Rat-Rose Mysticism: On Seyhan Erözçelik’s Rosestrikes and Herzog’s Nosferatu

by on Aug.09, 2011


I am currently swooned and infused by the contemporary Turkish poet Seyhan Erözçelik’s Rosestrikes and Coffee Grounds (Talisman, 2010), translated from Gül ve Telve(1997) by Murat Nemet-Nejat.  In this dazzling double volume, a reading of fate via coffeegrounds makes up the first portion of the book, and the resultant mystical vision or ‘Rosestrikes’ makes up the second. A mindbending series poem,  ‘Rosestrikes’ rides mysticism to the limit, a limit marked, classically and tautologically enough, by the Rose.  The Rose is both the emblem of the mystical motion and its destination, so the series itself has an infinite yet twisting motion that is constantly saturating, arresting, and sinking back into itself, riding the weirdness of Art’s broken Moebius strip:



My eyes caught a rose the whole night

round mindnight, a needle on a rose,

to my eyes stuck, a potent liquid

is flowing from my eyes, as if roseblood…





The town is

burning with the fire

in the rose.


O thou art

a thief!


A house fire

and a rose fire

are so different.


But my heart’s


inside the house.


I am sick.


Rape me.

With my invisible



In your crime



These two poems  (I am so tempted to type in the entire sequence here) show the way the whole poem moves towards the rose, becomes suffused and oversaturated with it, doubles back on itself, the rose oozes out its eyes, burns up its heart, rips the burning heart from the body and makes it a somewhere else, but then burns and suffuses and floods and rapes that orifice, too… Forcing itself lovingly through these holes, the rose always makes more of itself—Roseblood, Rosecrime.  The Rose is mediumicity itself, pure mediumicity, that is, mysticism, the motion towards itself, saturating and supersaturating itself. From ‘Jamrose’:


My blood sugar’s up


My mouth frothy


I’m in a coma and

…I don’t remember


In a coma I saw mom





for me


The role of translator Murat Nemet-Nejat in all this is similarly sticky and jammed and seductive and deceptive. Notes at the end reveal that he split the poems into this sequence in order to capture as much of its concentric and ramifying sound as possible, so that his English ‘Rosestrikes’ has 47 sections, versus the 23 of Gül. In addition to splitting open the dense fruit of these poems to let its scent double , he footnotes the poems in shifting and wonderful ways, building in a whole new dense unstable quavering accretion which sometimes pushes the poem nearly off the page.  To read this book then is to be suffused and split and jammed and glamoured by it, the way Nemet-Nejat appears to have been. In Dreamrose,


Rose petals passing

round my belly,

I freeze into its


Aching nu cle ar pain!

2. RAT(S)

I had a similar thoughts about mysticism and media while watching Herzog’s Nosferatu (1979).  Like all incarnations of the Dracula story, this one is organized around the singular figure of the vampire, here embodied by Klaus Kinski. But this would-be singularity is undone by the replicability of the genre itself—the title, Kinski’s makeup, and several sequences re-embody or reincarnate that sublime piece of German Expressionism, Murnau’s Nosferatu.  The singularity of the vampire is of course also undone within the genre itself, given its pressure of proliferation—the vampire bites humans, makes more vampires.  It’s unclear in most vampire films (including this one) whether the human will be drained of ichor or somehow contaminated with that of the vampire and turned into a vampire. Being utterly drained and utterly remade as a replicant are almost simultaneous outcomes, till at last they arbitrarily split. The contaminant of vampirism is total—it spreads through the blood and takes it over wholly. It’s superblood.

Herzog’s movie is infused with another plot—the vampire not only brings the plague of vampirism to the little Dutch town, but he brings a plague of black coffins full ofTransylvanian dirt (can he sleep in all of them? Does this foreshadow the vampire armies he will create or does it suggest a proliferation already simultaneous to his singular self?), a plague of rats, and, by Artaudian logic, the actual plague, which spreads from his very presence in town, it seems. However, while the viewer sees ever proliferating coffins carried around to signify the accruing plague plot, she sees no actual plague victims. The plague, through an Artaudian dream machinery, creates not dead bodies but coffins. Meanwhile the rats proliferate on every surface. The rats are not the medium of the plague—the vampire is. So the rats are  excessive to the plot but resemble its tendencies (another kind of Artaudian logic), and their excess piles up everywhere in squirming, swarming, furred and pink-tailed piles.  They are mediumicity itself, communicating itself again and again.

Conclusion: In this way the Rat is always multiple, (the Rat is the Rats, just as in Hitchcock Birds is the Birds), the Rat is like the Rose—communicating itself, that, is, communicating its communicability. While the Rose is always singular, as it is made and remade in Art, a kind of florid proliferation ensues, with the Rose making copies of itself and suffusing every would-be site or surface with its mystical fluids, fluids which refuse to perform like mundane sufaces, but surfeit and redouble themselves, are sick and spread their ill-communication.


9 comments for this entry:
  1. adam strauss

    Lovely to learn of these rose poems!

    “A house fire

    and a rose fire

    are so different”

    makes me further appreciate Little Gidding’s ending.

  2. Murat Nemet-Nejat

    Thank you for the wonderful review. I happen to be a big admirer of Herzom. And my new poe’s title which was published about five weeks ago is The Spiritual Life of Replcants. I was amazed how the word “replicant” appears in your review.

  3. Joyelle McSweeney

    Dear Murat Nemet-Nejat, great to hear from you! Where did you publish the poem? Can you send a link?

  4. Murat Nemet-Nejat

    The poem is published as a book by Talisman House, Publishers.

  5. Jared

    Joyelle and Murat, I’m fascinated by the method of translation described here. Am going to have to read more. Thanks!

  6. GG

    Seyhan passed away this morning. He was 49. So early, so too early.

  7. demet

    I am sorry to tell that the turkish poet seyhan erozcelik passed away today.

  8. The Death of Seyhan Erözçelik at Age 49 - Montevidayo

    […] Although I had just begun to read his work, his dazzling, rupturing talent and his keen, bouyant mysticism has shaken me and I have been carrying around his book, Rosestrikes and Coffee Grinds, for weeks.I can only hope his friend and translator Murat Nemet-Nejat will continue the heroic work of bringing Erözçelik’s extant body of work into English, despite this great loss. […]

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    […] force the poet herself must reckon with).  The first-person lyric, in my opinion of the book, is a Möbius strip of twists and turns set in motion and empowered through the speaker’s throbbing, aching […]