Poet (b. 2 December 1884, Skopje – d. 1 November 1958, İstanbul). His father was originally from Nish. He published his poems of juvenile years with the pen name Mehmet Agâh, which was his real name. He used also the pen names Agâh Kemal and Süleyman Sâdi. He attended primary school in Skopje. He could not complete his secondary education in Skoplje and Thessalonica due to the problems of his family and was sent to the İstanbul Vefa High School (1902). Influenced by the groups opposing to the administration of Abdülhamit, Beyatlı had to flee to Paris (1903), where he met the Young Turks. Firstly, he adopted the ideas of defenders of socialism, which was popular those days, and even participated in their demonstrations. In his memories, he put that he opposed religious ideas in those days. After improving his French at College de Meax in Paris, he enrolled in the Department of Foreign Affairs at the School of Political Sciences. There his ideas changed, mainly with the influence of the historian Albert Sorel, one of his professors. With the inspiration he acquired from French nationalism, he began to conduct researches on Turkish nationalism and history. Once, he went to London, where he met Abdülhak Hamit (1906), and there, attempted to write a Turkish epic on the old Ottoman raids.
During his days in Paris of nine years, he carefully examined the works of famous representatives of French literature, Victor Hugo, De Banville, Paul Verlain, Jose Maria Heredia and particularly Charles Baudelaire. He wrote his ballad-like poems such as Nazar (The Evil Eye) and Mehlika Sultan (Sultan Mehlika) in this atmosphere, under the influence of the French poets. With the literary delight of these men of literature, he started to search for a new poetical style in Turkish, other than the poetry of Scientific Wealth movement, which he did not appreciate any more. In this period, under the influence of translations of the Ancient Greek poetry and attempts of Heredia in this way, he was washed away by the dream of creating a new poetry in Turkish literature, imitating the old Greek and Latin poetry, as in French literature. He wanted to start a movement in Turkish to reflect white and nude beauty as in Greek, with a Neo-Greek flavor. On his return to İstanbul, he tried to realize his dream a few times, together with Yakup Kadri (as in his poems such as Sicilya Kızları (Girls of Sicily) and Biblus Kadınları (Women of Biblus) etc.). With the influence of the ideas of Mallarme praising the classical French poetry, he attended lectures at L'Ecole des Langues Oriantales during his last years in Paris in order to advance his Arabic and Persian, and sought for the ways to understand the divan* poetry.
After returning to İstanbul in 1913, he gave lectures on history, and Turkish and Western literature at the High School for Orphans (1913), the Madrasah Muslim School of Preachers (1914 and İstanbul University (1916-19). After the national independence war began, he wrote articles supporting the national struggle in the newspapers Âti (where he was the editorial columnist), Tevhid-i Efkâr and Hakimiyet-i Milliye, and in the review Dergâh, which he published together with his friends. He was included in the journalist delegation to the London Conference. In 1923, he was selected the deputy of Urfa, where he had never been to. He was appointed as an ambassador to Poland (1926), Spain (1929) and Portugal (1931); and was elected the deputy of Yozgat and Tekirdağ for two terms, and İstanbul for one term (1946); and then became an ambassador once again to Pakistan (1947). He was retired when he was in this office and returned home (1949). He went to Paris for the treatment of his aggravated illness (1957). He died the next year. His grave is at the Rumelihisarı Graveyard.
One of the leading representatives of Turkish poetry in the Republican period, Yahya Kemal examined Ottoman history and literature with the motivations of national history to which he tended in Paris, and got an outstanding place in Turkish literature with his poems, expressing his pain for losing the Balkan cities, where he had spent his childhood, and reflecting the spiritual climax and natural beauties of İstanbul, which he regarded as a mirror of Ottoman history and culture. In most of his poems, he pursued tradition of Divan* poetry in form and trite phrases, and wrote in metrics. In his understanding of nationalism, he starts Turkish history with the victory of Malazgirt in 1071, in contrary to from Ziya Gökalp.
His poems were published in the reviews Yeni Mecmua, Dergâh, Şair, Nedim, Büyük Mecmua, Tavus, İnsan, Akademi, Foto Magazin, İstanbul, Aile, Hayat, İstanbul Haftası, and in the newspapers Akşam, Cumhuriyet, Hürriyet (1955-57), and his articles in the newspapers Peyam-ı Edebi, İleri, Payitaht, Tevhid-i Efkâr, Hakimiyet-i Milliye, and in the reviews İnci and Dergâh after 1918.
Yahya Kemal began writing poems during his years at high school. These poems were under the influence of the poets of the Scientific Wealth movement, particularly of Tevfik Fikret. He admitted this by saying: "He (Tevfik Fikret) made the greatest influence on my soul, morality, taste, language, arts, as on all children of my generation.”
He initiated his attempts for a new poetry when he was in France. He found his real identity in the metric and formal beauty of French poets (Jean Moreas, Baudelaire, Verlaine, etc.), with the taste of history that he took at the lectures of the famous historian Albert Sorel. Though he had fled to Paris because of the suppression of Abdülhamit II, he did not participate in political activities in France, and improved himself in the artistic milieu. Thus, he escaped from the influence of the poetry of Hamid and the Scientific Wealth movement. He dealt with the classical Divan* poetry with the understanding of integrity in Western poetry. The understanding of "pure poetry" of the French symbolist poets created in his mind the tendency to isolate poetry from extra weights and to get away from prose. Thus, in his works, he tried to complete the defect of the Divan* poetry, bounding certain clichés and lacking integrity.
With influence of the courses he attended in Paris, he evaluated Turkish history with a new point of view. When he suggested that the identity of Anatolian Turkish was created by the Anatolian soil during the process beginning in 1071, he implied golden ages of this history within the poetic format of Divan* poetry. He expressed the air of the state of feast and joy during the Tulip Age, on the one hand, and the traces of religious and theosophical poetry into his poems.
He was recognized with his lyric poems and songs published in the review Yeni Mecmua with the title "Bulunmuş Sayfalar" (The Found Pages) on his return from Europe (1918). These neo-classical poems indicate that his starting point in poetry was the Ottoman history and poetry, and that he remained generally loyal to the Ottoman civilization and culture also in his later poems, written in a new format and a pure language. In his works, he deals with the love of history, homeland, nation and İstanbul from this perspective. Yahya Kemal's admiration of İstanbul, the İstanbul Strait and Turkish music was due to their historical value, besides their natural beauties, as the Ottoman civilization created its greatest pieces in İstanbul. The poet, who fuses emotion, thought and imagination skillfully, found the themes of his epic-lyric poems, most of which were bore a character of story, from love, nature, sea, death and eternity. That he regarded internal harmony over all, that he accepted poetry "as a music different from music" led him to write all his poems in metrics, which he regarded more suitable to establish such an harmony, excluding his poem Ok (Arrow).
Yahya Kemal was a great master of our contemporary poetry, with classical simplicity and might in his poems, which were written with a strong cultural and linguistic consciousness, with his efforts and success in synthesizing the national and the modern, the individual and the social, the historical and the contemporary in the core and form of his art.
After his death, his friends and admirers founded the Society of Lovers of Yahya Kemal in İstanbul. The Institute of Yahya Kemal (1958) and the Museum of Yahya Kemal (1961) were established by the İstanbul Society of Conquest, and the aforesaid institute published the Yahya Kemal Mecmuası (the Review of Yahya Kemal). His poems, short stories, articles and memoirs, which had not been included by books and remained in reviews in his lifetime, were collected by the institute and published after 1961. His statue was erected in a park in İstanbul, and many busts of him were installed in many cultural centers. The General Directorate of Post, Telgraph and Telephone published his stamps in his memory. A placate bearing his name was installed on the door of the room 165 of the Park Otel, where he stayed for 19 years.
POETRY: Kendi Gök Kubbemiz (Our Own Sky, 1961), Eski Şiirin Rüzgârıyle (With the Wind of the Old Poetry, 1962), Rubailer ve Hayyam Rubailerini Türkçe Söyleyiş (The Rubai*s and Rubai*s of Ömer Hayyam in Turkish, 1963), Bitmemiş Şiirler (Incomplete Poems, 1976).
ESSAY-ARTICLE-MEMOIR: Aziz İstanbul (Great İstanbul, 1964), Eğil Dağlar (Bow Down Oh Mountains, essays on the National Independence War, 1966), Siyasî Hikâyeler (Political Stories, 1968), Siyasî ve Edebî Portreler (Political and Literary Portraits, 1968), Edebiyata Dair (On Literature, essays, 1971), Çocukluğum, Gençliğim, Siyasî ve Edebî Hatıralarım (My Childhood, Youth, and Political and Literary Memories, 1973), Tarih Musahabeleri (Evaluations of History, 1975), Mektuplar-Makaleler (Letters-Essays, 1977).