Orhan Veli: A people's poet
He was among the pioneers of the Garip Movement, an era in Turkish literature which marked a radical shift to simple language from traditional Ottoman style.
In a short lifespan of 36 years, he produced an impressive volume of works, including essays, articles and translations besides poetry.
Orhan Veli was born on April 13, 1914 in Istanbul to parents Mehmet Veli and Fatma Nigar.
He went to school in both Istanbul and the capital Ankara.
His interest in literature was evident even when he was a child. He managed to get his first short story published in a magazine called A Child's Worth.
He became friends with Oktay Rıfat during his secondary school years and Melih Cevdet Anday a few years later, two poets who founded the Garip Movement with him.
Renowned poet Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar became his mentor at Istanbul's Galatasaray High School.
Orhan Veli's initial poems had childhood memories, loneliness, hopelessness and country life as underlying themes.
After graduating from high school in 1932, Orhan Veli got admission in the Department of Philosophy at Istanbul University. He simultaneously worked as an assistant teacher at Galatasaray High School.
He dropped out a few years later landing a job at the Ankara Post office where he worked until 1942.
During this time, his work began getting recognition. A prominent literary magazine, Varlik published his poems under the pen name Mehmet Ali Sel.
Birth of Garip Movement
After 1937 a radical shift was seen in his works as he adopted the Garip Movement.
With the simple language he used in poetry, he became a poet for the people.
The first anthology Garip by Orhan Veli, Rifat and Anday was published in 1948, giving rise to their movement.
In its preface, Orhan Veli said: "Poetry is a rhetoric that appeals to the mind, not to the five senses."
Turkish author Sait Faik Abasiyanik once described Orhan Veli as "a poet who was much scrutinized, at times mocked, at times embraced, then again rejected, to be once again acclaimed; who achieved both great fame and notoriety in his time".
He went on to work as a translator at the Education Ministry for two years.
In 1948, he started a magazine Yaprak (Leaf) with like-minded artists and poets. The fortnightly publication was eventually discontinued due to lack of funds.
On a visit to Ankara, Orhan Veli fell in a pit and suffered a head injury. He returned to Istanbul and fell sick at a friend's house. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors said he died of brain hemorrhage. Rumors are also rife that he was assassinated or poisoned.
His funeral was held on Nov. 17, 1950 in Istanbul.
Mourning his death, poet Neyzen Tevfik said: “A shady branch we all benefited from broke and fell suddenly, its Leaf was buried into the heart of the nature."
Renowned poet Nazim Hikmet said: “I think that Orhan Veli is one of our greatest poets. He died too early, but he will be eternal.”
His friend and poet Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu said: “We have lost a great poet, a great scholar, a very good friend, a very good person.”