Beyazit National Library – Istanbul
I first encountered the Collected Poems of Sage Meyve several years ago while researching the Selim II Caliphate at the Beyazit National Library in Istanbul. As I had arrived an hour early for my appointment I was asked to wait in the recently restored old reading room where I happened to see a slender book lying upon a table. Cracking open the ornate red leather binding I began to read words so exquisite, written in such precise, economical lines that I couldn’t help but wonder why I hadn’t heard of this poet before and why he, or she, isn’t more widely read.
I savored Meyve’s rich verses as if drinking a Turkish coffee and drawing on a shisha pipe off the bazaar. The expensive paper teased my fingers each time I turned a page while the words transported me to a world so beautiful I never wanted to leave. When I turned back to the edition notice I discovered it was missing, adroitly cut from the book as if to deliberately prevent tracing publication. When the rare manuscript librarian arrived to fetch me I asked her if she had any knowledge of the book or Meyve. Smiling, she suggested we chat in the cafe.
“Meyve and his, or her, Collected Poems have been topics of much discussion over the past twenty years, not only here in Istanbul but at conferences around the world. Details of the life are scarce; we haven’t even been able to discover a birthdate or a nationality. We have little to go on regarding the book as well since each copy is lacking an edition notice. Our consensus opinion is he, or she, is a contemporary, possibly still living, based solely upon the freshness and style of the binding.” She paused, flashing an ironic smile. “I see by your expression you are surprised. Believe me, we continue to investigate but we have discovered very little beyond the fact that meyve means “fruit” in Turkish. The web only makes reference to the book and the mystery surrounding it. Requests have been posted on all social media in the hope that Meyve, or someone with information about the poet, might come forward. To date, nothing. It seems that he, or she, doesn’t want to be found or has passed away.”
Several hours have passed since our conversation and I’m having difficulty focusing on my research as I can’t get Meyve out of my mind. As I lean back in my chair and look out the window to the bustling, vendor crammed square below my attention is drawn to a small fruit stand and the faded sign above it – “Delicious Fruit. Sage M, Proprietor” – beneath which sits a nattily dressed, diminutive old man, his eyes concealed behind dark glasses. As I stare he notices my gaze, smiles slightly, tilts his head a little to one side, and begins serving his next customer.
Mattias Monde attended and/or taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northeastern University, and the University of Kentucky, attaining degrees in Anthropology and English. His writing has appeared in Pavement Saw, Poetry Motel, Unirod, Limestone, and Chance. After traveling for the past five years through Africa, Asia, and Europe he now resides in Bangkok, Thailand.