Then spree

Website of Nia Davies, poet, editor, writer, performer

Tag: Turkey

Solidarity Park – poems for #resisturkey / #OccupyGezi / #direngeziparki

I fell in love with Istanbul in 2010. And then with Anatolia as a whole. It’s a deeply fascinating region for me and I have even been trying to learn Turkish over the past few years. I am  lucky enough to have visited a number of times in 2011 and 2012 and made friends with some  inspiring people –  poets and writers Gonca ÖzmenGökçenur Ç, Yaprak Öz, Efe DuyanMehmet Altun, Pelin Özer and several others as well as a number of courageous and creative publishers, activists and literary promoters. So the last two and a half weeks I have been shocked and upset by the way the police and government in Turkey have violently treated peaceful protesters speaking up for their right to public green space and against the increasingly oppressive policies of the AKP.

In response to this I got together with UK-based poets Sascha Akhtar and Sophie Mayer to found ‘Solidarity Park Poetry – poems for #ResisTurkey / #OccupyGezi’. Solidarity Park is a place where poets from around the world can show their solidarity with the verve, courage and “soul force” of the Turkish people as they struggle to own what is theirs. So far we’ve published nearly 20 poems from poets around the world and will be publishing more over the next few days and weeks. We are also fortunate to have two translators on board – Duygu Tekgul and Çağdaş Acar and the poet Gonca Özmen as our consulting editor.

If you’re a poet and you’d like to get involved please read our call-out to poets: (English) (Türkçe) and send us a poem to And please help us spread the word if you can, we are on Facebook and Twitter: @SolidarityPark.

In solidarity and hope,



The new issue of US-based online journal Transom is entitled Neither Now nor England.  It features poems from a selection of British poets as well as their views on ‘making it new’, the highs and lows of the UK poetry scene and some  interesting commentary on their own pieces. I’m happy to be included among them with three new poems: ‘History of our bookishness’, ‘Three places’ and ‘man you might like’. Visit the issue here:

Have yourself a melancholy Christmas…

Cities with a certain wintry hüzün, poverty-stricken children’s book characters, Roddy Lumsden’s grumpy thesp in Terrific Melancholy and how to survive Christmas by the radiator (books!) – a post from me on the New Welsh Review blog  (originally published in the Western Mail last year) is now available to read online at

Merry Christmas, Ernest and Celestine by Gabriel Vincent

All the tea in Turkey, Çamlıhemşin

Tea in Turkey

Where I knew it before: a weepy pale delicacy in dinky china, with cake and cotton napkins, milken in wide brimmed cups built for the poised circumference of two hands. Now my image of tea is overturned.

It darkens. And becomes the viridian stripes of knee-high hedges, terraces on steep slopes. Dark green leaves trimmed as privet is. Bunched in a sack on the back of a truck or stuffed into bags by women standing in the mid-day dim, caked in mud the colour of black tea.

Tea that tumbles vertical from cloud. Green air. A dark wooden box of a house high on the cliff to which supplies are delivered by winch.

Staring at the rapids of the river Fırtına (the ‘storm’ river) I get a dizzy magic-eye  effect when I move my gaze up the still pattern of the trees on the far bank. Banks outrageously lush with tall forest.

It’s dizzying too, to not be able to see the top of that hill. To only feel it above the mist. To feel that where the mist gives way are the alpine plateaus, the yaylaları, and then the peaks of the Kaçkar mountains themselves.


Moyy Pension, Çamlıhemşin

Ortan village

The far banks of the Fırtına, from Moy guesthouse, Çamlıhemşin

Humpback bridge over the river Fırtına

Ortan's houses

Elevit yayla

above Kavrun yayla

Cow in Elevit

Kekova, August

Kekova sunken ruin

Before the tiled blocks of red and marble beige, Roman stripes, crumbled into the sea like Lancashire cheese, there was some arch, the crown of the ancient shipyard. Now you can swim up to the graffitied slabs and half-sunk steps.

But on the village side, the ruin is half in half out of the bright Aegean. We strain over the glass bottom boat, petrol reeking in the pristine blue. “Don’t stand on someone else’s beach towel!” Anchors are forbidden so we chug as slow as the cruiser can allow. Passing over the ruin we cluster over the imperfect portholes. “Look for the poetries on the sea bed,” the guide says. And yes, through the bubbles on the glass and the misted murk, we glimpse that submerged elderly surface: vessel wrecks, urn handles and the bellycurves of pots left to weed, forbidden from touch for millennia. The rubbish of rubbled homes. Happens that the Romans didn’t have plastic bags, only elegant pots, poetries that survived a sinking shuddering quake, a catastophe that left the isle half toppled into the sea. They never returned.

Istanbul diary – late May

Rubbish collectors, Karaköy

Vertiginous place of twists. The vertigo in walking, loosing the way. Giant swifts cruise from the pipes.  Strait of worlds. Worlds of moving folk. For-dreamed, for-Babelled.

In Beyoğlu, under the squawk and racket of the forked-tailed birds, the human hum: parading youths, Palestinian rubbish collectors, melancholy fiddlers, beggar children armed with kazus, the neck-craned tourists. Boho meets business meets cats and geese in the bar.

That famous dilapidated colour: the overgrown greens and pinks in the rubble of ottoman chic. On the bridges tiny pieces of silver – migrating sprats – are pulled thrice a minute. Men wash before kneeling. Sonorous air, full of the calls to prayer echoing back and forth over the big blue strait.

The gardeners in Yildiz park are too sunned and skinny. Furiously planting marigolds in rapid-spreading rashes of orange, the beds freshly coloured. Too fresh. They sling their crates in the back of the van and speed off to the next star-shaped border. A sweating glasshouse; shambled and overgrown with bird of paradise plants. Through the dim cypress and pine the Bosphorus’s live blue. Peace is maintained by the police guard at the entrance.

Beneath Yildiz, Istanbul Modern is also policed. No art ushers, only G4S security guards. Guarding art, keeping out the chaos of live cultures: bodies, enzymes, fumes of food and motors, the noisy hum and lap of boat-driven waves.