In the Temple of a Patient God, by Bejan Matur
Written by
Barbara Morrison
October 2011
Written by
Barbara Morrison
October 2011

Matur’s poems ache with power. Her words and images barely control the deep, rumbling force that threatens to explode in blinding light. A Kurdish Alevi from Southeastern Turkey, she draws on that dark heritage of war and defeat and loss and exile to create the poems in this collection, selected from her four books published in Turkey. Perhaps related to that loss is the fact that she writes in Turkish, not the Kurdish of her childhood. In the Introduction, Maureen Freely says that Matur “talks of the way in which dead languages lurk inside living languages.”

Freely also talks of the grief followed by grief, the secrets embedded in Matur’s images. These poems burn with a depth of suffering and emotion few of us know in a lifetime, a loss not only of home and family, but of history itself. The extraordinary sixteen-part poem “Winds Howl through the Mansions” tells an epic story in its few pages of clipped fragments, each so full of meaning and yet broken and obscure that I found myself reading and rereading. The mother is “a tattooed oak”, “a rootless oak/Silent, now and then weeping.” The contradiction between adjective and noun—that an oak, the most sturdy and stable of trees, should be rootless!—adds to the power inherent in the exile, the deaths that have occurred and the deaths that are to come. Matur also adds the precise detail that carries emotional weight: when the children are taken away “Our necks ached with looking round/Our eyes narrowed at every bend.” I thought of Hansel and Gretel with their futile breadcrumbs.


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