Neyzen Teyfik ( 1879 – 1953 )

Neyzen Tevfik was a Turkish poet, satirist, and neyzen (a “ney performer” in Turkish). He was born in Bodrum on March 24, 1879, and died in Istanbul on January 28, 1953. Tevfik learned Persian as a young man, and became a Mevlevi in İzmir. He then moved to Istanbul and continued his Mevlevi practice in Galata and Kasımpaşa. In 1902 he became a Bektashi dervish. His interest in poetry influenced him into meeting with Mehmet Akif Ersoy. Neyzen Tevfik’s fame in popular Turkish culture is mainly due to his virtuosity with the ney.

He educated himself, however, learning French, Arabic, and Persian, and achieved such an understanding of Sufism and mystic thought that he was given special recognition by the master of the subject, Abdülbaki Gölpinarli.Tevfik’s anti-authoritarian and rebellious personality brought him to the attention of the authorities, and he was arrested. After a long and exhausting trial, he was convicted on thirty-five counts, and at the beginning of 1902 he fled the country and went to Egypt, where he stayed until the declaration of the second constitutional monarchy.

Neyzen Tevfik was known for his colorful, bohemian lifestyle and for verse that could be savagely caustic in its wit. His poetry is imbued with social awareness, philosophy, and depth and it invites the reader to partake in a rational, common-sense morality. As a poet, Neyzen Tevfik is unique in the literature of the late Empire and early Republic.

During his lifetime, two books of his work, Hiç (“Nothing”) and Azab-ı Mukaddes (“The Sacred Torment”) were published. Neyzen Tevfik was also the composer of works of Classical Turkish music.

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