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‘Loneliness is the poet’s friend:’ 6 new poems from Uzbek writers

‘Loneliness is the poet’s friend:’ 6 new poems from Uzbek writers
Chimgan, Uzbekistan. Image: Sergio Franklin via Unsplash

19 February 2021
Intro and selection: Hamid Ismailov

Unlike in the pre-internet age, when young poets would wait for recognition by being published in literary magazines, a new generation of writers can easily publish their verse on social media. The poets presented below, Rafiq O’zturk, Tillaniso, and Jontemir, all have big followings on Facebook and Instagram. They also take part in so-called “poetic duels”, where poets improvise in face-to-face battles. Jontemir won the latest competition in January earlier this year, which was also streamed online.

Poetry has always been considered one of the most popular and prestigious of Uzbek occupations. In one literary anecdote about the “founding father” of Uzbek poetry, Alisher Navoi (1441–1501), the poet is playing chess with another writer, Binai, when he stretches out his leg and accidentally touches Binai’s back. “We have so many poets in this country that whenever you stretch your leg, you touch the bum of a poet,” he exclaimed. Binai was quick to retort: “If you pull back your leg, you’ll also touch the bum of a poet.” There are no fewer talented writers in the country today.

Uzbek poetry has also flourished in tandem with other poetic traditions. Navoi’s work, for instance, was the sweet fruit of cross-pollination between the Uzbek epics and Arabo-Persian poetic forms. Cho’lpon (1893-1938), another great reformer of Uzbek poetry, represented the synthesis between the Uzbek classic verse, and Russian avant-garde poetry from the beginning of the 20th century.

Rafiq O’zturk, Tillaniso, and Jontemir, too, are influenced by world poetry, and in this way also belong to a longlasting Uzbek poetry tradition.

[A fish plays inside me]

Written by Tillaniso

A fish plays inside me

Shaking her tail

She is thirsty,


For a day,

Three days,

Ten days,

40 days.

Fish don’t die of thirst.

A fish plays inside me

Shaking her tail.

She crumbles

the truth

With her delicate bone.

A fish plays inside me.

Her eyes are the colour of a dark night.

That was a lie.

Fish die of their own ecstasy.

They strike, they destroy themselves,

They die of their own thoughts.

That was a lie.




Forty days.

Fish don’t die of thirst.


By Tillaniso

No, it’s not depression,

Depression is a way of life.

Am I living?

And you?

I’m standing at the edge of my own life and watching

(It’s good to stand on the sidelines)

I’m on the edge and watching:

I’m a prostitute,

who trembles at night in the lap of others

To forget it all.

Giving myself to intoxication,

I forget.

And I can’t remember anything

in the morning.

I don’t remember, for example,

My own two kids,

Who never miss me at night,

Calling me mother.

I do the washing in the morning.

I do the washing when I wake up.

I need to do the washing

Or forget.

It was a Ramadan Night

(It’s hard to live at night)

While watching a soap opera

I cried for my kids.

Never again…

I’m a prostitute

Lying on other laps at night

And doing the washing during the day,

I stand on the sidelines

Watching my own life.

It’s good to be on the sidelines.

I’m on the edge of my life.

I’m a masochist.

Like the hero of Yelinek,

I cut my own chest with a piece of glass,

So that I satisfy my imagination about love.

When my lovers leave me sometimes

(I never loved them)

I stab myself a little above my heart.

Sense is dead. Feeling doesn’t exist. Do not be afraid, it doesn’t hurt.

Don’t take it seriously.

It’s not dreadful.

It’s just the sprouting of a grass,

A couple of rain

and fire which goes to the reeds.

Don’t get serious, I hate those who get serious

People in our company

Are too serious about


A Boss

And orders.

They take life routines seriously,

However they can never see

Higher routines.

The routine of the universe.

The routine of flowers.

The routine of the road.

The routine of rain,

and water.

Look from the outside.

I’m a prostitute.

I’ve learned to live without waiting.

Don’t take it seriously, oh my dear.

“Do yourself a favour”

(Someone said these words to me)

Stay a little further away from yourself!

I’m a prostitute

Sometimes I want to destroy myself.

Sometimes I need to completely ruin my own damaged life.

I’m standing at the edge of life

And I watch,

And I still love



A tiny child’s first words and

The chirping of sparrows.

Tillaniso, Nuryogdi’s daughter, was born in 1993 in the Bukhara region. She has published a collection of poems, entitled Fiery Rebellion. She is a doctoral student of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

A phone-call

Written by Rafiq O’zturk

My poor dad

would love to be proud of me.

He is glad

if he finds something

that was lost long ago.

My poor dad

is aware of my learning

Russian, English and Norwegian,

and he keeps inviting me

to visit his country,

tries to send me clothes

via the post office for a year.

My poor dad

has suddenly grown old.

Everybody has left, as a result,

and even his pitiless sons

can’t remember him!

My poor dad

is still amazed at my poetry,

although my book hasn’t been published yet,

and no one has used it as toilet paper,

as he predicted long ago.

My poor dad…


Written by Rafiq O’zturk

To Halina Poswiatowska


You are fluent

in the language of love,

and the movement of your lips

seems to be a flower bud opening.

In front of you, I’m an immigrant

and dumb barely knowing how to speak.

Looking at your gentle face

I mutter to you:

“Do you speak English?”

After that

you stare at me

with wonder.


Poems are the result of

the desire to live

over and over again.

Every time,

after finding your peaceful death,

you want to change your mind.

But poems, like artificial flowers,

do not take root in the soil

and artificial flowers

can never be poetry.


Your sweet words

seem to be mulberries

spilling from their branches.

Books full of your poems

turn into blue latitudes.

If only my feet could reach

so wide.

I wish, I rejoice

when I mingled with the soil

in honour of your words.


Oh Halina, Halina!

I press my face

to the white paper:

“Say something, after all!”

After all, you didn’t know,

Or if you did, would you leave?!

Would you wait for me for a while.

I shuffle through your letters,

and I believe, that

you have something to say to me, anyway!

Rafiq O’zturk was born in 1992, in the Namangan region of the Republic of Uzbekistan.


Written by Jontemir, translated by Shokhrukh Usmonov

The night bus stop.

Waiting in the corner.

Smoke rises from my cigarette.

“Are you waiting for the 94?”

I shake my head.

I am

Seeking a mouthful of freedom.

The bus comes and goes.

Someone walks a dog.

Miserly streetlights share their light.

Cabs make a sign: where?

But this bench is enough for me.

“You will freeze by dawn,”

Whispers the breeze.

I smile and point to the sky:

I have my God up there!

From a nearby bar

The sound of a guitar,


I feel out the notes in my head.

I play…

As if lying on a beach


I play…

My palm dances in the air

I play…

Totally losing myself

I play…

Lancing the poison in my heart.

Can you try shooting now?

Past midnight,

A tramp comes,

Dragging his bag,

And sits silently.

An awful stench floods the area.

Thin like a stick,

With a wrinkled face.

I offer him tobacco

Then ask for a handful of his freedom.

Smiling, he offers me bread.

Yes, we each understand freedom differently…

I hardly breathe…

I stare at his yellow beard stuck with old food.

I ask:

“Who are you?”

He shows me the ground.

“Where are you coming from?”

He shows me the ground again.

“Where are you going?”

Again the ground…

“Well it seems

I understood nothing,” I say,

And eat the bread he gave.

It seems so delicious,

A poem flowing into my mind.

I open and close my eyes

And then –

See, the tramp has vanished.


Allah, Allah!


All is silent.

There is no love, no freedom, no happiness…

Loneliness and silence alone

Stay with me.

Then I realize that

Loneliness is the poet’s friend

He is born in loneliness,

He lives in loneliness,

He will die in loneliness…

The dawn.

A janitor

Notices me

And investigates:

“Who are you?”

And without hesitation

I show her the ground…


Written by Jontemir, translated by Shokhrukh Usmonov


‘SEPARATION’ is the property of hell.

If I hear it, I am terrified.

How many scores of times

Have I been confronted by its brutality.

Each time it smothers me,

Like a puppy buried alive,

Erasing all memories

But for the nagging question ‘why?’


Then ‘LONELINESS’ adopts you

Becomes your father

Becomes your mother –

The only kind-hearted feeling in the world.

There is a passage in my diary:

‘Loneliness is an ulcer. An infection from God.

Maybe this is why no one but God

Comes near the afflicted.’


‘I LOVE…’ is reminiscent of paradise.

But I grew up envious of this word,

Of everyone.

Then I met you,

Walking like music,

Among the greedy ravens.

At that moment, my heart trembled:


Do not fall into the well of ‘SEPARATION.’

May paradise take root in your heart.


‘OVER’ is the most dreadful word in the dictionary.

A weapon forged by the sorcerous blacksmith.

A Damascene blade to slice ‘OVER’.

Once it slides from its sheath between the lips,

Its target is doomed.

Humankind cannot create

A weapon deadlier than ‘OVER’.

Look at my eyes, my darling,

Do not give way,

Bite your lip.

Let’s not paint our hands in blood.

We are not killers, we are not killers.

Jontemir was born in 1994, in the Kashkadarya region of Uzbekistan Republic. He has published a book titled ‘The Song of the Dervish’. His works have been translated into multiple languages and published across the media.

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