Mustafa Kör

Belgium

Mustafa Kör is an author and poet who was born in Konya (Turkey) in 1976. When he was three years old, he and his family emigrated to Limburg. In 1998 he sustained a serious car accident and since then he has been bound to a wheelchair, an event that gave him the urge to grab his pen and so his promising writers carreer was born. His successful debut novel De Lammeren (The Lambs, 2007) was followed by his poetry debut Ben jij liefde (Are you love, 2016), for which he was nominated for the TAZ-Debut Prize. Furthermore, his work was awarded the Biennial Culture Prize of Maasmechelen, the El Hizjra Literature Prize and De Groene Waterman Public Prize. In 2008, Mustafa Kör was the municipal poet for the city of Genk for a year. He was recently announced to become the Poeta Laureate (https://www.dichterdesvaderlands.be) of Belgium in 2022. He is also the godfather of Het Lezerscollectief (https://lezerscollectief.be/nl/), an organisation based on the English format ‘Shared Reading’ from the Reader Organisation in Liverpool. Het Lezerscollectief aims to connect people and to make them stonger and more resilient through reading together.


Both his novel and his poetry present a lot of biographical influences. In Ben jij liefde each period of Kör’s life gets a place. Turkey, the country of his parents of which he personally still retains a lot of childhood memories, comes back in the poems as an unattainable fairyland with rustling poplars, quinces and medlars. The poet describes Turkey as a mysterious land that evokes melancholy in him. Some of his work expresses the frustration of the poet who doesn’t understand why his parents abandoned this (in his eyes) paradise-like country for a difficult existence in Europe. Literary critic Levity Peters finds that same duality in the allusions that his poetry collection makes to both Islamic and Christian mysticism. She sees within it the vacillation of an immigrant who does not yet feel completely comfortable in his new homeland, but who also no longer feels at home in his country of origin (Meander, 31/05/2016). In addition to this, Kör also expresses his car accident and his subsequent paralysis in his collection, without giving rise to pathos.

 

Nonetheless, it would be wrong to assume that Ben jij liefde is a bilious, negative collection. On the contrary, the very musical lyricism of Kör gives his poems a great vitality. Certainly, the poems that refer to the happiness in love that he found with the flamenco dancer Silvia Leon express sensuality and a strong life force. Reviewer William Thies describes his style in the literary magazine Poëziekrant (September-October 2016) as follows: "Kör dances and juggles with language, makes it do what he wants, lets it sparkle and twinkle. He dusts off beautiful obsolete and archaic words, polishes them and makes them shine again”.