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"A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring..."
E.B. White


Teos, 1993
A Poem by Thomas Steele Drach

Tom Drach's comments on...Teos, 1993...
Teos, 1993 -- the original English...
Teos, 1993 -- the literal Turkish translation...
Teos, 1993 -- the lyrical Turkish translation...
About Tom Drach...
About the ancient city of Teos...
Editor's Endnote...


Tom Drach on Teos, 1993

There are two perhaps interesting aspects of this sonnet not apparent in the poem itself, though I hope it stands "sufficient unto itself". The more immediate aspect is that the poet, I, have resided in Teos (now Turkish, Sığacık), not "among the ruins" but atop the walls of its more nearly contemporary site -- if the almost medieval farming and fishing village set amidst crumbled Renaissance-era fortifications can be termed "contemporary". My wife and I have been here for seven years and propose to remain indefinitely.

Secondly, the physical setting of Teos, 1993 is a pleasant twenty minute walk along a rutted, olive-bordered track leading from near my home. I know the place in all seasons, even Christmas Eve at midnight -- the time of the poem being, however, August, as "Cicada in the pines..." indicates. In May and June the ruins loom among the plush and trembling wild plants of an almost painfully brilliant green. In August the vegetation is dry and flaxen. In winter, at night, the Aegean stars are bright in the cool air.

One other aspect relating to Teos, 1993 is that there exists another poem, Teos, 1973 written by me at a time when I had no thought of coming here to live. In fact, when I wrote the later work I had forgotten about the former. Destiny? Kismet? Did Anakreon, the most renowned poet of Teos's classical age, and my muse, pull me home?

The above-described circumstances, and metaphysical ("manevi" in Turkish) auras surround the poem.
TSD (May '97)

Teos, 1993

There has to be a lizard on the wall,
Alert above the lichen-whitened fall
Of column-segments random cast, with tall
And green-black cypress shadows rounding all,
Cicadas in the pines a pulsing call
Across the shaken stairs, the shattered hall
Where only fragile caper tendrils crawl
Beneath the plundered platform's holy pall.
The heats of noon should eddy through the stone,
Each scroll or blurred inscription sharply shown
At summer's ending, bending grasses blown
Awry and dry and flaxen...Be alone,
And find a figure carved by one unknown
And with your finger find his hands' warm tone.

Thomas Steele Drach
(28 September 1993, Sığacık, Turkey )

Teos, 1993
Literal Translation
by Adnan Akgülen (Emekli Albay) and TSD

Turkish speakers will readily understand that this literal translation is by no means, nor in any sense, a poem in Turkish.

Duvarın üstünde bir kertenkele olması gerekiyor.

Bu kertenkele rasgele etrafa dökülmüş üzerleri
yosun kalıntılarıyla beyazlaşmış sütun parçalarının
üzerinde çok uyanık.

Hepsini siyah-yeşil selvi gölgeleri çevreliyor.

Sallanıp dökülmüş merdivenlerin karşısında
çam ağaçlarında Ağustos böcekleri bağrışıyorlar.

Parçalara ayrılmış salon, ki orada sadece çok zarif
ve kolayca incinebilen kapari asma filizleri
emekleyerek tırmanıyorlar.

Yağmalanmış platformların altında kutsal bir duygu.

Öğle sıcakları bu taşlar arasında
fırıl fırıl dönmeli.

Sütun başları veya bulanık yazılar
keskin bir şekilde görülüyor.

Yaz sonlarında bükülen otlar etrafa üflenip kurumuş
ve keten rengine dönüşmüş...

Yalnız ol, ve bilinmeyen birisi tarafından işlenmiş
bir şekil bul, ve parmaklarınla
onun ellerinin sıcaklığını hisset.
(May 1997)

Teos, 1993
Lyrical Translation
by Adnan Akgülen (Emekli Albay) and TSD

Here's the same poem, rendered in more "poetic" free-form, with the literal meaning "broadly" intact. But the reader must remember -- that "poetry fails in translation" and that there has been no attempt to make rhyme...

Eski harabeler Teos denildiği zaman, şunu hatırlarsın;

Rasgele etrafa saçılmış üzerleri yosun kalıntılaryla beyazlaşmış sütun parçalarının ve duvarların üstünde bir uyanık kertenkele.

Ve bunların hepsini çevreleyen koyu-yeşil selvi gölgeleri.

Bu harabede sarsılıp dökülen merdivenleri karşısında bağrışan Ağustos böcekleri.

Parçalara ayrılmış bir salon, ki orada sadece zarif ve kolayca incinebilen kapari asma filizlerinin emekleyerek tırmandığını.

Ve yağmalanmış platformların altında yatan kutsal bir duyguyu.

Yazın öğle saatlerinde bu taşlar arasında fırıl fırıl dönen sıcağı.

Keskin bir şekilde görülen sütun başları ve üzerindeki hemen hemen silinmiş yazıları.

Yaz sonlarında boynu bükülmüş, kurumuş, keten rengine dönüşmüş ve etrafa üflenmiş otları.

Eğer bütün bunları anlamak istiyorsan, yalnız ol, ve bilinmeyen birisi tarafından işlenmiş bir taş bul, ve parmaklarınla onun o taş üzerinde sanatını icra ederken verdiği emeğin ve onun ellerinin sıcaklığını duy.
(May 1997)



Thomas Steele Drach
tom drach caricature
1928 --

Tom Drach's mother was a teacher and his father a lawyer where he was born in Pennsylvania. Soon after his birth, the family picked up stakes, moving west where Tom grew up in Ohio -- along the shores of Lake Erie. After he finished High School, he attended Columbia University in New York, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and Arizona University in Tuscon -- where he studied World Literature, History, Fine Arts, and Education, somewhat in that order. It might not surprise you to hear that he's done a fair share of teaching during his life, but what about this...He's also been a merchant marine on the Great Lakes, an archaeologist's assistant for the Smithsonian, a hospital aide, a restaurateur -- and somewhere along the way, he even found time to do a U.S. Army service stint in Japan. He's also travelled all of Canada, the US, and Mexico -- and has lived many good years in Crete, Italy, Holland, and now Turkey. He and his wife Barbara (more than 40 years of marriage) believe they've finally found their heaven on earth and are settled comfortably in Sığacık (old Teos) near the thriving little town of Seferihisar, which itself is about 15 miles south of Izmir (old Smyrna), Turkey. Tom plays piano, and has a robust collection of records, tapes and CD's to satisfy all of his and wife Barbara's musical tastes -- which range from Classical, to Folk, Jazz, and Pop.



About the ancient city of Teos
(speaking somewhat apocryphally...)

Ionian Greeks migrated to the shores of Asia minor at the end of the first millennium BC. And sometime around 800 BC, the twelve (later thirteen) major cities of Ionia formed themselves into a Panionic League -- along what is now the Turkish Aegean coastline. The League spread itself from Phocaea in the north down the winding shoreline to Miletus in the south -- and in the process it covered and controlled a stretch of coastal territory more than 300 miles in length. The League became known as the Ionian Empire.

And among its powerful city-states was Teos.

Ionia flourished in antiquity due mostly to its abundant agriculture and bold commerce. During her heyday, she made important contributions to Greek art, literature, and philosophy. And it's likely that Homer was an Ionian and that he wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey while residing in the Ionian region -- most probably, in Teos and Smyrna. [And if you're not convinced that there was a single author of those classical works..? Well, ya' got me stymied, I guess...]

The historical writings of Herodotus (c.484-c.425 BC) and Thucydides (c.460-c.400 BC) are filled with the exploits of the brave Ionians -- and among them, the Teians. At one point, there was even a proposal that Teos be made the "Capital City" of the thriving Empire -- though the proposal was turned down when bickering among the other contenders threatened a serious internal conflict.

In the 7th and 6th centuries BC the Ionians were conquered by the Lydians (who are credited with inventing coin-making in the western world -- and whose most notorious ruler was King "Rich as" Croesus). But as it turned out, the Ionian influence on Lydian culture surpassed that of the Lydian on the Ionian! And she shrugged off the Lydian yoke and continued to prosper...

Teos, along with rest of the League, suffered historic defeats at the hands of the Persians in 546 BC and again in 494 BC. But despite an even more historic victory by Greek-allied forces over the Persians at Salamis in 480, Teos remained under some Persian influence until fully liberated by Alexander the Great in 334 BC. Subsequently, Ionia was incorporated into the Roman and Byzantine empires. And it continued to flourish until the invading Turks arrived on the scene in the 15th Century AD!

Apart from the central role it played as a key city-state within the Ionian Empire, Teos is famous for at least three other things. First, it's where Apellicon made his home. What? You don't remember Apellicon of Teos? We-ll, he was the guy that bought Aristotle's library at public auction when all of the great ploymath's descendants petered out. Seems that by the time it got to him, the library was in pretty horrible shape -- but that didn't stop him from making a pile of money from the sale of pitifully inaccurate copies of those magnificent biblio-treasures.

Second, it's home to one of the finest surviving ruined Temples to Dionysus [the Roman Bacchus]. Dionysus was the main deity of Teos and, as such, inspired the town folk to uncommon bouts of revelry -- when they weren't out beating the crap out of enemy states. It's said of the Dionysus-inspired Teians that they "...possessed greater artistic and literary ability than either the Aeolians or the Dorians [the other two Greek ethnic divisions], but they were also less vigorous and hardy and exhibited tendencies toward sensuality." So they weren't all that baaad, now were they...?

Third, it's the home of the world's first recorded artist's colony -- the 'Artists of Dionysus', originally established during the 5th Century BC. The 'Artists' were an extremely talented bunch -- that provided dramatic and musical productions for venues all over the Greek World of that time. It was also an arrogant and troublesome bunch -- so bad, in fact, that the good citizens of Teos kicked them out and sent them packing to Ephesus, where they acted up again... and got kicked out again! (They finally settled for good in closeby Lebedus -- very near to where this website now emanates) .

Thomas Drach's muse, Anacreon (c. 570-485 BC), who is known as the last great Greek poet, was perhaps the 'Artists' most popular and famous member -- and his name remains associated with Teos, his birthplace. Anacreon (or as Tom spells it, Anakreon -- with a 'k' in the Greek fashion) was a voluptuary and a hedonist, who lived his fulsome life in glorification of the arts and of love. He died at the age of 85 when "he choked on a grape pit" -- which is a polite way of saying he had too much wine at the party, and on the way home, fell off a parapet into a drainage ditch, and drowned...

And BTW, Herodotus (you remember...the historian) once proclaimed that ancient Ionia had the best climate in the world -- at least the world as it was known in his time. Why -- even today it still has a legitimate claim to compete for that honor. And since old Teos (modern Sığacık) sits almost equidistant between the northern and southern extremities of old Ionia (along the Aegean coast of Modern Turkey), it can fairly boast to have the best of the best. You don't believe us...? Then come visit and see for yourself.
JM, May '97


Editor's Endnote

Following and understanding how Tom Drach and Col. Akgülen translated and transliterated the original English poem -- Teos, 1997 -- into Turkish, is no sleighride. Any of you who manage to do it without help, should give yourselves a deserved pat on the back.
Make that a standing ovation!

To those who struggle (like yours truly) but who still want to unravel the Literal Translation of the poem -- a reasonably good bi-lingual dictionary and one of our verb conjugation charts, should see you through.

And for those who need a little jump-start on the Lyrical Translation, consider this: The 'figurative' meaning of the translation that begins,
"Eski harabeler Teos denildiği zaman, şunu ...",
is something like,
"When they talk about the ancient ruins of Teos, just remember this..."


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