2024  N1-2(227-228)
Blessed is the land that gives birth to poets – guardians of divine creative fire, whose calling is to serve truth and beauty and carry ultimate and true meanings. It is the meanings embedded in the poetic Word that make it imperishable and make poets the mouthpiece of thoughts and aspirations of their people, who preserve their names for centuries and engrave their images in monuments.
Thinking of these things is especially easy in the Artistic Park Complex “Ylham” (Inspiration) in Ashgabat. The park of sculptures is located in the historical center of the Turkmen capital. It was inaugurated in 2010, connecting Ashgabat’s avenues and squares, streets and alleys named after outstanding Turkmen poets and writers. The unique open-air historical and art museum features 46 sculptures created by some thirty leading sculptors of the country.
I went on excursion to this cultural oasis together with people for whom Turkmen poetry has become not only a subject of study but also destiny. A walk along the alleys of the park with Allayar Churiev, poet, literary critic, senior researcher at the Institute of Language, Literature and National Manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan, as well as Suleyman Ilamanov, poet, publicist, head of the poetry department at “Edebiyat ve Sungat” (Literature and Art) newspaper was a good opportunity to reflect on the significance of Turkmen poetry and its representatives who became the glory of the Turkmen land.
Sculptural compositions of oriental sages, outstanding scientists, astronomers, mathematicians, philosophers stand along the alleys. Their heritage is an invaluable national treasure and an integral part of the treasury of world science and culture. Sculptors who created these images help us imagine how the great scientists and philosophers, poets and theologians looked like, including Myane Baba, Mahmud al-Kashgari, Abu Ali Ibn Sina and As-Sarakhsi, Biruni and Farabi, master of the rubai poetic genre Omar Khayyam, author the world-famous work “Science that makes you happy”, poet-thinker Yusup Balasagunly, singers of love and beauty Nesimi and Fizuli…
Under the shadow of a stone plane tree we are greeted by philosopher Al Farabi, who is depicted enjoying his favourite activity - playing the Tar. Alisher Navoi, poet who left a big mark on the musical and song art of the Turkmens, is depicted with the Dutar. The great spiritual adviser, scientist and poet Khoja Akhmet Yasavi mentors a young student. The dreamy poetic gaze of Yunus Emre is fixed upon the distance.
Where else, if not in the Park of Inspiration, one can look together with Biruni into the distant depths of the Galaxy, join the discussion of important issues with Nedjmetdin Kubra and Kazi Burkhanetdin Akhmet, admire the regal figure of ruler and poet Jahansh Hakyky sitting on the throne, remember the outstanding statesmen and talented writers, Bayram Khan and his son Abdyrahym Khan, who left an indelible mark on the history of Turkmenistan and India, which is recalled by the image of elephants in the sculptural composition dedicated to them. One of the sculptural compositions symbolically brings together great mathematician Musa Khorezmi, scientist Shamsetdin Mervezi and poet Mahmud Palvan.
The presence of all these personalities in the Park of Inspiration highlights the deep connection between science and art that in the East is traditionally perceived as a single whole, the most important component of the philosophy of creation and art.
It was poetry that was often used to express the thoughts of scholars about the creation, the laws of the Universe, science, music... Many eminent scientists and philosophers of antiquity were known as excellent masters of words, who used them to express both rational and emotional experience. At the same time, outstanding poets of different eras were characterized as “thinkers”.
Pointing to the sculptures, Allayar Churiev recalled that Omar Khayyam was a mathematician, an astronomer, a poet and a philosopher. Al-Biruni, an encyclopaedist who mastered almost all the sciences of the Middle Ages, was known as a brilliant poet, fluent in more than six languages. Outstanding commanders Bayram Khan and Sultan Sanjar paid tribute to poetry.
“Poetry has always had a special place in self-consciousness of Turkmens, Suleyman Ilamanov continued the topic. A poet – prophet, votary and bearer of national identity – is a characteristic phenomenon of Turkmen literature, the origins of which go back to ancient times, to Oguzkhan Turkmen, Gorkut-ata, Gerogly.”
Speaking about this, my companions mentioned the storytellers, including female ones, who lived in ancient times in the Central Asian region, including Turkmenistan. And although the Park of Inspiration presents exclusively male images, they noted that Turkmen women not only admired and inspired men but made history together with men and created unsurpassed masterpieces of art. It is women who narrate oral tales, sing songs composed during carpet weaving and needlework, as well as the original texts of lullabies, ritual and game poems and girlish songs.
Moving from sculpture to sculpture, we seemed to be turning over the pages of history that took us into the depths of centuries, got deep into the spirit of the times. Poet-storytellers and bakhshi-musicians were considered the heritage of the people and spiritual wealth. Not a single party, a single significant event took place without their participation... There were hereditary storytellers among them. In the west of the country alone, in the area where great Turkmen poet Magtymguly lived, there were more than three hundred of them. Each aul (village) was proud of its poets, creating special conditions for their life and work.
The so-called “mushaira” (gatherings or competitions of poets) was a characteristic national poetic tradition. This ritual had its own rules. It used to be in the evening that the masters of words would gather for refreshments and introduced their fellow villagers to their new works. The people acted as the jury and rated their performance. In this series, one can also note poetry readings around the fire after midnight (shamans).
The “aidyshik” (calling to one another) genre is also widely known in the Turkmen poetic firmament. These are the unique literary competitions, usually of philosophical content. At the same time, it was not mandatory to be nearby for a poetry competition. Carrier pigeons were often used for this purpose. In other words, there were no boundaries for poetry.
Those who conveyed real feelings, events and life in poetic lines were recognized by people as the best poets. Rulers of the thoughts of the people, mouthpieces of their aspirations and desires, guardians of historical memory, Turkmen poets were reputable bearers of the highest moral standards, exercising a huge influence on the worldview of people and formation of the ideals of society. Turkmen classical poetry grew on the fertile soil of folk art - folklore, destans, songs, legends.
Naturally, the works by the great Turkmen classical poet, Magtymguly, absorbed all the best that was in the folk poetic tradition and in general Eastern culture. Magtymguly is considered the founder of new Turkmen classical poetry and literature, one of the first masters of words who significantly changed the nature of the Turkmen poetic language, bringing it closer to folk speech. The classical poet lived in difficult times of turmoil and discord for the Turkmens and felt a huge responsibility given to him along with a great gift – to spiritualize, elevate and unite people.
The innovative poetry by Magtymguly Fraghi became a kind of school for future poets who contributed to the development of the thematic diversity and language of the Turkmen literature.
The sculptural compositions depicting poets of the 17th–19th centuries take viewers to the “golden age” period of Turkmen poetry. Magtymguly’s father, poet-philosopher Dovletmammed Azadi, is depicted at a moment of philosophical reflection. Nearby are the statues of his inseparable friends – Zelili and Seyidi. The latter is depicted as a brave horseman as befits a warrior. Nurmuhammet Andalib is depicted behind the composition. The figure of great lyricist Mollanepes conveys the creative impulse. Among the brilliant names that continued and developed the glory of Turkmen poetry are satirist Kemine and singer of love and beauty Myatadzhi.
It was in the “golden age” of Turkmen poetry that the idea of the poet as a prophet, servant and bearer of national identity came to the fore. It is no coincidence that Turkmens describe their favourite poet in the following way - “Magtymguly is a harbinger of happiness.” Historical, patriotic, love, edifying and didactic motifs and themes occupied an important place in the poetry of classical poets. They developed love, landscape and elegiac meditative lyrics and enriched the satirical genres.
The millennial connection between generations and eras, the continuity of the high spiritual culture of the Turkmens are emphasized in the third section of the sculptural trilogy of the Park of Inspiration – an alley dedicated to outstanding cultural figures, poets, writers, translators of the second half of the twentieth century who can rightfully be called the “silver century” of Turkmen poetry.
On both sides of the alley, there are sculptural busts of Nurmurad Sarykhanov, Beki Seytakov, Berdy Kerbabaev, Aman Kekilov, Ata Govshudov, Kerim Gurbannepesov, Nury Bayramov, Kurbannazar Ezizov, Kara Seyitliev, Nazar Gullaev, Yylgay Durdyev, Ashirberdy Kurt, Mammed Seyidov, Berdynazar Khudaynazarov, Annaly Berdyev, Allaberdy Khaidov.
According to my interlocutors, each of them can be called an innovator. The twentieth century and its realities introduced the European tradition into the works of Turkmen poets, which was reflected both in the form of poetry and philosophical understanding of the new reality. The first half of the twentieth century in Turkmen poetry passed under influence of Russian classical literature that Turkmens learned with the help of translators. Thanks to them, the works by Pushkin and Lermontov, Yesenin and Mayakovsky were translated into Turkmen.
At the same time, Turkmen poets of the 20th century were developing national traditions, Suleyman Ilamanov noted. Take, for example, the “musharat” that were organized by poet-writers Kara Seyitliev, Berdy Kerbabaev, Kurbannazar Ezizov. Only recognized talents were allowed to attend these poetry gatherings. The masters’ feedback was especially important for young poets. Speaking about this, Allayar Churievich recalls how proud he was to receive a good review of his first lyric poem from Gurbannazar Ezizov, with whom he developed friendly relations in the following years.
Coming to the end of the tour of the Park of Inspiration, I asked my companions to talk about their achievements, share their opinions on the ways of development of modern Turkmen poetry and, of course, read their poems. Allayar Churiev recalled the poetry collections he published in different years – “Voice of the Earth”, “Bereket”, “Chinar”, “Six Songs about Love” and others. Among the most recent is the collection “Here is Inspiration” published in 2023, featuring patriotic lyrics. The author has recently finished working on a monograph dedicated to researchers and first translators of Magtymguly Fraghi’s works into languages of the world.
In turn, poet and journalist Suleyman Ilamanov, who created many patriotic poems, including those that went to the 2023 collection “Dovleti Dovran” (Era of Happiness) and set to songs, spoke about a new, ready for publication collection of poetry dedicated to the 300th anniversary of birth of Magtymguly Fraghi, and his work on the scientific article “Magtymguly and the works by Goethe.”
Like centuries ago, the high moral principle and humanistic message remains a distinctive feature of modern Turkmen poetry. Modern poets pay tribute to patriotic civil lyrics. Dedications of the odic form characteristic of Eastern poetry sound in a new way. And, of course, the theme of love and beauty is eternal for poets.
The Park of Inspiration is by no means a pantheon of frozen statues. It is imbued with lively romance, and it is beautiful at any time of the year. The perennial trees that have been preserved here and new evergreens stretch upward, and the silver streams of the fountains glisten in the rays of the generous Turkmen sun.
The park complex is the venue of literary readings, gatherings of poets and the New Year art performances. Young people set dates and confess their love, families come for relaxation, curious schoolchildren go on excursions and children romp in this park. The aesthetics of this place is attractive, and one can easily understand that poetry is neither modern nor old-fashioned, it is beyond time and space.