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Painted poems and neo-poetry by Hemra Shirov

29.02.2024 | 23:21 |
 Painted poems and neo-poetry by Hemra Shirov

He is known as an author of literature for children, a poet, novelist, playwright and screenwriter. However, those who are familiar with his work are also aware of another facet of him. He is seriously engaged in literary experiments, composing poetry in avant-garde poetic trends and styles. Many of his neo-poems have been published in books, as well as newspapers and magazines in our country. The topic of today's interview with Hemra Shirov is experimental poetry.

– You are engaged in new poetic forms. At the World EXPO 2000, held in Germany, your experimental poetry was compared with the work of the French poet Guillaume Appoliner, whose work influenced the development of such art trends as futurism, Cubism, Dadaism and surrealism. And in your creative quest, what style do you consider yourself to be, who are you more an avant-garde poet, futurist, modernist...?

– All these words with endings in "east" are very good and useful for any of the arts. For behind them lies a man who is ahead of time, one-step ahead of others, and it is they who allow art to develop as a whole.

I have always been attracted to everything related to the word as a literary unit: puzzles, acrostic, palindrome, anacycle and all the like. That is probably why I started doing stichography – figurative poetry. This is when shapes and images are made up of words or sentences. Thus, I combined my two desires: to go beyond the classical literary genres and to engage in drawing. In visual poetry, I experimented with shapes and fonts. I know that no one in Turkmenistan has done this before me. It was interesting to me, and I wanted to inspire my readers with such creative searches, too.

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Indeed, it is generally believed that the founder of the genre of stichography was the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who in the late 19th and early 20th centuries created works in the form of images and called them calligrams. His experiments had a great influence on me, as well as the architectonic poems of Andrei Voznesensky and the meta poetry of Gennady Aiga.

While doing visual poetry, I discovered that the ancestor of all figurative poetry can rightfully be considered the ancient art of calligraphy, remember the amazing wall painting in mosques or the Japanese traditional art of shodo. By the way, calligraphy is considered one of the types of fine arts, not literature.

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At first, I tried to simply convey with the help of words the outlines of the object referred to in the work. That is, if it is the moon, then the words were lined up in the shape of the moon, if it is a tree, then I drew a tree from the words. But then I realized that the simultaneous use of words and images can strengthen the idea of a work, give it a new meaning and philosophical depth. For example, in a poem that talks about the transience of life and time spent aimlessly, the words depict a burning candle.

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And in the work "Hourglass", the word "time" breaks up into letters and, like sand, crumbles down. The hourglass itself is drawn from the phrases: "Know the value of time, use it carefully." Moreover, this clock can be turned over by turning the book and reading the same words again.

The poem "Nest" depicts an egg symbolizing the globe, which lies in a nest held by two branches - good and evil. The text says: "Both a ringing bird and a venomous snake can hatch from an egg."

A few years ago, the Ashgabat Library named after B.Amanov organized an exhibition of my figurative poems. They were printed on large sheets of paper and framed like paintings. I remember that after this exhibition I had many suggestions with ideas to create special figurative poems for children's educational institutions, to come up with poems in the form of numbers or letters of the alphabet... and these books have been published.

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Avant-garde poetry is on the rise now and everyone is actively interested in it. I also want to tell you about my participation in an interesting international project that was held within the framework of the World EXPO 2000 in Germany. According to the organizers' idea, avant-garde poets from all over the world were invited to write in their native language an artistic translation of the poem "Anna Blum", authored by the famous futurist poet Kurt Schwitters.

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Moreover, the poets participating in the unusual creative experiment had to provide their translations exclusively in handwritten form, as well as read the poetic translation and make a recording of their voice. 339 poets from all over the world took part in this interesting project. I was the only one from Turkmenistan. A collection of translations of a single poem with a CD included was published in 2000. In addition, posters with my poems decorated the walls of one of the pavilions of EXPO 2000.

– You say that more than three hundred poets translated the verse "Anna Blum". As the author of more than 70 books that have been translated into more than 15 languages, do you think it is possible to understand by translating into an unfamiliar foreign language that it retains all the features of the original author's style?

– If we do not talk about "Anna Blum", then usually translations are technically performed as follows. First, the translator makes a free-form subscript translation. Then, as a rule, this text is transferred to a professional writer from the country in which this work will be published. This writer creates a kind of artistic treatment of the subscript translation. As for the quality, I can say that we writers usually translate "each other". For example, if my poems are translated into Japanese, then I am working on translating poems by the same author from Japanese. Then both sides try to "take care and attach" the finished work to one of the local print media. After all, both I and my literary counterpart are equally interested in high-quality translation and in its subsequent publication. There is a kind of "gentleman's code" or "code of honor" between writers and poets from different countries. Working as a couple, we try to support each other, talk about the works of foreign colleagues in our country and introduce readers to them.

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– Do you have followers or students, young poets who are interested in new forms and genres?

– I used to teach the theory and history of drama and production at the Institute of Culture. Moreover, there were very capable guys among the students. Many of them were interested in literature, brought me their stories, poems, scripts and plays to ask for friendly advice. Today, those same students from yesterday have become my colleagues – writers, playwrights, as well as theater and film workers. I know that some people, like me, fell in love with creative literary experiments, and even published in newspapers. Perhaps they will go further than me and invent completely new genres in literature.

– You are the winner of the Haji Ismailov Award as the best Turkmen children's writer, the winner of the Altyn Asyr state creative competition in the nomination for the best short stories, as well as the winner of a number of other prestigious literary awards. Do you think that participation and victory in various contests and competitions is beneficial for literary activity, won't it be so that the author will calm down on what he has achieved and a creative decline will begin?

– It all depends on the writer himself. The award is a kind of step, or incentive, allowing you to understand that the author is moving in the right direction. I have not heard that someone, for example, from the winners of literary prizes, suddenly stopped writing after the award. Usually it's the other way around, they write, write and do not have time to live up to their bonus or receive it after death.

– Let's return to figurative verses and calligrams. Some artists paint self-portraits. Is it possible to depict a self-portrait using words folded into images?

– Quite. Nevertheless, that would be a bit boring. I would draw my self-portrait in the form of an allegory. To tell you the truth, I already have two poetic self-portraits. One is in the form of a stichogram that depicts a pen, the other is in the image of a chef cooking his poems and stories in a huge literary cauldron, seasoning them with rhyme, humor, love, and an apt word…

– Over the past few years, you have been working productively in stage genres – dramas, comedies, children's fairy tales. This is evidenced by successful productions, both in the capital and regional theaters of the country. Recently, the winners of the Turkmen playwrights competition, dedicated to the 300th anniversary of Magtymugly, were honored. And you are among the top three playwrights in our country. Tell me about it.

– My play "The First Collection", which won the second place, tells about the events that took place before the publication of the first book of poetry by the poet Magtymguly.

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As for the productions in theaters, I would especially like to mention the Dashoguz director Guvanch Baymedov, in collaboration with whom a number of wonderful performances have appeared. He is equally successful in both comedies and dramas, both performances for children and productions for an adult audience.

Guvanch Baymedov's creative style is characterized by freshness and an innovative approach to the task of the director. He has his own special vision, which is reflected in the work of the actors, in the design of the stage, in the selection of musical accompaniment. For example, the same object or object in the course of a performance can transform, mutate, serve to perform various stage tasks. The same rope stretched horizontally can play the role of a semantic barrier, a turning point, or the same rope in a different position means intrigue, a tangle of untangled problems ... In a word, objects express what is not expressed in words or by the play of actors on stage. Guvanch Baymedov does not clutter the stage with decorations, everything is concise and symbolic.

I am grateful for his work and hope for our further cooperation with this talented director. Moreover, who knows, it is possible that together we will be able to figure out how to apply my poems on the theatrical stage. Their synthetics - a combination of drawings, symbols and forms with a word and rhyme - fully corresponds to the spirit of modern, avant-garde theatrical art.

Ayna Elbarsova

Photo: from the archives of Khemr Shirov

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