The world’s oldest love poem, written on a 4,000-year-old clay tablet known as “İstanbul #2461,” currently has its home at the İstanbul Archaeological Museums.
Penned for a Sumerian king in the 21st century B.C., the poem will be the central piece of an international poetry gathering in İstanbul this week. Poets from around the world are gathering in the city for a one-night celebration to honor the poem’s delicate and spiritual words as İstanbul’s art scene continues gaining global prominence.
Entitled “The Call to Poetry,” the April 5 event is headlined by poets Fred Simpson and Dan Boylan from New Zealand and the US, respectively. They will be joined by Turkish Cypriot poets with support from members of the İstanbul-based ex-pat community theater company, The Square Peg Theatre Troupe, the event’s organizers said in a written statement this week.
A selection of verse from Cairo’s Tahrir Square will also be featured in the event, where İstanbul-based journalist David Trilling will serve as the master of ceremonies. The gathering will be held at a venue called Bar-ish, off Taksim Square, from 8 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
A figure from Los Angeles’ underground poetry scene, Boylan has been influenced by Turkish poetry for years. As a teenager, Boylan met American poet Allen Ginsberg, who told him to “follow your inner moonlight.” This led him to Sufi mystic Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi’s “Mesnevi.” Boylan, who is also a filmmaker, counts Nazım Hikmet’s poem about a walnut tree in Gülhane Park among the most impressive pieces he has read in Turkish.
Relying on archetypes and humor, Boylan has revived poetry reading in famed comedy clubs on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard.
At “The Call to Poetry,” he will premiere a work about Satan, soon to be published in a collection of verse and featured in a documentary, which he said could also feature the İstanbul event.
Simpson is also visiting to mark the release of his book of poetry, “Lucky Me!” Featured in literary journals and magazines across Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, Simpson is recognized for evoking memory as a form of catharsis and detachment. A doctor by training, Simpson says he is excited by İstanbul’s rich poetic traditions. “Celebrating the essence of life through a gathering of poetry in a city that straddles time and culture with ease and grace … you live for moments like these,” he said.