Murat Nemet-Nejat reads from Io’s Song

In Io’s Song, some of the poems are as beautiful to look at as they are to listen to and read. I have always been a fan of poets whose first language isn’t English, but who speak and write the language because when a poet begins outside looking in, the possibilities of that language become very clear to him, vantages the native born are blind to, being what they speak and where they live. The immigrant sees risks that are capable of success, concrete as any new word or business or way of looking at a thing, and abstract as the qualities of the sounds in a word relating to its meaning, seeing its appearance in the syntax on the page.

Murat begins his essay, “Questions of Accent,” talking about this very thing:

I speak no language like a native. Though I have lived in the States since 1959, my accent still sounds foreign. I was born in Turkey, but I am not Turkish. I am Jewish. In the fifties most Jews in Turkey were Sephardim and spoke Ladino Spanish. But I am not a Sephardi; I am a Persian Jew. My parents had moved to Istanbul on business, and I was born there in a Jewish neighborhood. But I learnt no Ladino, barely understood it. Jewish kids in the neighborhood thought I was Moslem, an outsider. At home, my parents spoke Persian with each other, which also I barely understood. Brothers among ourselves spoke Turkish. My mother spoke in an immigrant’s broken Turkish to me (my father barely spoke to me at all). Turkish became my mother tongue. I spoke Turkish in the street. I was, linguistically, most comfortable with other Turks, who mostly despised Jews. My speech became almost Turkish. Loving a language not completely my own was my first act as a Jew. And, despite my almost accentless speech, my first act of rebellion was to tell my Turkish friends I was not one of them. I was a Jew.

A few weeks ago, I recorded Murat reading from Io’s Song, a modern autobiography, playful and serious and old as Mediterranean myths. Here he is now with his adventures of sight and sound. Allow yourself the pleasure of listening. Enjoy.


Io’s Song is published by Chax Press. You can check it out here:



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Here is the essay, “Questions of Accent“ by Murat Nemet-Nejat.


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