A DIALOGUE WITH THE POET MÜESSER YENIAY (eng)

“my body
like snow melting
blended with your
body”

muesser2

Background

It was the year 2015. During a research on Turkish poetry, run for a performance of “La Cuspide Malva”, I have known the poet Müesser Yeniay.
The Italian poet and artist, Vito Intini, had a book named “Come cerchi sull’acqua”, edited by Vito Intini and Metin Cengiz: an anthology about Italian and Turkish contemporary poets, in which there were some poems of Müesser.Touched by her poems, with the help of Vito, I joined Müesser through the web. She was very kind in giving us, some of her poems to use in the performance “Le correnti del Bosforo”. In this way the story begins.

I: Dear Müesser, it has been two years since we virtually met, and many things have changed, both in personal life and in our common history. The history of this mistreated world. Could you say us your actual situation? About the activities you are engaged in?

M: Firstly, Thanks for the suggestion of a talk, dear Iula. It is my pleasure to share my poetry with you. My actual situation is a between the moods of the death of my grandmother, the current situation of my country, moving my home, getting ready for my new poetry book in Turkish, my recently published book in France. The good things keep me in balance and they are mostly about poetry. Also I am trying to get a visa for China, I will be in Hong Kong Baptist university as a guest author, for a month soon. Poetry, to me, where the dreams start. And I am glad my life is full of dreaming and convincing people they are a big part of reality.

harem
image from “Harem”, Nil Yalter, 1980

I: Dream…poetry…death…country…these are important words calling crucial experiences in the life of people. About poetry…in a certain way, only the word “poetry” represents something not experienced by everyone. Poetry is a way to see and feel the world, I think. Potentially, everyone can experience the poetry, but not in all people’s lives poetry is present.
However, coming back to our dialogue: what poetry represents for you? When and how you experienced poetry the first time?

M: Poetry is a way of existence for me. I think it is my nature. Just as Rumi says, “you are what you love”. I think I became what I love as I read poetry and feel it in my veins. These two things tells about the basic requirements for being a poet: nature and practice. I have given a talk on this matter last year on the world poetry day titled “The politics of writing poetry and the birth of a poem”. It is on youtube, the readers can watch it. It is also published in a magazine in Turkey.
About when and how I experienced poetry, loneliness is the answer. I was an only child who grown up by Grandparents. They loved me deeply and made me feel I am special somehow. This feeling helped my imagination grow further. I started writing in my teenage years, maybe then I saw words have various bodies. Also living in nature, which also means silence, helped me find lost voices in myself and bring them into the surface.

nil-i
image from “Harem”, Nil Yalter, 1980

I: Thanks for your words, Müesser. In these few lines, there are many interesting issues, such as nature, technique, love and care, politics. About the term “politics”, do you think your poetry is connected with social and political issues of the contemporary Turkish life? According to your experience is there in Turkey a kind of “engaged poetry”? And trying to develop the question: what do you think about poetry and politics?

M: Language is an ideological phenomenon. It is also the soul of the society as much as the individual. Even if I don’t try to reveal my ideas on any topic, it is easily understood by between words. My poetry is extremely connected with the social and political issues of the contemporary Turkish life. But it is more on the understanding of “woman” and a revolt against the basic notion of it. I believe in the feminine discourse and its power to change our lives totally. Not just in the East or Middle East but also in the West, too. The state of women is better in Europe than the rest of the world but still many things are hidden towards the secrets and meanings of becoming a woman. A woman should write on anything even on masturbation if poetry is the realm of private world. And I am trying to analyse by the opportunity of poetic diction on any topic which I regard as not very well treated in past.

We can say poetry has politics. Because it has its own policy to change something, a vision, an idea but it does it aesthetically and secretly. It is the surface of water that the society limited and suppressed somehow and in the end it is on light by the fusion of words. However, I don’t approve engaged poetry. It is a harm and prison for poetry.

nil_yalter_belly-dance-1974
image from “Belly dance”, Nil Yalter, 1974

I: I totally agree with your point of view about women and, about the West, the situation is fragmented and it depends from the country you refer to. In Italy the situation is delicate and it touches both questions linked to rights and laws and questions connected to social-cultural issues. Still today there is a patriarchal mentality also among the so-called emancipated people. Do you think that the Turkish literary panorama is free from sexism? I also want to try to create a ground in which contextualize your experience as woman and as poet, in relation to the “feminine discourse” you mentioned before. Can you suggest us some female and male writers that you consider important in your life as woman and as poet?

M: About the Turkish literary panorama, it is totally sexist. It looks very modern but the mentality behind is not that much up to date. We are still “the second sex” as Simone de Beauvoir put forward it nicely. But as an ancient Turkish poet Fuzuli says, “Trouble is the capital of a poet” So we, as women, much more in trouble and make our troubles like a bride in poetry. Just like Fuzuli, I believe the conscience and power of being in trouble. I can observe my struggle aesthetically.
I enjoy reading the works of Sylvia Plath mostly because of her microcosmic details coming out of her very conscience. She says “I am a victim of introspection” I think I am also a victim by nature because in one poem I say:

This body has a window
looking outside but whatever I have seen
is in me, in my interior.

I am also in interested in the change of mood in Sylvia Plath. I believe it is the result of being a woman due to hormonal changes periodically. This helps a lot being a poet just as Hélène Cixous mentions feminine libido is an important factor in writing.

The second poet that I am very much interested is Rumi whose name means “person from Anatolia” His family and himself is Turkish although his writing is in Persian due to the literary requirements of that period he lived. I am telling this because it is not known and mentioned at all. I enjoy following of the poetic intelligence of old Turkish people and the strong tradition. Rumi is also the top point of the romantic and sensual intelligence in poetry, for me. If you haven’t read Masnawi yet, that means you deprived yourself of the essence of pure poetry.

nil3
photo from “Temporary Dwellings”, Nil Yalter, 1974

I: While we are ‘writing’ this interview, a new year comes and another tragedy crosses Istanbul (n.d.r. armed attack on Istanbul night club, 1 January 2017). The present situation, at worldwide level, seems to be collapsed. A kind of hate mixed with political and economic pressures, linked to our common past and present, seems to dominate the relationships among communities. What do you think about Turkey within the international panorama? What are your desires for your country? What do you think should be changed at national level?
Is the question of Hölderlin: ‘Why poets in times of misery?’ still possible?

M: I think our misery about politics comes from the fact that uneducated people governs us at the moment. And this ignorance is sublime for these part of people. Because it helps to support each other without questioning. And I feel surrounded by these kind of people. As you know they are conservatives and Islamists which means that is impossible for them to create a free, humanist vision of life. They can’t also be poets and writers since writing is erasing the prisoning lines around. As we have experienced, they can’t be politicians too. People stopped living because of bombs in every corner.

Turkey is an amazing country with amazing people full of soul. I am proud of living here and writing in Turkish. My writing is impossible without reading the classics of Turkish literature and culture. So, this culture which is a melting pot of many in history, is a special one by embracing both East and West at the same time. My desire about my country, is wishing more conscience and questioning. I do it in poetry, by simple, direct and sincere sayings. I also ask for more freedom as a woman that we lost in recent years more. I get this strong voice from old secular Turkish tradition, for the time being, which is sustained by Alawi people of Turkey that I also belong.

About, Hölderlin’s question, poetry is a need, a great need so to say. we have existential bonds with words. And in the times of misery, we become more aware of this fact. While writing, I melt all my body into words. I try to lose everything outside of it. I can describe it finding my way with words in darkness. Because they give you solution. Thinking and living in poetry helps decreasing our miseries. Because being human means being in misery mostly.

Some poems of Müesser Yeniay

Masturbation

All the lines of my body
are awakening

Like a grape
I am full, I am black

if you don’t have a man
to love you
make men from your hands

[because they all
remain
like the bridges
reaching to your body
and falling down]

This World is a Man

I am a woman
like this huge earth
I am treeless

maybe I am living
I am under earth
I am upside-down

I am breathing
not so that I stay in this world more

sometimes I go to a man
-to a nothingness-

this world is a man
strong, coward, cheater

Snow

Snowflakes
beat my window

like your image
beating my mind
in repeat

with all the coldness
of separation
I watched it snow

Your curing body
is away from me

I am all covered with you
like this white layer which coats the earth

love me
as much as your heart suffices…

blow the knot of my soul
with your sweet breath

Permanent Talk with the Beloved

I opened myself to you
like the teeth
of a zip

one by one
I am broken in half
when you touched me
I watched the glory
of the earth

[in your hands
there are little
flying fairies]

you saw that sweet
emptiness in me

my body
like snow melting
blended with your
body

Note
-Talk of Müesser Yeniay “The politics of writing poetry and the birth of a poem”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Hj6SKu3JvY
-For a biography of the poet Müesser Yeniay: https://poethead.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/kafes-the-cage-and-other-poems-by-muesser-yeniay/
-Nil Yalter is the artist of the images selected in the article. For information: http://www.nilyalter.com/

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