Cities have always been sources of inspiration for
poetry. However, the modern western cities, which are
the origins of secularity, have inspired poets in different
ways. Charles Baudelaire captured the poetic dimensions
of modernity in Paris in the 19th century. He
wrote about the night life of Paris which became possible
after street lighting. He wrote about corruption.
Baudelaire also wrote about the changing character of
commercial places in cities and tried to grasp the feelings
of people as a ‘flaneur’: an individual stroller at
city streets. The philosopher Walter Benjamin got
inspired by Baudelaire`s poems and formed his philosophy,
which relates poetics to modernity during the
20th century. Modern cities take an important role in
his philosophy too, because Benjamin was making a
collection of political event news in the cities of
Germany. Then he had to leave Germany because of
the growth of fascism. He left his collection behind.
When he went to Paris he wrote about the passages
and the poetic dimensions of modern city life. When
Nazi army came to France, he had to leave Paris too.
The poetry of Baudelaire and the philosophy of
Benjamin are evidences for the poetic nature of modern
city life. The relationship between the modern city
and the free individual can easily be felt in their works.
However, when you read heir work, you can easily
understand that today`s Paris is not the same Paris any
more. It is still poetic, but in another way.
A Turkish poet: Orhan Veli Kanık; wrote
poems about Istanbul during the first half of the 20th
century. The name of a very famous poem of his is: I
am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed. He was
interested in the haptic dimension of Istanbul in this
poem. The poem contains the light wind blowing and
shaking the leaves of trees, never stopping background
voices of the street sellers, the screaming seagulls,
feet of a woman touching the water of Bosphorus
, the grand bazaar, courtyards full of pigeons, hammer
sounds coming from the docks and the smell of sweat,
the drunkenness of the old worlds, a moss passing
through a sidewalk, songs and insults, a rose falls
down from her hand, the warmth of the forehead of a
lover, her heart beat and a white moon rising over the
peanut trees. The poem represents a day in the
Istanbul of 1940`s. Istanbul is not the same Istanbul
any more too. Street selling was banned long ago.
Many trees were cut. People do not put their feet into
the water of Bosphorus anymore. There are changes
beyond the content of the poem and these changes
effect the whole poetics of the new Istanbul.
Population of Istanbul has increased at least 20 times
more and reached 15 millions. First migrants came
from the villages of Turkey since 1950`s and later
migrants came from all over the world and especially
from the war-torn Syria. There are new districts, new
public squares, boulevards and avenues.
Transportation has been changed several times and
many cultural festivals have been organized. Istanbul
is still a poetic megacity, but it is certainly not the
Istanbul of Orhan Veli any more.
Academics continue to generate research
findings on cities to capture such changes. This latest
issue of Open House International, volume 44 – issue
4, is also about cities and urban environments where
nine articles are included to delineate the dynamic
nature of contemporary cities. They address the contexts
in India, Malaysia, Chile, Turkey, Scotland,
Bahrain, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates. By mapping
the content of the articles to the abovementioned
poems, we may grasp intrinsic characteristics about
the nature of changes in the cities. Gated communities
of Nagpur- India, inclusivity of urban design, urban
transformations and identity in Santiago and Samsun-
Turkey, impact of south Asian migrant communities in
Glasgow, contested spaces in Bahrain, expatriates
housing in metropolitan Doha, public involvement in
the design of public projects. The cosmopolitan nature
of current cities, the segregation between different
groups of people, the demand of urban democracy,
the affect of wars and migration on the cities are heavily
Today`s flaneur should be of another type.
Maybe a tourist or a retired person or an unemployed
one… The speed of life is much faster than it was in
Orhan Veli Kanık`s Istanbul poem. Is it still possible to
slow down and listen to the sounds of a city? Can
these sounds help us to understand the contemporary
cities? Are there still something haptic in the nature of
cities? Whatever… The contemporary cities and
metropolises still keep on being inspiring and poetic
for many people.
Yonca Hurol, Ashraf M. Salama
An Abstract to read the whole article login.......