Heidi Trautmann

626 - 55 years in the service of literature – Mehmet Kansu

Honoured by the Lyric Poetry Group on March 26 at the Atatürk Cultural Centre Nicosia


By Heidi Trautmann


“Call me Kansu, nobody calls me Mehmet, I am Kansu; the ‘su’ in my name (meaning water) is very important to me. We live on an island with ‘su’ all around but we don’t behave like sea people. We rather sit under a tree up in the mountain and look down onto the sea, or we sit under an umbrella and drink our coffee, but ‘su’ is not part of our lives. In 300 poems written by Turkish Cypriot elementary and secondary school students, perhaps just in one the word ‘deniz’ is mentioned,” Kansu says.

This is the way Kansu introduced himself to me when I conducted the interview with him some time ago. I have often met him and his wife Inci Kansu the artist, both are - not only in my eyes - very important representatives of literature and art in Cyprus. Kansu was born in 1938 in Nicosia and was educated to be a teacher of Turkish language and literature. Nonetheless he published 32 books of poetry and short stories in his life time.

55 years in the service of literature, this fact was reason for his friends from the Lyric Poetry Group to celebrate the day together with him. Merter Refikoğlu, Serkan Soyalan, Şehbal Hamzaoğulları, Yıltan Taşçı and Cemay Onalt Müezzin and the musicians Reşat Kortan (guitar), Fatih Girgin (flute) and Reyhan Yalovalı (violin) organised the evening and some old friends and colleagues came to pay their respects, congratulate him and deliver speeches: Christos Hadjipapas former president from the Writers Union in the South with whom he did a lot for the education of young people by creating writing competitions¸ Prof. Dr. Oğuz Karakartal from CIU Cyprus International University he worked together with on many occasions; Assistant Prof. Dr. Sevket Öznur from Near East University for the Turkish Language and Literature, and his old schoolmate, poet and writer Dr. Ibrahim Aziz.

“My true mother is actually the Mesarya, I was born into her lap, my biological mother was working in the field. I wrote my first poems at lycée which were published in the Lycée’s art magazines.”  Kansu graduated from the Gazi Educational Institute, Literature Department in Ankara in1960, before moving on to Hacettepe University for postgraduate studies, followed by a three month course in Glasgow in 1976. Between 1960 and 1983 he served his country as a Turkish language teacher at various secondary schools and lycées, after which he was appointed to work within the Ministry of Education as an inspector and sub-director of basic education.


Ode to Mesarya –

Hot valley where I knelt down so often

I saw two small white clouds

so close to the Earth.

Murmuring ‘su’  I am the second part of my name

I wished I could flow in this white pebbled stream bed.

I was told that the sea is also 'su'

but life in the sea is different.

My dreams went to the west of this island

where the water moths were making love.

As a child I knew the colour of their bodies,

now I have nothing but wind left in the palm of my hand.

You were a marshy valley and I knelt down beside you

and in your lap trees grew by themselves.

I was the salt in your face.

Kansu,  June 21/2005 – AFRIKA


In one of his short stories books ‘The Green Frog, The Snake and The Hunter’ – it was his 21st published book - includes the short story of an encounter between a snake and a frog, observed by a resting hunter.  These are stories which draw attention to insignificant events in our lives, which many of us may overlook.

He also writes modern prose poems and he always has manuscripts on the shelf waiting to be published. What is a modern prose poem, I ask. “Poetic images in sentences, for example, like these lines from one of my poems: Those horses like giant birds/ awakening the winds/ will vanish into emptiness/ through the crimson sunset.

Kansu’s first book ‘The Life of Two’ was published in 1959, a joint work with North Cyprus poet Fikrit Demirağ. One poem in this book is...


Not to worry

You should wear

                Your black dress;

Then gather all the

                Memories of you

From old days to


And throw them

Into the stream

Running through Lefkoşa

M. Kansu 1959     


Kansu explained to me the movements of Turkish poetry and Turkish Cypriot poetry, these are not only the poetry movements from Turkey coming over in waves but also the movements from around the world are very influential; poets communicate, they travel, recite and listen; poetry and its meaning goes parallel with changes in society, politics, war and peace.

Kansu has always kept his senses wide open and smelt the smoke rising from the fields of war. “It is just as I always do, I observe and pick up signs, threads; hear, read and research and create images. I am not the person to lay the finger into the wound or direct my accusing letters right into the eyes of the accused, I instead bring to the fore the view of an honest life, a view beyond the complaints about daily stress, directing the eyes towards beauty in small details, in honour of the beauty of our world; creating – in my case, narrating – revealing the truth about all things, small things, to people; this is my way. I have trained my sense of awareness and exclude the unnecessary”....like meditation, I ask.....?

“Whatever you do in life, if it is an act of proper creation, it becomes art, the art of narrating, if you cut wood, do a drawing or painting, write a story, a poem, even bake a cake, this is art. The description of a creation, this is narration.”


In a short while Kansu will publish his 33rd book. May his eyes continue to find many small things that fire his imagination and may his pool of words be deep and always be filled with new inspiration.

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