Ahmet Erhan, the iconic poet who said ‘I haven’t died today either, mum,’ passes away
Ahmet Erhan published his last book 'Sahibinden Satılık' (For sale by owner) in 2008. Hürriyet photo“I thought that a gun was pointed towards me / Hoarse gunshot sounds were coming from far away / One of my faces turned to parting, another to life / I haven’t died today either, mum,” Ahmet Erhan wrote in 1979. These verses that encapsulated the mood of the late 70s, about street clashes between opposing militant factions run amok, became the symbol of a generation after they were adapted to a song by the late Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya in the 90s.
Ahmet Erhan, 55, passed away 35 years after composing his most well-known poem, in the midst of a new political awakening. For the last few years he had been caught up in another struggle, this once against throat cancer. His literary activity had become scarce, perhaps more finicky. “I had abandoned poetry a long while ago,” he had declared in his last collection of poems published five years ago, although in verse. “So writes my shadow.”
Erhan was not poised to be a poet, but a football player. Born in Ankara in 1958, he spent his youth in the eastern Mediterranean towns of Adana and Mersin. He took an interest in football very early, as all young Turkish males do, and played at the popular club Adana Demirspor.
The team was – and still is – the symbol of working class. And Erhan was the left-winger of the left-wing club. Those who had seen him on the pitch talked about one “hell” of a player. But a severe injury prevented him from playing football, so he started writing verse.
His first poetry collection “Alacakaranlıktaki Ülke” (The country in the Twilight) published in 1981, just after the military coup, received the Behçet Necatlıgil Prize. His next poetry books “Akdeniz Lirikleri (Lyrics of the Mediterranean), “Yaşamın Ufuk Çizgisi” (The horizon of life) both published in 1982, and “Ateşi Çalmayı Deneyenler İçin” (For those who have tried to steal the fire) published in 1984, established him as the most cherished poet of Turkey’s grim post-coup era.
Erhan’s verses captured the pessimism of his generation, sprinkled with incisive irony and a handful of hope. The title of his 1997 opus “Çağdaş Yenilgiler Ansiklopedisi” (The encyclopedia of modern defeats), awarded with two of the most prestigious prizes of Turkish literature – the Cemal Süreya and Halil Kocagöz awards – reflect his impious tone with life’s disappointments.
His last book “Sahibinden Satılık” (For sale by owner) published in 2008 received the Melih Cevdet award. The last poem “Büyük ilan” (Big ad) was another self-deprecating hymn mocking the consumerism of the Turkish social landscape:
“For sale by owner / Damaged / A life / 1958 model / How many times previously sold unknown / It was worse when I had it / Works with alcohol / Oh, and also smokes for the purpose of an exhaust pipe / Has cancer / And also ulcer… If you want to buy it / So do it already.”