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Ahmet Haşim 

(1887-1933)

Poet, Writer

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Ahmet Haşim was an influential Turkish poet of the early 20th century.


Ahmed Hâşim was born in Baghdad, probably in the year 1884. His father was the provincial governor of the Ottoman sanjak of Fizan. Around 1893, Ahmed went to Istanbul with his father, following the death of his mother. In 1906, having graduated from the Mekteb-i Sultanî (now Galatasaray High School), he began work in the Reji, the state tobacco monopoly, and was registered at Istanbul University's school of law. Between 1908 and 1910, Hâşim worked as a French language teacher in the city of İzmir and as an officer in the Office of Public Debts (Düyun-u Umumiye). He was conscripted in the First World War, serving mostly in Anatolia; following the war, he returned to Istanbul and worked in the Ottoman Bank. After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, Hâşim worked as a teacher of aesthetics in the Academy of Fine Arts and as a French language teacher at Istanbul University. For many years, he also wrote essays for the newspapers Akşam and İkdam.


Ahmed Hâşim died on 4 June 1933, and was laid to rest at the Eyüp Cemetery.


Ahmed Hâşim's first poems were published in Mecmua-i Edebiye; "Literary Periodical") between 1900 and 1912. At this time, he was a member of the movement known as Fecr-i Âtî, or "Dawn of the Future". Later, he would publish together with other poets in the periodical Dergâh. In 1921, at around this time, he published his first book of poetry, Göl Saatleri ("Hours of the Lake"). His second book of poetry, Piyâle ("The Wine Cup"), would follow in 1926.


Hâşim's early poetry was very much in the Parnassian and Decadent vein of the poets Tevfik Fikret (1867–1915) and Cenab Şahâbeddin (1870–1934), early influences who were a part of the Edebiyyât-ı Cedîde ("New Literature") movement. Hâşim's later poetry, however—collected in Göl Saatleri and Piyâle—evidences more of a French Symbolist influence, particularly that of Henri de Régnier, whom Hâşim greatly admired. This late poetry can—to a certain extent—be seen to adhere to the Fecr-i Âtî movement's variation of the Symbolist motto: "Sanat şahsî ve muhteremdir" ("Art is personal and revered"). In line with this motto, and with the Symbolist movement in general, much of his poetry was more indirect than direct, using thick imagery so as to create a strong sensory impression, as in the opening lines of his famous poem from the book Piyâle, "Merdiven" ("Stairway"):


Ağır, ağır çıkacaksın bu merdivenlerden,

Eteklerinde güneş rengi bir yığın yaprak,

Ve bir zaman bakacaksın semâya ağlayarak..


Sular sarardı.. yüzün perde perde solmakta,

Kızıl havaları seyret ki akşam olmakta...


English translation:

Slowly you will ascend these stairs,

A bundle of sun-colored leaves on your skirts

Then a moment you will look, weeping, at the skies...


The waters yellow.. as your face pales bit by bit,

Watch the reddened air for the evening sets in


This poem also shows one of the tropes that Hâşim shares with the Symbolists; namely, he uses carefully selected natural images to express the emotional state of the poem's persona. Many of Hâşim's later poems, especially those collected in Piyâle, use this technique in a very brief and evocative fashion, showing the influence not only of Symbolism, but also of the haiku poetry that Hâşim was reading at the time.