Songs from Two Continents, poems by Moris Farhi



Redemption and the Hope for Understanding through Liberation from Separation

As part of my haphazard research into the divergence of East and Western cultures, I picked up a copy of Moris Farhi’s first book of poems, Songs from Two Continents on my tour of Turkey with Mum and Rashid.

This is the first poetry i have read from a Turkish poet, and the second book of any kind by an author from Turkey—the other being The Flea Palace by Elif Şhafak, a Márquezian novel i am picking my way through slowly, the second book i have attempted to read in its entirety on an eReader, the first being, foolishly, Plato’s Republic.

Between Socratic dialogue and the pithy poems of Moris Farhi, there couldn’t be a much greater divide. The first poem is quote worthy not only for its sheer brevity, and is just a taste of the redemption-through-passion theme pursued in the collection:

Paths to God

many paths lead
to God

mine is through
the flesh

The second-most resounding poem for me is the brutal, heart-wrenching ‘Farewell Gift’, a dirge for the death of his wife Nina, killed by a wasp:

‘A wasp, of all things!’


I spun my arms.
I struck the wall,
in pathetic mime,
to assure you
I had killed it.

You weren’t fooled.
My destiny: to fail you.

This destiny, to fail his wife, seems like a dirge for those Turkish men renowned for their womanising and infidelity, a character i am cautiously scornful of—me in my Turkey-visiting, philogynist ways, suckling at the drying teats of mothers, my own and others’ as i make my way through cultures with only the best intentions i can muster. So i’m never quite sure what to make of poets who aggrandise their philandering.

But there is something more in Farhi’s erotic poems, best expressed in ‘Paths to God’, well expressed in the Foreword by Talât Sait Halman and coarsely summarised perhaps by the idea of ‘fucking to freedom’, pursuing nirvana in little deaths.

Halman: ‘Many of his poems, notable for their honest explicitness, sing paeans to the triumph of Eros over Thanatos’, Love over Death.

If he wanted to save his wife from Thanatos, maybe he should have increased his worship of her at the feet of Eros—in Australian, rooted her more than his broads. But such judgement is not fair, not to mention ill-informed—the impression i have of this man from this collection is that he’s not all about ‘smiling breasts’ and ‘cunts’ and cheating on his wife.

He redeems himself in my heart with a eulogy for his mother, ‘The Dead Mother’, unquotable for the sake of not defacing holy expressions of love with spoilers.

And there’s a bunch of other stuff in here, about flailing old age, against censorship (‘Linguacide’), in defence of freedom and in support of non-biological patriarchy, an important source of succour for me, which i must honour as another resounding concept from the poem ‘Seed’, which to quote would be another unholy spoiler.

As i came to the end of the book it had grown fatter from the dog-ears i make to mark the poems i like, this fatness a testament to the poetry’s impact on me, who once believed poetry was about the art of obscurity and about the self-aggrandisement of elitist wankers.

I am warming to reading poetry as i begin to write it, compelled by an inability to remain calm without expressing the ideas that flow into me from without and out of me from within, now attracted to poetry for its capacity to channel ideas i don’t know quite yet what to do with, its ideally brief nature a property of its miniature form.

There are miniature poems in here, and epics. I skipped over the one about Odysseus because i was too stoned to remember what i read from Homer at university and i’m only three episodes into East to West, the doco i’m watching as an adjunct to the above-mentioned scatter-brained research.

I skipped the epics about death, perhaps because i am barely thirty and therefore still young dumb and full of cum. I couldn’t relate to the deathcamp epics because i am a middle-class white boy from the suburbs of the Antipodes.

Something i could relate to in the middle range of the one-point-two-five pager is a beautiful eulogy ‘For Tony’, one of his ‘twin-souls in the Heavens’—a eulogy for Tony as a reminder for us, that history may chronicle Bullshit (my use of this term from Harry G. Frankfurt), ‘defoliants flame-throwers and missiles’, but friendship records Truth, the truth of lives lived with love, as it seems Farhi’s has been.

From ‘Finally’, the final poem in the collection:

I’ve tried to be a good man
knowing I’d always fail
I have loved
women men and children
and never demanded
their love
in barter

If i can say the same in my flailing old age i will die a happy man.

I was going to leave it there, for where better to end a ditty to a new poet i love?, but there are yet more nuances of love to explore in this collection—nuances of the same love that compels me to research the divergence of East and Western cultures to continue my hopeful work of facilitating understanding among the world.

For this i must flick back through the pages by the back of the dog-ears, recto to verso, verso to recto, for the above is all that came foremost to mind from sitting outside the book.

For a moment there i worried i would not find what i had thought i had found, what i had come to the book for—a sense of how we might bridge the Great Divide of misunderstanding, between continents and the civilisations born here in the land of this author’s home.

But i did find redemption through stories (‘Journey’s Start’) and redemption through something that might be called sexual-spirituality, in ‘Forget Traditions’, ‘Redemption’, ‘First Commandment’ and the nearest and dearest to my heart, in a poem true to Farhi’s apparent commitment to redemption through passion, ‘I Need Eros by my Side’:

how can
be complete
if it can’t return
to the source

the source
is cloud-hidden
or maybe
lies in another galaxy

And I found, in ‘A Vision’, the shared vision that there might be hope in understanding ‘liberated from separations’.

So there you have it. This has been a thousand-odd words in a few hours listening to the work of Chris Zabriskie over and over on the power of a single MacBook battery lifecycle, from a book addict on the subject of his first Turkish poetry, composed as an exercise so i can rush on to Poems of Nazim Hikmet to keep my high going, while Mohammad sits across from me smoking my cigarettes like a chump.

Clock the cover image for a link to the publisher’s page for the book.

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