy (as seen in Ramp included in the present selection) but in the directness of his voice, sometimes compared to a clenched fist in its relentless ambiguity.

He writes in vers libre which became fashionable in Turkey from the ’40s onward, using modern methods to indite modernism. His most recent collection iirin Kandilleri (Candles of Poetry) uses the same metric form as the previous collections. Critics hailed it as his most mature work, establishing him as a major figure amongst contemporary poets.

His voice cries aloud, the tone bitter. He stigmatises the hypocrisy that is so much a part of the social scene, ironically counsels himself to sleep:

sleep, sleep, go to bed and sleep

that’s what they taught you

on your first day at school

The cash nexus, with its all-pervasive materialism, is seen as having sapped the moral values underpinning the Turkish spirit. A nation cut off from its spiritual roots (the forgotten alphabet refers to Arabic, the language of the Qur’an) ultimately faces extinction, this long sleep which the somnolent system state education anticipates.

Time, a haiku, expresses the poet’s sense of futility. Another haikuesque piece, Horses, conveys with epigrammatic concision a meaning not immediately apparent to a non-Turk. The Turks were a race of hardy horsemen out of Central Asia: the horse is for them a symbol of what they were when they formed the vanguard of Islam. Such a horse, divinely appointed or assigned, is riderless because he is the vehicle of faith itself, of the supernatural truth of Islam. Horses amount to a repetitive, almost obsessive image. In Ostlers the nostalgia for a remote Turko-Islamic past causes the poet to imagine himself dead:

like a flowering sky

the night rises over my skull

His poetry is affirmative as well as destructive. And Labour, with its echoes of Horace, replaces the Latin poet’s faith in the poetic faculty with a religious faith in the eternal edifice of supernatural, religious truth. In the Qur’an the believer is referred to as a labourer, who labours in the vineyard of the Lord. God said:

And their Lord accepted (their prayers):

      “Never will I suffer to be lost the work

      of any of you, whether male or female;

      you are (the offspring) of one another.

      So those who emigrated, and were expelled

      from their homes, and suffered harm in

      My cause, and fought and were slain, assuredly,

      I will remit from them their sins, and admit them

      into gardens beneath which rivers flow; a reward

      from Allah, and with Allah is the best of rewards.”

                                                                 (Qur’an’_ Kerim, 3:195)

Ay’s popularity rests in part on his skill in love poetry. Asking is included here as an example of this genre, showing another side of Ay’s inspiration.

A gentler mood suffuses his verse at these moments.

Mevlut Ceylan, London / © Mevlut Ceylan  Translated by Mevlut Ceylan

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper’s wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man’s turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners’ plans to give him a “necktie party” (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by “the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn’t operate in his own home town.” Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson’s magnificent, extensively researched study of the “great migration,” the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an “uncertain existence” in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 30 October 2011




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Related files:   Poems of Destruction   Birds  Carnations  Guerrilla  Here  Introduction to Flowering Sky   Looking at Istanbul  Ostlers & Doomsday   Parting   RAMP  REQUIEM