When you start reading a book, sometimes, you feel that it calls another book. That’s was the case while I was reading “Hala Şafakta Geliyorlar Angela” (They Are Still Coming At Dawn Angela) which is composed of Güray Öz’s essays and his poetry book “kurumuş gül ağacı” (Dead Rosewood). Öz’s books, who has experienced both exile and imprisonment, called Edward Said’s “Intellectual”. Because while writing his essays and poets, Öz was not giving up his pursuit of truth which is the endless function of an intellectual. The exile soul in his writings does not only come from his exigence of going abroad in 1981. The fact that he has not criticized his own generation and cultural world which he was part of, always makes him the eleventh village’s traveller.

In his essays, he has often criticized the industrialization of culture which has started in the 80’s, due to the increasing economic sovereignty on art, literature and poetry:

“What seems dangerous to me is the effort for quality degradation, the credence given to the inferior. They called it popculture; on its own, in its shallow waters, it’s maybe attractive. However, when it infiltrates all fields of literature and art with its multicoloured ideological colors, things get confused. It’s so corruptive that even the greatest authors are attracted to its own ease. There are two kinds. The first kind pursues the “Be what the public understands” slogan. It is based on the assumption that the public can not understand much. The second kind, offers people strange works based on assembling and randomness, not producing different, irrelevant and trash things. Both kinds have sponsors and this support has a causality which doesn’t appear in the final results but reveals itself in the whole shooting match.”

“…home is gone.”

In addition to his metaphorical exile even from his own neighborhood which comes out of his above expression, Güray Öz’s experiences of going abroad in the 80’s, living in Europe for many years and his return, in other words “the fact that he is away from home physically” have an important place in his essays and poems as images:

“I know this story is not for you. You can not set this story because of the sixpenny cheap-jack wine you drank in Palanin Yeri, in one of the back streets of Taksim. Fine, don’t set it. Get on the first plane and return there, grovel to it again, to the city which had cheated on you a thousand times. Go on deceiving yourself saying ‘This city came back to me a thousand times, it loved me again a thousand times.”

Go on with foolishness, actually what does it matter, as Kavafis, the old poet of Alexandria says, whether you return or not, somehow that city comes after you even if you don’t come back.”

As Edward Said recalls, exile causes “double perspective”. The author has his eyes on the city both he went to and he left. Some kind of untouchable memories which are sticked in the memory, follow the exiled soul. Adorno was able to express this soul in words sagaciously, he said “home is gone,”. One who is on exile, lives in purgatory. Therefore, the liveable hallway for this person is the text. However, the text isn’t a sanctuary. The exiled one moves there with the pigeon uneasiness in his steps. Exile is a state of constant hesitation. This feeling enables the writer a top view perspective. Perhaps for this reason, the exiled soul always keeps its critical eye out. Belike with the wholeness of these feelings, Güray Öz was able to stand out from the lyricism of the poetical face, lift the curtain realistically and show the things behind and explain the cultural industry. Öz also uses his knowledge of sociology in his poem called “karanlıkta insan halleri (human faces in the dark)”: “what’s the good of it, love’s worn out/what’s the good of it, newspapers are terrible and it’s getting harder to walk on the street/deaths are inured, no one cares about the purchasing power of money/intelligentsia is fascinated by a new wave, knowingly that it’s old” During the time he spent in Europe, Öz writes the stories of an immigrant rather than an exiled writer. He breaks down the elitist boundary between being in exile and being an immigrant with his stories.

Perpendicularity and contradiction in Öz’s poems

Güray Öz uses the connotations related to the images of home, city and nature in an intertwined manner. In Öz’s poems, the house, the city and the country are reached by crossing rivers flowing between poplar and walnut trees. In his poetry, the story of the poplar tree which is speaking with its whishing foliage and dispreading through the sky has a special place. However, the most prominent image of nature in his poetry is water. Güray Öz presents contrasting images and emotions in his poems. This can be interpreted as establishing a double perspective in poetry. For instance, the image of water has multiple connotations, but Öz uses the connotation of purification and regeneration for water:

“it’s water; even if it’s pale or tired, clear, gurgling, untold/go on, come to the water, come to my dreams, my life, soak all alone/soak, purify yourself, let it be a vauge love, regenerate” Besides, In Öz’s poems, the beloved is always a rose. In contrary to the image of water, it is the rose which burns out. He calls the rose forth to the water too, to the high and dry water on which the pulled out flowers flow. For him, the streets of the city or water are the places where people drift away from their roots and their homes. With the dream of regeneration.

The poet’s images are shaded and he also uses shadow as an image. In his poetry there is little mention of mornings; night, moon and darkness are felt. In his poem, Öz says, “I don’t know where you put your shadow, there must be a shadow”. Shadow is one of Jung’s essential archetypes.The shadow is our dark side, the traumas and frustrations that we avoid to confront. In addition to exile, Güray Öz carries the enthusiastic and sad soul of the 68 generation. The image of the shadow is his somewhat uncompromising, rebellious side, originating from his 68 soul. Güray Öz’s lines contain the words of Henri Lefebvre in 1968: “The feast of our age lost its ability for having fun all together in a way. This, in fact, was caused by the order of consumption which deprives of human essence. Youth is trying to play, laugh, have fun all together. As they explore the new social order, they do it in a festive atmosphere. The aim of the 20th century is the establishment of concrete democracy. Today, the main objective of the student movement is an effort to participate.”

Güray Öz ends the poem he devoted to his friends from 68 generation: “I’m going to tell you about the ceremony tiredlessly, namely the red spree/eventually the desert will reach the sea/love will win eventually, love will win one more time/I’ll release my sun-scorched body into the water/and I will tell you about the ceremony, namely the red spree/you will understand, all the fishmongers will understand/and also my old flame will/that’s why I always tell the ceremony/the ceremony that you thought was gone when you forgot/the hate, sorrow, incurable love, fair grounds of enthusiasm/the ceremony/namely the red spree” For Güray Öz, 68 generation which Lefebvre refers to as the feast of our age, is the red spree.

Whatever he writes, Güray Öz knows that love is great. Perhaps, the reason for the color of the red spree is arising from the presence of a rose, a lover. He says in his letters which take place in his essays: “I am a happy love-crazed who is in love with a shadow belonging to a beautiful and stupid love. Let me tell you that nothing but love can solve and break the shell of our age’s hard nut to crack problems.” When incorporating images of nature into his poetry, he always prefers vertical ones: poplar trees, roses… As we hear the rose’s “impossible representation” of the burning of love, we can recall that Bachelard said, “Everything that rises has the dynamism of the flame.” (cited by, İpek, A., from the essay named “Klasik Türk Şiirinde Sembolik Bir Değer Olarak Gül (Rose as a Symbolic Value in Classical Turkish Poetry)”). Bachelard expresses the flame as an unyielding and fragile vertical. With adding an excessive interpretation, I’ll replace the flame with the rose. By displacing the flame, I will read Güray Öz’s poem “sizin sesiniz (your voice)”. The voice in poetry is the fragile voice of a rose, you feel the frustrations and crackles, it describes the boy in its story with “cheerless words”. For Öz, his voice is like Modigliani’s paintings, like the fragile body of a long, glass vase that goes on and on, vivid but pale, bearing traces of memories.

A poet who never forgets classes, poverty, night and his utopia

I wrote that Güray Öz prefers to include seemingly opposite emotions in his poetry. He mentions “shady sadness” in his poet called “Sevincin Şaşkın Hüznüne (to Puzzled Sadness of Happiness)”; shadow is not good or bad in the context it evokes, but it is the fact that darkness includes the grayness of darkness. It carries facts that are not confronted with, in the poet of shadows Öz says “Be quiet, don’t talk anymore, know yourself, you are a sad man,” he walks to dreams that he doesn’t know, stormy water bear down on him. In another poem called “Yalnızlığın Neşeli Patikaları (Happy Alleys of Loneliness), he humps his shadow again as a crucifix and asks: “fine, but why is there no mirror on this picture?” He searches for mirrors in his poetry… He looks for an unglazed mirror to hold on to his steps in exile, to hold on to the soul of 68 generation. His lines call Said one more time: can “the idea of intellectual unhappiness as an exile” create a puzzled happiness? Moreover, an enthusiasm? The thing that Güray Öz reminds us of is the enthusiasm of never forgetting. The intellectual in his mind does not have “usable forgetfulness”. He does not forget classes, poverty, nights and utopia. Güray Öz is in favor of the kindness which starts with the honor of thought. This thought is always reminded of in essays belonging to Yaşar Kemal with whom he shares the same geography. He has experienced both being an exile and prisoner. If we skip from his poems to his essays, we see the honor of thought in cultural industry critics.

His kindness is similar to the rivers flowing softly in his poems, it is calm, but it doesn’t lose its way:

“We didn’t run out of hope but we don’t do well. Because nowadays an intellectual generation that is not even liberal is willing to dominate writing. The Republic they draw in the newspaper columns does not resemble the Republic. For them, democratic rights are limited only by the virtual possibilities of the individual’s narrow world, which are difficult to reach and whose economy is a lie.


In the fake fortress of the “absolute” victory of neoliberalism, do some people embarrass themselves among those who wrote their regrets and confessions? Yes. Time passes, water flows under the bridge, a slight blush appears on the faces. We become happy. We look at our old friends’ faces with hope. We rejoice, until the poor shadow of an intellectual betrayal falls upon us again… ”

In conclusion…

I did not claim to reveal the identity or essence of the text in Güray Öz’s poems and essays. I approached the text and images he set up with a palimpsestian technique, as Sarah Dillon reminds me. I tried to bring together the glitter of what was written, deleted, forgotten and unforgotten with the retina in the mind of the reader. I tried to understand the poems and essays of Güray Öz, which carry the restlessness of a papyrus, past and present time, being written and erased, and then rewritten.

I tried to walk on the “happy alley of loneliness”, to discover a poet who is living in a six-step cell…

Güray Öz:

Güray Öz was born in 1949 and completed his primary and secondary education in Nazilli. He started his law education in 1967 and abandoned due to the 12 March intervention. His first poems were published in Abstract magazine and his articles and interviews were published in Ant magazine. He was a member of Workers’ Party in Turkey and Idea Clubs Federation. He worked as a reporter at İSTA News Agency.

He went abroad in 1981 and he began to work as the press spokesman of the Turkey Research Center affiliated to the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. In 1996, he started working for Cumhuriyet (Republic) newspaper as representative in Europe. He continued his life in Germany and Turkey. In 2005, upon the request of İlhan Selçuk, he was appointed as the Editor-in-Chief of Cumhuriyet (Republic) newspaper. In 2012, he was appointed as the Reader’s Representative.

Öz has published “Hala Şafakta Geliyorlar Angela” (They Are Still Coming At Dawn Angela) which is composed of his essays and a poetry book “kurumuş gül ağacı” (Dead Rosewood)

Öz continued to write for his column “Avrupa üç in Cumhuriyet Newspaper three days a week till 2018. After, he wrote as a columnist in BirGün Newspaper. Güray Öz has stayed in prison for nine months for the case known as Cumhuriyet in 2017 and in April 2019, once more, he has been imprisoned for the same case. He is in Kandıra Prison now. He is the member of European Turkish Journalists Association, Journalists’ Society in Turkey, Pen Turkey and International Association of News Ombudsmen

Translated: Ege Ertan