Spring Will Come: Writings from East Turkistan

In time for Nowruz, we share the notebook “Spring Will Come: Writings from East Turkistan”—fifteen poems, short stories, and translations from writers connected to East Turkistan, the contested region in Central Asia bordering several countries, including Russia, India, Mongolia, and China.

Known by other names such as “Altishahr,” “Uyghurstan,” and “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China,” East Turkistan has been a site of tension and power struggle throughout history. Archeological artifacts, however, show that East Turkistan was also a site of flourishing trade and cultural exchange. Its historical importance as a Silk Road hub characterizes it as a connection between the East and the West, although as the people native to this region, guest editors Munawwar Abdulla and Rahima Mahmut assert their position that it is not just a transit point, but the destination.

East Turkistan has a powerful poetry and storytelling tradition, from nomadic oral epics to large online poetry salons. In this notebook, we seek to spotlight the literature and art of the region, as well as the people’s persistence that surfaces both in the work and in the making of it.

ئىنتىزارلىقنىڭ سۈبھىدۇر ئىسمى، / زۇلمەتنى چاققان ئەزان كېلىدۇ |
Intizarliqning sübhidur ismi, / Zulmetni chaqqan ezan kélidu. |
The name of longing is Dawn. / Breaking the chains of oppression, the call to prayer will come.

نەقەدەر گۈزەل- ھە / يوللار ئىچىدە / قايتىدىغان يول پەقەت ئۆيىگە |
Neqeder güzel–he / yollar ichide / qaytidighan yol peqet öyige |
of all the paths to take / is it not the most beautiful?

Artist Efvan’s portraits and vignettes of Uyghur life

құсың түлкі алса бүркіт, алмаса лау мінген шүршіт |
If your bird gets a fox, then it is an eagle; if not, then it is lightning riding a lion

سۈڭەكلەر قىرىلىپ، ئۇۋىلىپ ھەتتا، / تەجىرىخانىدا ئەگىسە روھىم |
Even as my bones are scraped and rubbed / my spirit circles where this work is done

ئاي يۇلتۇزۇمنى شەپەرەڭلەرگە ساتقان كېچە |
Ay yultuzumni sheperenglerge satqan kéche |
Oh night, you sold the moon and star to the moths.

يۇۋاشلىق.يۇۋاشلىق.يۇۋاشلىق |
Meekness. Meekness. Meekness.

ئېقىپ كەتمەستىڭ كۆكتىن يۇلتۇزدەك، / سەن ئۈچۈن قانات، پەر بولغان بولسام |
Éqip ketmesting köktin yultuzdek, / sen üchün qanat, per bolghan bolsam. |
You may not have dropped from the blue like a star / if I were wings for you

كېرەك بولسا بىرقانچە پاي ئوق، \ ئات مېنى، يۈرىكىم بار پارتلايدىغان |
Kérek bolsa birqanche pay oq, / At méni, yürikim bar partlaydighan. |
If bullets are what you need, / shoot me, I have a heart that explodes.

Say: I am still alive in the birds flown west.

ئېزىپ باق بۈگۈن يوچۇن يوللاردا \ ھېچكىم يادىغا كەلمىگەن بىر رەت |
Try to get lost today on strange roads / A path where no one is called to mind

ياق، توختاڭلار! بۇ بۇغداي سېلىقى توغرىسىدىكى سۆز ئەمەس، مانا بۇ يەردە باشنى يە، دەپتۇ |
“No, stop it! This isn’t talking about a tax on wheat, look, it says bashni ye here, that’s ‘eat your head.’”

Аза бойым қаза болып осыған, / Балтаң маған тиердей-ақ шошынам. |
A sparrow if it sprouts, a stick if it falls, / my whole body is tingling.

ئۈمىدىم بۈگۈن خىيالدىن يۈكسەك |
Ümüdim bügün xiyaldin yüksek |
My hopes are greater than my thoughts today.

Guest editors Munawwar Abdulla and Rahima Mahmut reflect on hope and persistence in East Turkistan, in time for Nowruz.

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