Cemâl Süreya was the pen name used by the 20th century Turkish poet and writer who spent some time as editor-in-chief of the Papirus literary magazine.
Very little detail of the writer’s early life is recorded but it is known that he was born Cemâlettin Süreyya Seber sometime in 1931 to parents Hüseyin and Güllü Seber. This was in the town of Pülümür which lies in in the Erzincan province of eastern Turkey, a region devastated by a huge earthquake in 1939. Ironically, perhaps, it was his family’s good fortune that they were forcibly deported one year earlier to a western Anatolian city called Bilecik, thus avoiding possible death or serious injury. Their deportation was prompted by the repercussions of the Dersim Rebellion in 1938. It is believed that this early disruption had significant repercussions later in his life on the way he wrote poetry.
Süreya appears to have enjoyed a good education. He was able to study at the Political Sciences Faculty located within Ankara University, and, following graduation, he went on to become a prime mover in the cultural revolution in Turkey known as the Second New Generation of Turkish poetry. This movement was in direct opposition to the established and popular Garip movement and is usually described as an abstract and post-modern movement.
The theme of love, and in particular erotic love, features heavily in the work of Cemâl Süreya. Here are two examples of this style of writing, the first a short and slightly abstract poem called Two Hearts, a translation of which is reproduced here:
Another, on a similar theme, is Now Sweetheart:
Süreya’s published work, either in book form or in a number of magazines, is usually found in the Turkish language only. At least thirty two book titles bear his name and one of his most popular books was called The Little Prince. He contributed poems, articles and essays to such periodicals as Türkiye Yazıları, Politika, Aydınlık, Somut and Pazar Postası.
As well as being a popular poet in his own right, he influenced others such as fellow poet Sunay Akın along with a number of other up and coming Turkish writers.
Cemâl Süreya died some time during the year 1990, at the age of 59.