Zafer Senocak is a writer living and working in Berlin. Born in Ankara in 1961, he moved with his family as a child to Munich in 1970 where went on to study political science, philosophy, and literature. Among his six poetry volumes are Ritual der Jugend (Dagyeli 1987), Das senkrechte Meer (Babel-Verlag Hund & Toker 1991), and Fernwehanstalten (Babel-Verlag Hund 1994). He has published translations of the 14th-century Anatolian mystic poet Yunus Emre, Das Kummerrad/Dertli Dolap, and his most recent works are fiction: Gefährliche Verwandtschaft, Die Prärie and Der Erottomane – Ein Findelbuch. His books have been published into French, Turkish, and English; most recently, the poetry volume La Mer verticale, translated by Timour Muhidine, and a volume of essays, Atlas of a Tropical Germany, translated by Leslie Adelson (University of Nebraska 2000). He is a regular contributor to the German alternative daily tagezeitung in Berlin, and has edited numerous bilingual essay and story collections in German and Turkish. He has been writer-in-residence at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College, University of Wales-Swansea and Oberlin College.

Translated from German by Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright


die Menschen spannen
zwischen sich und der Erde
unsichtbare Fäden

das ist nur so ein Glaube
aber wenn sie sich schlafenlegen
stolpert ein Fremder


People bind
between themselves and the ground
invisible ties

mere folklore
but when they fall asleep
a stranger trips


Mein Lebenswiderspruch ist keinen Spruch mehr wert
Er hält mich nicht auf Beinen
Ich wollte nicht fort
Könnte ich stehen genügt mir ein Stehplatz
Ich brauche keinen Boden zum Liegen
Zum Schlafen lehne ich mich an einen anderen Menschen
Sollte ich auf keinen treffen habe ich Platz genug

Self Portrait

My life’s dialectic isn’t worth talking about
It doesn’t get me going anymore
I never did want to go
if I could just stand standing room would do
I don’t need the floor to lay myself down
to sleep I’ll lean on a fellow human
if I don’t meet one I’ll have room

ohne Titel

Hinter dem Meer gibt es eine Frau
die einen Felsen abgetragen hat
die wirft einen Stein nach dem anderen
ins Wasser
aus einem zerbrökelten Felsen wird kein Haus
Doch die Frau wirft und wirft immer weiter
Der am weitesten geworfene Stein versinkt nicht
Irgendwann klettern Schiffbruechige auf ihn


Beyond the sea there is a woman
chipping away at a stony cliff
she throws one stone after the other
into the water
it’s no use
broken stones don’t make homes
still the woman keeps throwing farther and farther
the stone thrown farthest doesn’t sink
in time castaways scramble their way up

Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright received an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas in 1996, has been awarded the 1993 Gary Wilson Award, the 1996 ALTA Student Award, and most recently AGNI's 2001 William J. Arrowsmith Award. She has given bilingual readings with Zafer Senocak in Memphis, New York, Cambridge, and Los Angeles; and her translations of his work have appeared or are about to appear in Another Chicago Review, Dimension2, Language International and AGNI.