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Message From The Mayor

Dear Poetry Friends,

I am very happy to be able to greet you again for the 7th International Istanbulensis Poetry Festival. For some time, our festival has been organized over a subject matter. Following the same tradition, we decided this year’s theme to be “Balkan Breeze”.

The Turkish culture and Turkish literature, which occupy an important place in the history of humanity, have continued to exist in a wider geography throughout history. Since the days when Hun, Avar, Bulgar, Vardar, Oghuz, Pecheneg, and Kuman Turks made their presence felt in Europe, Turkish literature has been in existence in the Balkans. Above all, with the domination of the Ottoman State on this land, the Turkish literature has continued its influence strongly.

The Balkans have been adorned with the Turkish architecture, Turkish culture and Turkish traditions. While the Balkan geography has been feeding the Turkish Culture, it also became one of the most important sources of the Turkish Language and Literature.

Many of our poets have depicted the historical facts in the Balkan geography, the cities and natural wonders of the Balkans one more beautiful than the other, the culture and love stories of this geography through the facility provided by the art of poetry.

I feel great honor that here in Sultaybeyli I host our poets who live in the Balkans, who are well aware of the issues of the Balkans, who look for solutions to those problems, and who are building a friendship bridge via their poetry as part of his festival. I believe our poets’ evaluations and requests as well as their suggestions shall be a guiding spirit for us. This is so because in our civilization poets, bards have always been a guiding light. When we consider that throughout history no art branch has been so deeply influential on us as much as poetry, I hope the value of our festival could be better appreciated. Our poets show the way not only to politicians but also to historians, sociologists, and folklorists.

Dear Poetry Friends,

When you look at our anonymous folk literature, minstrel literature, dervish literature or divan literature, there you shall for sure come across many poems, images, locations and facts, all related to Rumelia. Even the new Turkish literature has similar elements in it.

The words of Karacaoğlan, one of the leading figures in our minstrel literature, “Horse Beans in front of Their House” had been uttered for Rumelia, nevertheless, they are enshrined in our memory. Our poets ranging from Kaygusuz Abdal to Baki, Nef’i, Ziya Pasha, Namık Kemal, Mehmet Akif Ersoy, Yahya Kemal Beyatlı, Bedri Rahmi, Fazıl Hüsnü, Oktay Rıfat, Turgut Uyar, have never been indifferent to the issues of these lands… The poet sultans of our literature have also shown their interest in these lands through their poetry. Murat II, Mehmet the Conqueror, Bayezid II, Sultan Selim the Stern, Ahmet I, and Ahmet II are the one who come to mind first.

The interest shown in the Balkans has nothing to do with only being born in these lands or having lived there. This interest does not have a relevance to having these lands conquered either. This is so because the Ottoman State had conquered lands in other geographies / continents, but the spiritual unity established within the Balkans had been second to none. I think Yahya Kemal’s saying, “The places where Turkish language is not withdrawn are homeland” reflects this tie in a very striking way. I would dare to say that wherever the Turkish Language exists, that place should be considered a homeland too.

How come the otherwise be true? According to the records, during only the Ottoman period, around 80 poets were born within today’s Bulgarian borders. These 80 poets have their powers to turn a land into a homeland through their lines. This is a miracle only possible by means of the poetic strength.

In the light of this information given above, International Istanbulensis Poetry Festival, which succeeded to earn its special place among poetry festivals could not have ignored the Balkans, and has not done so.

Our festival has introduced to you dear poetry friends, the poets of 10 Balkan countries including Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania, Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia, Republic of Northern Macedonia, Montenegro. Between 23-25 October, 2019, events organized throughout three days, our guest poets alongside with our Turkish poet friends shall take the enchanting scent of poetry to the streets of our town.  Our poets, who would not be willing to settle for reading poetry only as part of the opening and closing ceremonies, shall visit our beloved youth in their schools and chat with them about poetry, arts and life, hopefully opening new horizons in their worlds of thought, as it has been the case in every year. And I also hope that through these events our youth would become more mindful of the issues regarding Balkans, and eventually leading to a stronger common bonds with the Balkans.
As long as there is poetry – and poets live – no force could break our ties with the Balkans. As long as our national poet Mehmet Akif Ersoy’s lines written for the Balkans survive, the Balkans shall keep being a permanent heart throb for us.

Do you know what Balkans are, fellow citizens?
They are the last frontier of your beloved ancestors.
You have been asking for long for a homeland
Now it is high time… Good riddance.

Every spring oozing from the Balkans
Nothing but a wound, continues to bleed!

With these feelings and thought I shared with you above, I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to the poets and our Cultural Affairs Directorate who made their contributions for preparing the 7th International Instanbulensis Poetry Festival organized this year with the theme of the “Balkan Breeze”, and I wish that our festival is to be enjoyed like reading poetry.


Hüseyin Keskin