MAKHTUMKULI: A PERSONAL RESPONSE
 

(Gilbert Biberiati, Cheftenbam, 6 Februaiy 1995)


 


This is a purely personal account of my contact with this magnificent poet and not a scholarly essay.
    When in October 1992 Dr Yousef Azemoun invited me to write a piece of music to be included, as a preface, in his scholarly work on Makhtumkuli, I knew nothing of this poet. The idea of a musical preface instead of the customary verbal preamble was at once interesting, attractive and stimulating. Dr Azemoun soon sent me a few of Makhtumkuli's poems in addition to a very learned and edifying essay of his entitled "WHO WAS MAKHTUMKULI?" As a result of this introduction, I came to know some of the best, most beautiful and inspiring poetry to have emerged from that part of the world.
    My response was an extended work for solo viola to celebrate the great poet, entitled, simply, "THE POET MAKHTUMKULI". The choice of the viola was determined by the sound of the Turkish "Keman", that wonderfully evocative and many-voiced instrument with a velvet heart that never pulsates in a hurry. As Dr Azemoun and I have links with Turkey, this was symbolic of a unity, a solidarity, it would be difficult to express verbally.
    As I read Makhtumkuli's poetry, I became aware of a wonderful illumination that eminated, that radiated in all directions from an enlightened soul. This illumination, this light at once spiritual and earthly, divine and humanistic, became a great source of inspiration to me.
    At a time when fanaticism and all kinds of religious extremism threaten to engulf us, to obliterate the values of true spirituality, I was deeply moved and impressed by the all-embracing heart and mind of this man.
    He was certainly not an isolationist. References to Jesus, Issa, abound in his work:

"I looked up to Heaven and asked the blessing oflesus and the King of the Brave."

and from Bilmezming - Do you know?
 

"I took up my pen and sent a letter' do you not know?
I bewitched the snipe and downed it; do you not know?
I raised it up to heaven itself do you not know?
Relief Ca me after three days and four nights of tears,
do you not know?
How I ran about astride an ass like Jesus?


    Here is a man with open arms to humanity; he admits all into his community, he declares a unitedness and a brotherhood. This is a philosophy and an attitude we need desperately right now, in our own times: I felt that Makhtumkuli spoke directly to us, giving new insights, inspiration and lessons on matters still intensely relevant to us.
    Later, Dr Azemoun invited me to contribute a new look for the inaugural meeting of the Makhtumkuli Society in March 1993 at Oxford. I responded by providing a musical background like a hanging kilim, a tapestry against which to throw into relief one of Makhtumkuli's poems, "In the Year of the Fish".
    This was to be a recitation with exclamatory interiections from a drum to punctuate this apocalyptic poem. The music sings and dances, proceeding with a soft unhurried head, hoping, aiming to "serve" Makhtumkuli's poetry:
 

O Makhtumkuli, you have secrets within you.
If you find a perfect man serve him in every way.


    I felt that a recitation rather than a setting for a singer was a better way of "serving.' his work: each and every word had to be heard clearly set against the background of instrumental sounds and served by them. A setting as a song would have jeopardised the audibility of some words and the total effect of the poem would have been altered totally. I wanted to preserve and perhaps protect. his words.
    It has been a great priviIege to know this man's poetry and to come under it's spell, and to be inspired,stimulated and driven to write music as a result. The immense vintues and qualities of Dr Azemoun, his vision and his love of Makhtumkuli, in turn, also became a source of inspriration which, I know, will soon result in another musical work.
    I cannot think of a better way of celebrating this exceptional man, Makhtumkuli, who feeds our spiritual as well as our emotional lives with his poetry even today.