Human rights lawyer and memoirist Fethiye Çetin spoke alongside a stellar cast, including Ma Jian, August Kleinzahler and Amanda Lohrey, at our Poetry of Rebellion session at the 2010 Melbourne Writers Festival.
Each reader gave their own take on the theme of rebellion, with offerings from poets as diverse as AA Milne, WB Yeats and Sydney-sider Joanne Burns.
Fethiye read poems on war and injustice, fear, violence and denial - topics that fill her moving memoir, My Grandmother and her work as a human rights lawyer. This was her statement:
Ceylan Önkol was only 13 when she was killed by a mortar thrown from the military battalion at a rural area of Lice county of Diyarbakir city, while she was shepherding. Her mother, while collecting the pieces that were left from her body to her lap, was crying and yelling in pain: 'What did she do to whom?'.
U'ur Kaymaz was only 12 when he was killed in front of his home in Kiziltepe district of Mardin city, by the security forces of the state. Thirteen state bullets were removed from his corpse.
I chose this peom of Ece Ayhan as it reminds me of Ceylan Önkol's eyes, the flung out thongs of U'ur Kaymaz as he was being shot by the state's bullets, of our vulgarity, of our children that we commit to memorise the death before they even begin to spell the life, and that it reminds us of our shame.
I chose Kemal Özer's poem as it evokes to revolt against injustice and awakens hopes.
Kemal Özer's To Speak One Day
I saw the crowd, surging from the side streets,
swarmed a public square as far as the eye could see.
Its gaze was fastened on a single face
its ears propped to a single voice.
I saw the crowd, ready in unison
to shout a single word out of one mouth.
Poised to shoot like a tightened bow
it can barely stand in its place.
I saw the crowd, with flags in its hands
quelling its suffering and fury.
This surge of spirit does not bring together
so many arms like a fist.
I saw the crowd, unaware
of where its voice might end up.
Not for listening
but for speaking when it comes together.
(Translated by Talat S Halman)