With Lale Müldür in Istanbul
Allow us to introduce the sensational Lale Müldür, who is seated on her couch in the Istanbul neighborhood of Cihangir smoking one of her beloved Marlboro menthols. The walls of the apartment are covered in paintings and photographs, except a bare spot of white directly facing her. There are many portraits of Lale, who is one of the greatest living Turkish poets, by artist friends of hers. Her shelves are stacked with works by Borges, Mallarmé and Catullus, books on religion, philosophy and the French theorists, titles like The Occult Philosophy of the Elizabethan Age and Le soleil d’Allah sur l’occident. There are several photographs of Nico below the bookshelf, and two Albrecht Dürer prints hanging above her head. In the corner of the room there is a small writing desk at the window overlooking the sparkling, streaming waters of the Bosporus, with the minarets of the Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque across the Golden Horn. Today the view is somewhat interrupted by an enormous cruiseship that is parked in the port below. As she talks—her sentences constantly interrupted by gusts of laughter—seagulls come to land on her windowsill and peer into the room. Lale picks up a volume of her poetry called Water Music, and begins to read the first poem, “Barocco,” slowly but naturally in her warm, striated voice:
“She finally undresses for the species of ferocious seabirds. She drops her wedding ring into the water. — This is me, just before my divorce. — She leaves the singular pearl of winter in some other house… / Bending / refracted in the water / she sinks to the bottom. / Turning her seaweed eyes, she looks to Uranus.”
It’s about freeing herself, she says, opening herself to new, strange experiences. Uranus represents the unknown, unexpected, and “extraterrestrial.”
-FRAGMENTS FROM ISTANBUL is a series by Stephane Ackermann and Brad Fox. Their collaborative poetics explores the recesses of contemporary Istanbul and its secret histories, as developed in the felicitous relationship between image and text.
I came to the top of the entrance to the passageway under the waterfront highway. A stream of humanity emerging. Two covered women carrying a baby stroller, ballooned in their robes. A man selling flashlight cigarette lighters and plastic skeletons. An electric toy for children—an endless stream of tiny penguins climbed up a ladder and slid down a convoluted chute only to start again. Among the crowd of olive and pink faces was a single African. Streams of migrations, transforming faces, all the nations selling plastic toys, knock-off shoes, Chinese T-shirts, used cell phones, coming and going from work, school, mosque, church, home, shop, market, public office, train station, factory, cafe, restaurant, and we all fused, living within sight of peak humanity, peak oil, the trams rattling overhead, buses and cars, machines traveling underground, expansion, development. The bombs that had gone off weeks before, the uprisings, the fire and water spreading, the wicked meanderings of the stock market, the winds heading across the ocean—all of it was an expression of what we wanted. We could all trade faces and see each other everywhere. We here were among plastic rifles and teddy bears hung by their throats in the underpass—the covered women, the pink tourists, the invisible Alawi and their secret rites, the African who’d seen his village burned, his family scattered, who’d crossed continents at great risk only to find himself selling watches near water infested with jellyfish, where men from the east struggled to while away the hours and perhaps feed their families pulling tainted fish out of the exhaust of the ferries.
The last Greeks still heading to church after centuries of conquest, persecution, war, pogroms, the dervishes still laying hands on each other chanting the name of the divine in Pentecostal ecstasy, the transgendered women, heads held high, heading out for another night of rough trade. We were all magnetized by a common point. We were all there together surrounded by pregnant streetcats and the debris of the crowd. Because it drew us, somehow: our petty struggles were diluted and finally united into a growl from our collective throat—the time we were living through. And with that we all made our way to wherever we were going, me up the hill to my house, my arms loaded with cups and bottles and bags and coffee grounds, until I could finally drop it all on the formica counter and sit still watching an enormous hull heading north through the straits.