Ardakh Nurgaz: Beneath the Fruit Tree (An Essay on the Poem 'The Garden of Trees')

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When I was reading a book in a bookstore in 1992, I came across the words of a foreign critic: "O. Paz's poetry starts from the end of P. Neruda's poetry." By that time, the Mexican poet Octavio Paz had already won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and there was a wealth of research and information available about him. For the first time, I read the 350-page series of works by Octavio Paz, beginning with his poem "Sunstone." You cannot deny the significance of the critic's statement about these two great Latin American poets. If we consider poetry starting from the peak of Neruda's "The Heights of Macchu Picchu," we must ask: what kind of poetry is it? This brings us to the main idea: the concept of levels in poetry. No matter what you write or where you go, you should not be blinded; everything has its principle and existence.

According to H. Bloom, there are two types of meaning in art. The first type preserves tradition and adheres to established compositional norms. The second type seeks to modernize tradition. Bloom considers these two trends to be related to the spiritual skill of the artist. Traditionalists often live in the shadow of past artists, viewing themselves as inheritors of a legacy. However, they lack the talent to improve upon the tradition and simply adapt it to their surroundings. On the other hand, modernizers feel the influence of past artists more subtly. They often come into conflict with tradition, but if they possess the necessary ability, they can restore and revitalize it. The most important distinction is that modernizers have a talent that allows them not to remain in the shadow of previous talents. Although these two positions in literature may seem contradictory, they cannot replace each other; each has its own place. The relative priority of these positions may change, but the overall development of literature will persist. Just as society goes through different stages of development, literature also experiences cycles of change and relative stability. When literature moves towards relative stability, traditionalists will have their place. Conversely, in more diverse eras, the innovators will emerge.

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. The collapse of the Soviet Union is arguably the greatest event of the last century in human history. This event also marked the independence of Kazakhstan. If we think deeply, the collapse of the Soviet Union can be seen as a tragedy for humanity. Despite the criticisms of communism, it nevertheless reflected a significant human aspiration. For the last four centuries, humanity had hoped for and dreamed of the ideals of equality, justice, and brotherhood that communism represented. So what happened? The national communists of both the East and the West turned this hopeful vision into something worse than cruel capitalism, making it both awful and brutal. Do we have a regret greater than this? By the time humanity reached the 1990s, people were relieved to escape communism. Instead, we should have felt sorrow. Because with the collapse of the Soviet Union, hope had faded, the future became uncertain, and what lay ahead was unknown. When the Kazakh nation heard the news about independence, it is probable that all Kazakhs were happy. However, this joy was accompanied by anxiety. Could Kazakhstan become a stable country? During this challenging era, we faced the enormous task of establishing our independence. Could we succeed? We feared the possibility of civil war and conflict for decades, similar to the experiences of many African and Latin American countries that gained independence after the Second World War. These fears were not unfounded.

Although humanity had overcome communism, it had not eradicated conflict and bloodshed. In 1991, violence erupted in the Middle East. In 1998, it was the Balkan Peninsula. After 2001, the Middle East again saw conflict. Our neighbor, Afghanistan, was already embroiled in a major war. This proximity to ongoing tragedies underscored the potential for bloodshed close to home. You know, I still have this anxiety. We were raised under a harsh Russian ideology that was unkind and left us unaware of how to express remorse. For centuries, we were mere cogs in their machine. Then, suddenly, we found ourselves both masters and slaves, becoming increasingly cruel and two-faced. The turmoil in our minds seemed like paradise in comparison to our reality. Additionally, we were shamed by the whole world, accused of saying: "We did not collapse the Soviet Union!" Instead of feeling remorse for the innocent victims of famine and those affected by nuclear weapons over 40 years, we turned these tragedies into part of our political game. We couldn’t even properly name the tragedies we faced. The sorrow of innocent people meant nothing to us. This situation can be prevented by recognizing and judging wickedness and preventing new wickedness from arising. Recognizing and correctly evaluating wickedness seems to pave the way for future evil. We do not adhere to the simplest forms of equality and justice unless we establish them as state values.

We are willing to trade any goods for personal interests, power, and wealth. We have even sold out our orphans. In this context, it is shameful to speak about morals, as it implies we have reached the spiritual bottom. The main issue is that our national direction did not fight against immorality; instead, it became associated with it. It is obvious that this association did not unite society; it destroyed it.

On December 16th, Independence Day, in Zhanaozen, officers with weapons killed ordinary citizens. The official death toll was reported as 16, but it was clear that the actual number was much higher. This situation illustrates how far spiritual delusions have led us, making us feel inadequate and inaccurate. Independence is worthy of reverence. But why did we lose it in the first place? How did we lose it? What were the main reasons, and what mistakes did we make? What is the root of today's problems? We have not answered these questions yet. Instead, we are dividing property and seem to be creating a company rather than a state. I think it is too early to speak about true independence.

Bloodshed and war are real manifestations of evil that destroy culture and civilization. Sadly, as the human race moves forward, warfare is becoming increasingly worse. In the spring of 2003, the US ignited a catastrophic war in Iraq, unlike anything seen before. It was a war of the postmodern era, where the concept of victory shifted. You could fend off any valuables, kill yourself, and lose meaning without even killing your opponent. And where is the guarantee that this is not the dawn of a new era of humanity? While this was happening, I began writing the poem "Sayabakh." Although I knew exactly what I wanted to write for ten years, I could not find the path to my text. The sound of the first Tomahawk missile launched by the US in the Indian Ocean awakened my mind.

The head of the man who drowned in the pond was added to the square in our era. Where should we go now, and what lies ahead? Starting with the great revolution in France, anxiety has been described as a symbol of democracy. Together with independence, we Kazakhs have chosen the path of democracy. In our minds, the garden and the anxiety go hand in hand.

As the communism-driven dream collapses, humanity has embraced democracy—the new and old hope of "trust, equity, brotherhood." However, this is not a straightforward path, as history has shown. Democracy's greatest advocate, Socrates, was sentenced to death by a 500-member panel formed by a democratic system. The great thinker could have survived but chose not to flee. He decided to die in prison from the poison given to him. For the last two and a half millennia, Socrates's final words have resonated in the ears of humanity.

We are faced with the same democracy that Socrates hoped for. Can we succeed without being ashamed? I have suspicion rather than hope. The poem contains the following lines:


Early morning

Time of the past and time of the present

Are rushing into the square

Don’t assume that the swansong*

Is helpless resistance

But it’s a warning

(I don’t cling to vain expectations)

In the mixture of shadows and sunshine

The face that is revealed

Is thinking in the face of the sea wind that comes into the window

Kids in play are

Playing by their own rules

A faint flute from afar

Keeps ringing in the ears

In the prison, an old man, facing the faint setting sun

Is meditating for the coming day

The wrinkles on his face deeper than normal

The horse-head stringed instrument, hanging from the wall, has turned into a swan

Fluttering its wings

Countless paths that rush into the grassland

Where on earth are they going?

Out of the night dragging its shadows

A pair of swallows and an owl have flown

One of the main peculiarities of modernist works is their different view of the traditional concept of time. This shift reflects a renewal in national consciousness. The existence of modernity is directly related to this transformation. The poem "The Waste Land" by the English poet T.S. Eliot exemplifies this distinctive sense of time in modern poetry. In 1922, Eliot composed this poem with the great American poet and critic Ezra Pound. The initial version of "The Waste Land," which was about a thousand lines, was condensed to the 435 lines we know today by Pound. Through this editing, "The Waste Land" acquired a unique structural and temporal coherence.

Following this significant development in modernist literature, T.S. Eliot continued to explore these themes. When "The Waste Land" was released, it marked a profound understanding of the issues at hand and prompted Eliot to seek a perfect, timely expression of these ideas. In 1944, in his poem "Four Quartets," Eliot fulfilled this mission by incorporating Greek-Christian doctrines and the myths of Indian and Eastern Buddhist legends.


"Time present and time past 

Are both perhaps present in time future, 

And time future contained in time past."


wrote T.S. Eliot at the beginning of "Four Quartets."


This turning point in English poetry also influenced the poetry of other nations. French, Greek, Italian, and Spanish poetry all moved towards modernism during this period, though most maintained their national vision. This diversity enriched world poetry, leading to the creation of many outstanding works.

One such work is the poem "Piedra de Sol" ("Sunstone") by Octavio Paz. Published in 1957, this 584-line poem is influenced by the Aztec calendar, which is based on the planet Venus and spans 584 days. This calendar reflects the deep knowledge of the Aztecs, who lived in what is now Mexico. The poem intricately weaves themes of time and existence, mirroring the influence of modernist thought while rooted in national heritage.

Moderate poetry is a fusion of conscious and unconscious awareness, a dance with the rhythm of words. Civilizations and cultures form a vast space, each stone in the stream of time leaving its mark. Poetry resides in the depths of the unconscious mind, akin to the depths of the sea. Its essence is profound, imbued with meaning. Heidegger's injunction to "Live in poetry" speaks to this essence. Many talented modernist poets have emerged from civilizations and cultures, their unconscious minds flowing with the words.

The same applies to worldviews, national identities, and perceptions of time. The Kazakh language embodies its unique outlook and temporality. The essence of existence, as perceived by figures like Korkut and Asan, takes on an indescribable individual form. I explored this concept in my article "Zhumeken Nazhimidenov: The Lakes of the Darkness of Times" (The Kazakh Modernist Poetry, page 64, "Arna", 2010). This knowledge becomes prominent in the poet "Park."

The cognition of beings, the evolution of contradictions, and the constant motion, beginning with the smallest parts of poetry, captivate the audience. Is there a connection between our dual faces and our present bifurcated world? It is a question we must ponder. I invite you to read the poem.


Temporarily, I have lost my direction

When the sword of the sun cut everything into a world

Of black and white

The wilderness, overgrown with weeds, is a mixture of withered greenness

The worms, in the depths of the soil and to escape

From the ruthless poisoned arrows of the sun

Are waiting for the darkness, for the long nights

And for the rain and coldness

The arrogant squall is sweeping the streets, in an ancient historical play

The swans that are flying across the lake are like in a legend

Going through the tender copper-heart of the ancient coin

The sound of the walking-stick as the blind man uses it in search of a road

Stirs up a roaring sound, and in the slowly fragmenting fate

The valley of time, crowded with thousands of autumns, has dried up

Leaving traces of a few drops of blood

.   .   .   .   .

Түннің толқыныжартасты, құмдыжағаныұрып

Ақ көбікуақытшатынапсынған, шашырап.

Өткен мен бүгін - толқын, толқиды шайқалып

Жағада жатыр ұлудыңқабығыағарған.

Келешек уақыт - құмқайраңдажоғалған,

Ізді жұтқан,

Нар толқынтүнектен - түнеккешапшыған.

Өзін де жұтқанжағада -


Қараңғыда бірқолымбірқолымдыіздейді -

Аттанған алыс сапарға жолаушы,

Қобыздыңқылішегінентуғанжыр -

Көмусіз көр -

Бұйраланған судыңбетіндетолқын


Сырдың жағасынқұшыпөксіген,

Мен де толқын -

Емілдің жағасынқұшқан...

I wrote a poem over the course of one and a half months. One letter remained unchanged, and the original was printed as it had been (Newspaper Foreign Literature, 2007, No. 1). I submitted it to the magazines "Zhuldyz," "Zhalyn," and "Tan-Sholpan." During this time, the poem lay dormant for more than three years. Initially, I had contemplated writing three separate poems. The overarching theme is "Sleep-ups." I titled the 11-page poem "Garden-yard," which I completed writing in the book, and I've just begun the second part. However, I gradually realized that the first part of the "Dala," which I wrote, was worthy of being the introduction to my poem. This realization enhanced the clarity of the poem.


Жым- жырт аспанда құскідірді.

Серпігенқанаты -

Тас жұмылғануақыттыңмәңгілікашылмасалақаны.

Терезеден төгілгенкүнніңсәулесін

Тықпалапқаратүнекке - көлеңкекемірген.

Ашылмайтын түңліктіңжібіүзілгенде

Даланы торлағантарау - тараужолдарқұлазып

Төбеден біржұлдызаққан.

Біреуді шығарыпсалып, біреудітосыптұр.

Алақандағы топырақ

Желде ұшқындайды

Ен даланыңсоқпақтарытірелгенмоллаларқұсап.

Күтіп тұрғанжанныңбейнесідебұлыңғыр -

Қасқайып тұрғантасобаларғаұқсайды.

Ол да үн-түнсіз.

Тас обаныңтүбінқазғанқолдардың

Көбесінде де қалған.....

Бір түйіртопырақ.

Тостағандағы жазудыңүзілгенұшығын

Иненің көзіненөткізгенде -

Бұлыңғыр далада қалғаніздер

Тас обаны сүйептұрғызғанқолдар.



Жылжыған уақыттың

Тозған кіреукесінендетозаңтөгілген.

Көш жүріпкеткенекіжұртгыңарасынна

Сақ, Ғұн, Түрік, ҚыпшақпенҚазақтың

Ізі шөккенбе?

Айға сілтенгенқылыштыңжарқеткенжүзінен

Қан тамғанда,


Қара түнтұнған.

Кім сонда


Құлағыңды түріптыңдасаңжерді, естисің

Ен даладан шауып келген

Ен далағашауыпкеткен ...... үнді.

Қазып жатыр жер -

Қазылып жатқанкөр.

Ол біздің

Жүрегімізде ағыпжатқанөзенгекөмілген.

Бақшаның далағаашылғанесігінде


Желмен жортқан аңыздақылішекөксіп,

Бір сапарда екібағытқакеткенкезбені

Кімдер арулап жерледі?

Көз алдымнан бірсәткетпейтінжарымның

Бетіндегі мендей,


Қорғанғақадалғанжебе -

Оны неге ешбіртатшалмайды?

Бақшаның тас қаланған жолында тұрғанжанды

Түсінен оятты -

Таяп келген,

Далада әлдеқашанөшіпкеткен ...... аяқтыңтықыры.


Қолдың табымен қайтатұрғызылғанмүсіннің

Тереңненүзіліпжеткенсаздамүлгуі .....

In the beginning, there was no idea that I would write such an essay about the "Parkbak" poem. But it seemed desirable to do so. As a nation with a well-educated literary tradition, we could contribute significantly to the global literary landscape, and our literary environment could accommodate much. However, the reality is different. Presently, Kazakh literature is still overshadowed by academics and professors armed with theories rooted in Soviet literature and skepticism towards novelty. Adapting to their standards would mean stalling Kazakh literature for at least half a century.

The limited space left for innovation is tightly controlled by the Bolsheviks. They fiercely oppose any deviation from the norm, blurring the lines between right and wrong, and swiftly condemning anything new in Kazakh literature. They may believe that they appear noble by stifling our creativity. These individuals are misled by ignorance and fail to grasp the significance of our endeavors. Nevertheless, there is no turning back.

I have recently embarked on writing one or two poems about Parkbak. The primary consideration should be the reader's perspective, even amidst the dust of criticism. Poetry is a nuanced, sophisticated genre, especially modernist poetry, which delves into the complexities of the human experience. Poetry should not only enlighten but also warm the soul. A discerning reader finds solace in poetry, while even those less versed in its intricacies cannot deny the emotional resonance it brings, making life richer and more profound.

Only by finding a way to reintroduce modernist poetry after a decade of decadent Soviet propaganda and the subsequent decline in reception tactics, which are presently fading amidst contemporary illusions, can society avoid forsaking literature altogether. I believe it is more beneficial to keep readers vigilant, urging them to follow in the footsteps of critical thinkers, guiding the masses toward enlightenment.

As for those gentlemen who reject new Kazakh literature, their story is far from over. The discourse on Soviet literature has barely begun. We have yet to delve into how the Soviets labored to conceal the world's face from the evils of their regime. We will certainly discuss Soviet literature to enlighten future generations about its malevolence.

Literature is a vast and diverse realm crafted by humanity. It embodies spiritual freedom, and its last bastions are incompatible with the dogma of any ruling faction seeking to subjugate humanity. It is through art that we explore the profound question of "why?" Without literature, humans cannot aspire to achieve their full humanity.

In the midst of today's tragic events, it is imperative to shield literature from systemic oppression and elevate the banner of poetry above the societal structures of capitalism, which seek to commodify everything, even political dissent, into a form of financial enslavement. Poetry, thus, retains its rightful place in the collective consciousness of humanity, preserving its intrinsic significance.

World literature resembles a vast fruit tree to me. One can enjoy its fruits endlessly, but we must also remember to rid the tree of pests that threaten its vitality.

Original publication "Жалын" журналы, 2012ж. 3 сан.

Ардақ Нұрғазұлы. Саябақ

Ardakh Nurgaz. Жеміс ағаштың түбінде

Ardakh Nurgaz. Oil Paintings

Ardakh Nurgaz. Modern lyric poetry

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