A drawing of Orhan Veli Kanik by Zahir Güvemli, 1971

A drawing of Orhan Veli Kanik by Zahir Güvemli, 1971

Born in Istanbul, Orhan Veli Kanik (1914-50), drinker, iconoclast, and the enfant terrible of Turkish poetry, lived most of his life in the city. A founder of the Garip Movement in the 1940s—along with Oktay Rifat and Melih Cevdet Anday—he sought to modernize and liberate Turkish poetry from the embellishment and restrictive forms which had dominated the Ottoman verse of earlier centuries. His work was written in deceptively simple language and highlighted the sounds and idioms of spoken Turkish. The ordinary man was central to Orhan Veli’s poetry; he wrote both for him and about him in works such as “Epitaph I” and “I Am Listening to Istanbul.” Of him, his friend Oktay Rifat wrote, “Orhan lived within his all too brief lifetime the adventures of several generations of French poets.” His work remains popular in Turkey.