Interview with Turkish Dutch poetess Canan Yagmur

This is a neon tetra video.

Today, in the botanical garden, a meeting with poetess Canan Yagmur.

Before the interview starts, she likes to watch the tropical neon tetra fish and catfish in the aquariums in the hothouse.

There is also a new aquarium, with axolotl salamanders from Mexico, some white, some dark.

Around them, guppies, some very young and small, and black mollies swim.

Canan Yagmur was born in Corum, near the Black Sea coast of northern Turkey.

When she was six, she moved with her parents to Beverwijk in The Netherlands, where she has lived ever since (except for a two year interlude in Leiden).

Her father was a scrap metal worker on the grounds of Hoogovens (now part of Corus multinational steel corporation).

Her mother worked at a laundry.

One of her poems, Mijn Indische Buurt, is about the Beverwijk neighbourhood where most streets have names of Indonesian islands, where she grew up and made friends.

In secondary school, she liked history, but did not go on to study it at university, as she thought there might be more professional possibilities if she studied law.

She intends to graduate as a Master in Law next year.

Her thesis will be on media influence on penal law (like the wave of publicity on “terrorism” issues in recent years).

One of her poems, written in English:

I want to be a poet
I want to be a writer
I want to be a stage- actress
I also want to be a singer
Even when can’t sing…

I don’t want to be a lawyer…
But I will!

Languages were also a favourite subject of hers at secondary school: literature, not really grammar.

She was good at German literature.

Then, she got to know a poetical favourite: Heinrich Heine (see also here), whom she prefers to Goethe.

She would like to be able to write poetry in German.

However, so far, she is not able, maybe as that language does not play a role in her daily life.

She started writing poetry in Dutch.

About two years ago, she started in English and Turkish.

Turkish is an easy language to find words for rhiming.

Nevertheless, at the moment she writes mainly in Dutch again.

Turkish poetic influences on her are Nazim Hikmet; medieval Sufi religious poets, like Mevlana; and folk songs, taught her by her father.

She also likes Orhan Pamuk, recent Turkish Nobel Prize winner, especially his early work, and Yeni Hayat from 1995.

In English, she likes J.M. Coetzee‘s Youth.

A Dutch influence on her is early twentieth socialist author Herman Heijermans, often seen as the best Dutch playwright.

She loves his poem “Daar was eens een zonneprins”.

Canan Yagmur is more than only a law student and poetess.

She is a librarian, dancer, does theatre since her secondary school days, and works for local radio in Beverwijk.

There, she has the program on poetry Kanon.

Also, other programs, in which she interviews poets, artists, local politicians, and others.

As noted before in this blog, she looked forward much to the recent slam poetry tournament.

After that event, she wrote a cycle of six short poems on the week when that tournament was on Tuesday.

One poem for every day of the week, except for the Saturday when she wrote them:


Glitter top, gouden pumps
De dichter in vol ornaat
De stem dendert door de zaal
De microfoon vliegt door de lucht
Zouden deze zinnen de storm van erkenning kunnen weerstaan
Het weerzien in een notenbalk


De dichter slaapt haar kater uit
Ze wordt nooit een dichter
Alleen dichter en dichter
Te laat



Glitter top, golden pumps
The poetess dressed to kill
The voice thunders across the hall
The microphone flies through the air
Would these sentences be able to survive the storm of recognition
The meeting again in a musical staff


The poetess asleep during her hangover
She will never become a poetess
Only closed down and down
Too late

Which shows that an unfortunate case of, suddenly, ‘speaker’s block’ raising its head, at least helped to get new lines.

Canan says she writes usually easily, and fast.

After the interview, we see the big leaves of Victoria amazonica wither in their hothouse.

They will be back in spring next year.

Like in the rose garden, where only a few roses are flowering now (thanks to the unusually mild November weather).

‘My father also likes to tend roses’.

UPDATE 7 January 2007: Canan Yagmur’s favourite poets in English are Virginia Hamilton Adair, especially Ants on the Melon, reviewed here; and Benjamin Zephaniah.

Three other inspirations: Marguerite Duras (French), Cees Nooteboom (Dutch), and Carlos Fuentes (Mexican) [see also here].

Update on Canan Yagmur, May 2007 here.

8 thoughts on “Interview with Turkish Dutch poetess Canan Yagmur

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