Dear Dilan… A Triptych by Thérèse Kieran

Letter to the Imprisoned Turkish Artist

Dilan, in the absence of your art studio, 

here’s mine: 

toilet paper, flour, salt, gouache, glue

and tiny brushes tipped with eyelashes.

Here’s my subject too: beach-rescued pottery,

fragments, forensically foraged by me,

inspected and selected for remaking,

for creating one blue and white bowl.


It is not quite my grandmother’s willow set,

yet out of it I hear her recite this verse:


Two little birds flying high,

A little ship sailing by

A Chinese castle here it stands

Facing many, many lands

A little bridge with three men on

A willow tree, that ends this song.


From this I belong; from this I’ve become:


Vessel sipping fine wine savour us

Vessel digesting rich food devour us

Vessel bearing child fortify us

Vessel cracked open repair us

Vessel of silent suffering mother us

Vessel of forgotten lyrics karaoke us

Vessel of weird thoughts humour us

Vessel of discourse & harmony sing for us

Vessel of homespun theories enlighten us

Vessel of grief & insecurity shoulder us

Vessel become unrecognisable release us

Vessel of broken parts reimagine us


Seeing Red


Dilan, we are the red tulips she planted in the aftermath of death.

She could hardly believe our green shoots like mini mitres

breaking the soil, for we were not cardinals.

We origamied ourselves, fed like new-born chicks

on sun and rain and her adoring conversation with herself,

quivering as she said, Come on, come on, just grow!

Our bulbous heads on green pencil stems scribbled the edge

until red upon red upon red, we bled and spattered her patio ledge.


Praise be! She cried as she stroked our silk-soft cheeks, 

as she photographed those dew glass beads,

Why, you are diamonds! she squealed, 

stepping back, fearful of shattering everything.


Then, all manner of reds blazed a trail: London buses, pillar boxes, 

carnelian stones, traffic cones, café awnings, geraniums, 

but topping them all, a first edition second-hand Chopper — red!

Can you ride it sans stabilisers? her father said. 

Yes! she lied, oh yes, she cried, freewheeling into her teens 

on back roads, main roads, loanings and roads that might never exist.


Today, she swept up our lost petals, our faded aways 

as her girls took off in their shiny red Fiat that stalled at the gate,

that’s brake-lights blinked an inkling of possible forgotten things: 

like mobiles, headphones, chargers, credit cards… her?


Palette of Hope


Dilan, I called for yellow & well, all the usual suspects turned up:

the sun & her swagger never more than a squint away,

a lightbulb that flicks on day is a candle that pilots night.


I called for yellow, & I tell you, it pinged me a zingy dandelion,

hedgerows frilled with buttercup trims 

& the dazzling cyclopic centres of daisies topping the lawn.


I called for yellow & it shone from dawn until dusk,

slurped through honey, slathered toast, drizzled bees,

& bubbled in a glass of pale ale.


I called for yellow & was offered, Vincent’s Sunflowers, 

The Sahara Desert or Kate Middleton’s Wimbledon Women’s Final dress,

I chose the dress but it didn’t come in my size. 


So I scrambled yellow that we might summer in winter

mixing lemon, naples, cadmium, hansa & ochre.



Dear Dilan… A Triptych by Therese Kieran 

Recently I learned via Twitter that imprisoned artist Dilan Cudi “still talked about my letter” – one I’d made her for as part of the Letters with Wings project in 2020. It was all the inspiration I needed to complete this work: papier-maché bowls – vessels, working with primary colours and companion poems derived from more letters penned to Dilan. Please write to her if you can at the following address – one page only and the words must be in Turkish. Please post on social media.


Dilan Cûdî Saruhan

B-4 Koğuşu

Bakırköy Kadın Kapalı Cezaevi

Zuhuratbaba Mah. Dr. Tevfik Sağlam Cad.

Bakırköy – Istanbul  TURKEY


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