Spring 2004 (12.1)
Forever as a Poem
120 of Vagif's poems can be found at AZERI.org, Azerbaijan International
Magazine's Web site that features Azerbaijani Language and Literature.
The poems are available in Azeri in Latin script and also in
English translation. Search "Vagif Samadoghlu" at AZERI.org.
Vagif Samadoghlu is recognized as one
of Azerbaijan's most distinct poetic voices. Born June 5, 1939,
in Baku, he was named "National Poet of Azerbaijan"
by President Heydar Aliyev in 2000, which was 45 years after
his father, Samad Vurghun (1906-1956) was honored as the first
recipient of this same award.
Vagif is a Member of Azerbaijan's Parliament (Milli Majlis) and
one of the six original representatives from Azerbaijan's Parliament
appointed to the Council of Europe in Strausbourg, France, in
2001 when Azerbaijan gained admittance to this European legislative
Vagif is the brother of the novelist and short story writer,
the late Yusif Samadoghlu (1935-1998) who was also a Member of
Parliament [See Yusif's short story in this issue entitled "Flowers",
dedicated to Vagif's first music recital]. His sister is Aybaniz
Vurghungizi (born 1937) who wrote the profile on their father
in this issue.
Art: Vugar Muradov. Visit AZgallery.org for contacts.
Vagif's professional training was in piano, studying classical
music. He also is a jazz aficionado. He attended Bulbul School
of Music and graduated from Baku's Music Conservatory (now Academy)
and then went on to study at the Moscow Conservatory named after
As Vagif's contemporary Anar [see this issue] has written: "We
are the members of the so-called "Sixties Generation"
in literary studies. In the 1960s, we were beaten and sworn at.
Now, we're sometimes cursed, but sometimes praised. But only
our generation can understand and reflect upon the mood of that
period-its hopes and the shattering of hopes, the yearnings and
grief of that generation."
"Let the privileged heroes of this century not be critical
of that hard-working generation. A person doesn't choose the
time and place of his birth, nor the political circumstances
in which he lives. That period-the 1960s-which is now part of
the archives of history, had its own positive strengths and superiorities.
But we-the youth of that period-grew up, surrounded by hypocrisy,
falsifications, lies, ignorance and misunderstandings in a State
where any independent thought could be subject to death. We breathed,
more accurately, we tried to breath. We tried to express our
thoughts and feelings indirectly, between the lines, by way of
allegory and symbol."
In these poems, many of which date to the 1960-1980s, Vagif expresses
his yearning to be free. "The day I took up my pen, I discovered
that I was a slave," he writes, meaning that the Soviet
political system always required writers to praise and glorify
life in that vast statehood that spanned 11 time zones. Vagif
couldn't; he had too many complaints-too many yearnings-and though
he began publishing in 1963, the majority of his poems have only
been published since independence after 1991 (though many of
them were written earlier and stashed away in drawers).
His books of poetry include: "A Telegram from the Road"
(Yoldan telegram, 1968); "Fortune of the Day" (Gunun
baxti, 1972); "I Am Here, God" (Man burdayam, Ilahi,
1996); "Far Green Island" (Uzaq Yashil Ada, 1999);
The Ring of Fortune (Baxt uzuyu, 1999) which is entirely drama).
All are in Cyrillic.
Most of the poems published here are for the first time printed
in English. They were translated from Azeri by Vafa Mastanova,
Aynur Hajiyeva and Aynura Huseinova. They were selected and edited
by Betty Blair, editor of Azerbaijan International. Poetry is
Vagif's speciality, but he writes drama as well.
Art: Vugar Muradov. Visit AZgallery.org
Paths are long,
Paths are short-
Doest it make any difference
In what country,
Or on what path you lose your way?
Thousands of countries,
Thousands of languages-
Does it make any difference
In what country,
Or in what language
You keep your silence?
Where am I?
Where? Tell me.
Please, cast some light
On this place just for a moment,
And let me see where I am,
Even if I can't get out of this place
Heaven and Hell
When I want to see Heaven,
I close my eyes.
When I want to see Hell,
I open them.
You are my
I am your
Own child, who has been reared by strangers!
You are the white flag
That my last hope has raised-Freedom,
I am the wind,
Art: Vugar Muradov. Visit AZgallery.org
Absence of Freedom
In the absence of birds,
Even a sparrow
On the balcony can make your heart rejoice.
And sometimes a pleasant summer
That you recall
And sometimes even being insanely drunk
Can make you glad.
In the absence of flowers,
Even a dried flower,
Can make a spring.
In the absence of freedom,
Even the Moon
Gives the impression of freedom,
So do the children, who sleep so freely
Dreaming about the moon.
If I light a lamp
In the darkness of this tiredness,
Where will it cast its light?
What will I see?
I'm so afraid of seeing something bad...
I don't know what to do, I don't know.
I'm afraid to light a lamp.
But I'm also afraid that some day
I might get used to the darkness
And be able to see in it
There goes that constant buzz
In my brain again.
It has started again...
Who or what needs me,
Are there many doors left
In the corridors of this life?
I'm like a photo
In the hands of a blind man...
Art: Vugar Muradov. Visit AZgallery.org
Spirit of Trees
God, can the sobbing of a child,
Be heard today beside this fence?
Forty years later
Can his teardrops
Fall upon the earth
Here by this olive tree
Where the leaves are so dusty?..
Perhaps, it is the gravest sin
To weep in the presence of a tree.
Maybe, a teardrop
Shed under a tree
Is much worse for the tree
Than even an axe
We ate some of what was on the table
And some of what was in our memories.
Sometimes we stretched out
Our hands toward the future.
The bread was old,
Our memories, bitter,
And the future turned out to be illusive.
We woke up
And parted from one another.
See, how our fate
Has separated us
From the forest trees,
The mountain grasses,
And the stones in the river.
See, how much we have frittered away
The lives that God has bestowed upon us.
Life Becomes You So
A smile becomes you
As do tears.
You're as beautiful
As the trees in the forest
And the expanse of desert.
You remind me of the mist
On the mountains,
Or the sound of waves
Washing against the shore.
It's as though the world
Has been cut out-just for you,
Life becomes you so well.
Find me, God
My God, when the crazy winter
Are pouring down,
And washing the houses of this tired city,
When the desperate loneliness
Of the rusty gutters
Is flowing into the street, sobbing.
Remember the place where you left me,
And find me,
Find me, my God!
And be aware, be aware that
I am standing beside the window and watching.
I am watching my own fate,
I, who have been left bareheaded and barefoot
Out in this rain.
But I, the owner of this fate,
Believe, believe, believe in You
Even in this godless world.
Does God exist?
Or doesn't He?
Neither today, nor tomorrow
Am I going to get into the sea
of this question
And drown there.
Nor for not knowing the answer
to this question,
Am I going to throw a lasso into the sky
Instead of a prayer
You Broke My Heart
I told you that I loved you,
You broke my heart.
But again, I told you that I loved you!
I asked you to forgive me,
You cut me short.
But again, I asked you to forgive me!
I asked you not to forget me,
You broke our memories.
But again, I asked you not to forget me!
I gave you my life,
But you broke it.
Now, how can I give you another life?
The Miracle of
Don't say so, it can't be true,
I can't believe it.
Even if you swear,
And even if you swear
With God as your witness,
I can't believe
That the cherry plum trees
At the side of the road.
When you go to bed tonight,
To close your eyes tightly,
Wrap the blanket around yourself
And pull it up to your forehead
So that you'll be covered in darkness.
And there in that darkness
Remember me for a moment.
Then you'll see that
My eyes cast a light upon you
Though ever so weak...
Now it's time to flee from
Grumbling and complaint.
It's time to open the doors wide
Which were never knocked upon before.
Now it's time to return to silence
From noise and chaos.
It's time to come down to humanity
From the peak of nation and state...
It's not a time for giving alms or praying,
Or for cursing and blaming.
The world must be silent now,
It's time to help God...
Old Age and Youth
There's an old man sitting,
Sitting in front of the ashen gray sea
That is as gray as he is.
His sight blurs the distance,
Which is without horizon.
"There is no youth on Earth anymore,"
There's a child playing,
Playing among the flowers and grass
That are as colorful as he is.
He looks at the sun
Without squinting his eyes,
There is no old age on Earth anymore,"
No guests, no white dress, no
In a crowded train station of a strange city
Or inside a Metro train,
Rocking with tired people,
You might see a woman.
Who appears as suddenly as an earthquake,
Inside a Metro or in a train station.
And that day you might either
Or become astonished,
And you might realize
That there is a God,
And that the world was small
Until you came face to face with that woman.
And understand that God
Has not allowed you to live your life in vain.
You smell of dreams
You've wrapped yourself up
In a warm world.
You're as tasty as hot bread,
And you're as lazy as a mugham*
Performed in summer.
Even trees and mountains
Want to gather 'round
When they see you.
And I want to be a poem,
Not a poet
When I see you.
(*Mugham refers to a traditional
music system based upon improvisation
of one of numerous complex modal scales.)
Hide the moonlight,
Somebody might see us.
That they can even take the night
Away from us.
If it snows, don't tell anyone:
"Winter has come."
They might arrest the spring,
While tracking down winter.
If you hear that spring has
Don't leave your home.
No, my sweetheart,
Don't pin a flower to your breast,
It might be taken as some sort of symbol.
When did this fear begin?
In what year of what century?
I can't find the right words to describe this
In the language of this land...
Don't erect a marble stone upon
Nor a grand monument.
Just place a pair of shoes there
For someone barefoot to wear.
If the Caspian disappears,
If the seagulls stop squalling,
And if the shadow of these rocks disappears
While I'm alive,
If the Caspian disappears from my life
Like a ring on my finger
While I am alive,
What shall I do,
What shall I do
If I lose the sea as well?..
It's raining in the world.
The raindrops are drawing
On the map of the window.
The countries get smaller, then larger.
Only to reappear.
The rain is pouring
All day long and through the night...
If you change your phone number,
Please, write down the new number
On a sheet of paper,
And bury it in my grave.
Do you hear?
A Poet's Question
Will my notebook die
Like a man whose heart is bursting?
Or will it tell everything that it knows?
Will crows circle its corpse?
Or will doves?
Who will remember
Any of these thousands of words?
Will this last page of my notebook
Be closed for tonight or forever?
If it will be opened,
Who will do it?
Or the breeze?
We'll finish reading this book as well.
We'll know who the killer is.
Then we'll fall asleep,
Resting our heads on the same pillow.
We'll lead our life this way,
Sharing the same house and the same children,
And our heads on the same pillow.
So close, yet so unconscious of each other.
Night is lost in darkness,
And day is shrouded in mist.
If life is just five days long,
Then why are the days creeping by so slowly?
The sky is like a tattered quilt,
Clouds are its patches.
I swear, it's difficult to live
Leaning against this stone wall!
It's been so hard,
To divide this life
Into hundreds of pieces every day,
To stand on the sea coast
And die longing for the sea.
The gossips of this world
And hypocritical truth
Are distracting me.
Today this world
Is an obstacle to my writing poems...
I might forget your rules of
But I can never forget
Nor your various dialects.
If some day
The sudden, cold winds of life
Cast me into a sea of other languages,
I won't forget, even for a moment
And I will never forget your passion,
My mother tongue, Azeri...
Seems to me as though
15, perhaps 20, years ago
In Moscow streets,
I woke up after a dream
That was as long as death.
And I became startled upon awakening.
No sooner did I become startled,
Than the word "Motherland"
Slipped out of my hands
And shattered into pieces
In Moscow streets
I wish there were someone
To sit and talk with
You feel so bored
When you're left alone on earth.
I wonder if there is someone
Or some place
To go to complain about God?..
Teach me how to write poems,
Teach me, paw print of the wolf.
Teach me so that others would know
Where my words come from and where they go.
Teach me so that my poems will
have the right
To live and remain on the ground like you,
Teach me, paw print of the wolf...
I Am Here, God
The wind roaring in my ears,
The dust of the earth in my eyes,
A bottomless well on my right,
The squeak of a rusty gate on my left.
A cottage behind me,
A wall in front of me.
My right hand in my pocket,
My left hand against a wall.
I am here, God, I am here!
Come on, take my hand,
Let's go to the zoo.
My heart is full of words,
I want to share them with you,
Facing a big lion,
Slumbering in his cage...
A Poet's Legacy
I want to die as a poem,
Not as a poet.
I'm living with the wish
To be read by someone some day,
To be read from the very beginning to the end.
I want to be memorized by heart by somebody
I want to be remembered always.
I want to be approved, to be loved.
And I want all these things so desperately!
Not as a poet,
But as a poem that will never be forgotten...
The Creative Process
Close your notebook,
Hide your pen
When you want to write a poem.
Forget both your happy and unhappy
When you want to write a poem.
There is no song that hasn't
There are only songs
That you remember again,
Go, lie down and try to sleep,
When you want to write a poem.
A Stranger in My Own
I open my door a bit wider,
All the dogs in the world start barking,
As if the world were some stranger's garden,
That I'd been dropped into
At the break of dawn.
Along the shore
I was standing like a cross
Over the dead body
Of a seagull
Which had been soaked with black oil.
Mother, now I'm starting
To resemble a grave as well...
If they're going to make gallows
From this plane tree,
And if they're going to build a fire
From the wood of my grand piano,
Then I was being hanged
Even though I was breathing
During my own lifetime,
Then I have been ice
While the sun was being melting under my feet!..
Oh, My God!
They're killing a man
In the forest
in the presence of so many trees.
I wish I had a candle
To warm my body...
I wish I had a leaf over my head
To cool me...
It's the world.
I wish there were another world
To take us all under its protection...
Only Wishes, Not Hopes
If one more wish lands on my
Someway, somehow I can bear its load,
Even if my waist breaks under its weight.
But I can't stand,
I can't take the load any more of even a single hope.
So many trees became crippled
A number of forests met the spring
Without their hands and legs...
Now the leaves are like kids,
Noisy and innocent,
Unaware of the winter that just passed...
I neither lifted a stone,
Nor rode a horse.
Nor was I able to set free
Or anyone else.
I was born into the world
Only as a spectator...
I'll have a cat,
The softest one in the world.
I'll find an armchair
Wider than the world itself.
Smoke from an English pipe
Packed with the finest tobacco in the world
Will enshroud me.
And a big clock
Will be standing in front of me,
Of the most beautiful moments
Of my life...
Let separation and death
Always be your companions along the way.
Rely upon their faith.
Trust in them,
And continue your way with ease.
It must have been a lie.
I can't believe that Mozart
Created his music with such ease,
A man can't die that way-
So easily with a smile.
It must have been a lie...
Various articles written by Vagif Samadoghlu have been published
in Azerbaijan International:
Emergence of Jazz in Azerbaijan. Vagif Mustafazade: Fusing
Jazz with Mugham," by Vagif Samadoghlu, AI 5.4
(Winter 1997), pp 72-74.
Vurghun (1906-1956)-Poet and Playwright on his 90th Jubilee,"
by his son Vagif Samadoghlu, AI 4.1
(Spring 1996), pp 20-23.
Samadoghlu: Poetry, AI 4.1 (Spring 1996), p. 23.
Sixties: A Roadmap to Independence," by Vagif Samadoghlu,
AI 6.1 (Spring 1998), pp 45-47.
Samadoghlu: Poetry, AI 7.1 (Spring 1999), pp 56-57.
Personality Cult: Three Times I Changed My Mind," by
Vagif Samadoghlu, AI 7.3 (Autumn 1999), pp 27-29.
vs. State Power," by Vagif Samadoghlu, AI 8.1 (Spring
2000), p. 25.
Speak out about the Azeri Language," AI 8.1 (Spring
2000), p. 57. Poems
by Vagif Samadoghlu, AI 8.1 (Spring 2000), p. 56.
Also see the article by Vagif's
sister's Aybaniz Vurghunqizi,
reminiscing about their father Samad Vurghun in this issue, p.
Vagif Samadoghlu's books of
poetry: "I Am Here, God" (hardbound, 440 pages, 1996)
and "Far Green Island" (paperback, 448 pages, 1999)
are available at AZER.com, click STORE.
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AI 12.1 (Spring 2004)
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