Author: Flora HALILZADA, writer Baku
Perhaps not every poet is destined to be equally loved and respected during his life and after his death. But this one is both loved and read. Mammad Araz can be listed proudly among the prominent individuals who, while working in Azerbaijan, achieved worldwide fame. His works have rightfully taken their place among the jewels of world poetry.
He was born in 1933 in the village of Nurs in the Sahbuz District of the Naxcivan Autonomous Republic. After graduating from the high school in his native village, he joined the Geography Department of the Azerbaijani Pedagogical Institute. He worked as a teacher in his home district of Sahbuz for some time. His first book, 'Sevgi Nagmasi' (Song of Love), was published in 1959. In the same year, he joined the Higher Literature Course in Moscow and began work as an editor at the Maarif (Enlightenment) publishing house after graduation. Later he was an executive editor, deputy editor and director in different publishing houses. From 1975 until his death in 2004, he was the chief editor of the Priroda Azerbaidzhana magazine. The author of more than 20 books, Mammad Araz was an Honorary Arts Worker, winner of the State Prize and People's Poet of Azerbaijan. After independence, he was one of three poets to be decorated with the highest national award, the Order of Istiqlal (Independence) by decree of national leader Heydar Aliyev.
Mammad Araz is one of the luminaries of Azerbaijani poetry. Many people have failed to reach even the foothills of that summit. Many people who write about him say that his greatness stemmed from his natural inspiration and inborn talent. But it seems to me that these words can describe many poets. After all, true poetry is always the fruit of inspiration and talent. Mammad Araz was different in that, after launching himself like an arrow out of this controversial world, he has conquered a summit on which he stands alone. He was very humble, sincere and vulnerable, and many of us probably did not even realize that amid our routine lives, we held a genius.
He suffered from a serious illness for many years, but his inspiration and talent were always extraordinary, fresh and pure. His quill was profound. He confronted death with his poems. He proved himself by denying himself.
Here is what People's Writer Anar wrote about the work of the inimitable poet: "In Mammad Araz's poems thoughts seem commensurate with the words. There are neither redundant words, added to fill a void in the line, nor thoughts crowding the tongue. The core of his poetry is love for the motherland, civic spirit, and both optimistic and alarmed thoughts about the world, about all of us."
Mammad Araz was an artist in letters. He painted pictures with his words, and his poems drew stunningly vivid images for us.
These were no ordinary pictures. These were grand monuments to Azerbaijan, although they were formed not from granite or marble, but from words.
All nine planets of the Solar system are in his poetry. There is life, its meaning and philosophy. Talking to him was real bliss. Today I remember him with sadness and sorrow, and there is only one consolation: I worked in an editor's office with Mamed Araz for a long time. I interviewed him many times. He had his own poetic view of earthly contrasts, oddities and the world in general, which was different from others', and his view was reflected in his verses. He could see many things in this world. He felt uneasy in a world where the wise made mistakes and the foolish rose to importance. "Save the world of the 'smart'" the poet wrote. And sometimes he felt resentful and implored the Almighty.
"What is the most difficult thing in this world full of borders and obstacles?" - I once asked him. And his answer still dwells in my memory: "When your soul does not ache with the bitterness of thousands of destinies, when there are many indifferent people cooking pilaf on their hearth."
Mammad Araz's childhood coincided with the difficult years of Soviet repression. In 1945, his father Infil kisi was arrested and held in a prison camp in Kazakhstan as a "political prisoner" until 1955. Ethnic Armenian neighbours were involved in his arrest. But the blows of fate and human perfidy could not break the soul of courageous Infil kisi - he died in 1981 aged 105. He spent his whole life doing noble deeds: planting an orchard in his native village, building a bridge and an aqueduct to the village. The lessons which Mammad Araz learned from his father eventually resulted in his poem 'My Father's Book', which is a masterpiece not only of Azerbaijani, but of world literature. The book was an edification, or perhaps even an encyclopaedia of the arts of a nation.
Man is powerless before time and destiny, he cannot change much. Neither looking back nor daydreaming earn him new knowledge. And the only thing worth worshipping is truth. Mammad Araz spent his entire life in search for truth. He used to utter his word in a moment and so touchingly that the reader wanted to melt into his poems and become absorbed like a drop of dew by all the beauty of this world.
Thanks to his inspiration and talent, he created works which have made him immortal. Even in the direst and saddest moments, he would not let death approach, although he did believe in the transience of the worldly. Deeply troubled by every sudden loss, he would still be surprised, denied death, could not believe that it could claim artists, composers or mothers. He did not believe that beauty aged and held that life was but a stage.
How much trouble, sadness or bad news can a man endure during his brief life? But it makes no sense to complain. It is all in the hands of the Almighty. Mammad Araz was always thankful to God and never complained or grumbled. He always had a good word and a kind look in the eyes. Even in his saddest poem he helped the reader to value life, enjoy it, better himself, not to be arrogant or conceited.
A humble and simple man with a big heart - this was Mammad Araz! His hemistiches are amazing; they are full of meaning and wise as proverbs. Despite 30 years of struggle with a grave disease, Mammad Araz did not change as a person. "I do not write as one dying, I die but keep writing."
Mulling the harsh sentence that destiny had handed down to him, he warned us: "The world is mine, the world is yours, the world is no one's!" A poet who writes down all of his feelings on paper is best understood as a person by reading his work. It happened that we lived under the same sky, in the same country and even in the same city as a classic, a unique poet. Only now do we realize how lucky we were. We can see the very peak upon which Mammad Araz stood.
Mammad's mother - my aunt Cahan - also loved poetry, folklore and could recite poetry. Sometimes it seemed to me that some of Mammad Araz's poems were authored by aunt Cahan, because poetry was absorbed by her son's soul from her lullaby and from his first memories of his mother. But his mother was not to become a poet. Her son became a poet for her. That is perhaps why he wanted with all his heart to see for himself that clouds descend on the earth when a mother's heart sings! Cliffs will rock if a mother's heart wishes it so! That is why for so long Mammad Araz could not let into his heart one horrible truth: "My mother will be buried!" In his poems he laments that he was unable to bury his mother in his heart. "How deeply I slept," the poet wrote when one day he could not hear his mother's breath and, plunged into bereavement, began to believe that dreams can be misleading.
Throughout his poetic life, he treated the word as a living creature. His personality, his convictions, his truths - everything that he was - found its way into his poems. Mammad Araz sang feelings and sang suffering. But first and foremost he sang his Motherland!
Mammad Araz's poetry was a moral light for his readers, a moral lesson for them. His powerful verse holds us by the hand, purifies us spiritually, does not allow us to stay alone, prevents us from feeling lonely, keeps our spirits up, inspires patriotism. Many generations will be proud of their great compatriot whose creative caravan travelled the road from East to West in one day. The great power and mellow sounds of his poems can empower a whole army, sow the seeds of struggle in the hearts of an entire people, take us by the hand and mobilize us.
Awaken, rise, Azerbaijan!
Why do you sleep like an old volcano?
I am with you!
Mammad Araz's poetry is a spring from which the reader wants to quench her thirst again and again. The towering Azerbaijani mountains and love for motherland in his poetry are incredibly strong and powerful.
The poet's love for the world, for the Universe, stems from his love for his Motherland and his people. Without falling in love with the streams, forests and fields of his village, man will remain indifferent to the beauty of the rest of the world too. It is very good that there is Mammad Araz's poetry, and there are all the controversies and the beauty of our long-suffering world in it.
With all his might and all his tribulations, Mammad Araz was a symbol of Azerbaijan. And the poet who created an accurate and touching portrait of the fatherland was very much like his native land. He was so pure and magnanimous that one cannot help associating all the good things in the world with him and forgiving all the bad for his sake.