MÜESSER YENIAY INTERVIEW
It has never been so important to me to understand the living of a poet before even thinking of writing about his or her poems. The life of Muesser Yeniay is strictly linked to her words which, just as blood drops, mark the paper. Just as blood, I say, because blood has a primordial meaning, like the strenght of Muesser’s soul, but it is also a symbol for sacrifice. To be a woman and to be a poet are two dimensions that cost dear every day to someone like Muesser Yeniay. She was born in Izmir, Turkey, in 1984, in a context wehere being a woman is very complicated: just think about the fact that turkish woman have to struggle everyday with the risk of rape and honor crime, even inside the walls of their own houses. This is, as a matter of fact, a crucial point amongst the negotiations with Europe, in order for Turkey to enter the European Union. However, humiliation that a turkish woman has to face involves also the social condition, not just the body. In Turkey being a woman makes everything a lot more difficult than it should be: it is hard to get a good education and even tougher to reach any professional aim. Being a woman in Turkey is not great lucky. However, with her poetry, her inner essence, as the poet herself said, Yeniay is able to redeem her condition of a woman and the condition of all the other women. “I think I became what I loved from the moment I started writing poetry”, Muesser told during an interview with the literary blog “Poetry sense”, in 2017. Poetry in fact was born in Muesser as a result from her deep loneliness, since she was a child raised by her grand parents. These two people were very important educational figures in her life: they helped Muesser to perceive herself as a special human being, against any believing the turkish society promoted. In this way, she cultivated a deep love for herself as a person but, overall, as a woman: she became produ of what she was. This love for her own soul and body expressed himself with an ardent fantasy, through the means of poetry. Also nature is for Muesser a fundamental dimension: there the poet is able to feel herself connected to the voices that come from deep inside herself, but also from deep inside the earth that saw and gave her life. Izmir in fact – an important city that flourished on the Anatolian peninsula and under the power of the Greek polis of Mileto – was distinguished for her cult to the Great Mother Cybele. She was a goddess of nature, of animals and of wild spaces: a fervid entity that represented womanhood and fertility. It is so melting to think about that a country once devoted to a goddess dedicated to women is now the setting to such heinous actions against women. Muesser Yeniay doesn’t forget these roots and her poetry lives and breaths in earth, nature and womanhood. Her poetry can’t be separated, in any moments, from the social and political conditions of her country, and overall from the conditions of women in Turkey and all over the world. To write poetry for Muesser means to do an active policy, to make a struggle in order to improve her condition and that of other women. In order to understand her poems and the kind words she granted us in this interview, I suggest that you leave behind any prejudice or comforting security: you have to think about a place where being a woman means suffering. So, read her words, her poems, her ideas, holding on inside you of this dimension: she is trying to make a difference. And, if her answers are tough, if you didn’t expect some of these things, if you find yourslef deeply moved, that’s alright. She is the brave and beautiful result of a system that tried for a long time to keep women quiet. But women and their bodies rise from the poems of Muesser and I think this is a beautiful, secular miracle: something to never forget.
- MARTINA TOPPI: This month on our blog we’re talking about womanhood, a theme in which you are pretty involved, and we’d like to do so by the mean of poetry. You have always carried a deep research on this theme and about that I’d like to quote a bunch of verses from your poem “Now do not tell me of men!” which has always hit me
it is not homeland that is divided
but the body of woman
now, do not tell me of men!
What kind of experience or inspiration was this poem born from? And what is the main message you wanted to tell by writing this verses?
This poem is one of my early poems. I think its power comes from its connection to reality. As you know, war, homeland are manly topics and men worship the idea of homeland. It is a place to prove their manliness to the world. Here I say, the body of woman is getting divided not the homeland, not the country. The body is under exploitation. The land and the land of the body of a woman are in parallel historically.
Men are in power and they decide our lives even in Europe. We exist but we are not seen, we talk but we are not listened, we think but it is not understood. We should be indoors always because we have children and breasts and vagina. I think the real reason is that the men worship themselves and they want to see themselves everywhere. Even in the personality of the woman. They are selfish, uneducated and harsh. In Turkey, the stiuation is getting worse each day. Every day, women are killed and they are told to be commited suicides. This chaotic atmosphere is boiling in my poetry. I can hear their screams. I should say the experience and inspiration is a daily must and I am one of the sharpest poets of our time on the topic. I feel like I am an influencer by poetry. There are young women who reads my texts and feels the courage in themselves which makes me feel extremely proud. The reality is not like what they tell. We should talk on it from the beginning by our own voice and words.
- MT: Has your womanhood ever gotten in the way of your professional life? And do you think that if you were born in Europe, instead of Turkey, you would have felt less discriminated as a woman?
Of course, I don’t have a life here. I am limited economically, socially and culturally. The only life that is built for me is family life which I am not inclined to. I hate having a father, having a husband having an authority to talk. Even my feminist friends got married and left the country because the AKP regime didn’t let the people outside its politics which means a religious sectism to have jobs and work. I don’t approve the system in the country and extremely hate its sexist institutions. Islam means man-power and money like the rest of the religions. Feminists should first work on to resist to religion.
If I was born in Europe instead of Turkey, I would feel the discrimination again but less. There are also silly men in Europe. I watch their speeches in the parliament and I go mad but in Turkey men are treated like little, earthly Gods. We live with Gods and we serve them, we make sure that they are in comfort. We are not visible in social life and not visible in language. Even the juries of the novel competition on behalf of Duygu Asena, the symbolic feminist of Modern Turkey are men. Nobody cares about it and nobody says please stop this nonsense because all of them would like to be in power always.
- MT: In 2017, during an interview for “The sense of poetry”, you said that poetry is also politic. I think that this is a quite interesting thought, would you like to explain it to us? Also, in which way do you think it is possible for poetry to improve women’s condition in your country.
There is a saying of Mahmud Dervish which I like: “Poetry can’t prevent the wars but can change the mind of the war-pilot” even the slight influence is vital for the improvement of the humanity. Even the language is a political means. Inside you would find the angle, the vision of the speakers who first made them. As poetry in nature engages more on the philosophy and feelings, it is much more political. Nâzım Hikmet is a good example of this and he spent most of his life outside the country.
As to how poetry can help the condition of women in my country, the answer is writing on more feministic topics and having a feminine discourse in the writings but quite direct like I do. Being visible in text, in magazine, in the literature circle is crucial for the continuity of the profession for us. Poetry can draw a picture to show whats happening in this geography in this span of time. I draw it for now and for the future. The voices of the oppressed are deep in my ears and heart. What we ask for the time being is not a good life but a life to live. This is horrible! Emine Bulut was killed by her husband in front of the eyes of her daughter by saying “I don’t want to die” and the videos recorded this and it is watched nation-wide. It was a national trauma but also made it ordinary and daily thing for people. This is a social nevrosis and I can’t quite live with it. I don’t care any politician whose only job to make money by telling sweet lies. Women can change this by controlling the society.
- MT: Do you think that women are more keen on the creative writing than men? Or the other way around? Or do you think both men and women can be keen on creative writing in the same way?
In my poem, “Menstruation” I wrote “Man can’t be a poet/ man can be a pen for a poet” This is quite sexist but when the reasons behind are thought, it is not surprising. First reason is women have more stories and our lives are like wild life. They are crème de la crème. First we have to earn the right of writing and then earn the means of writing and then if we have the proper education, we can find some words to write. You see, how mand hardships, how many trophies we have to get to write just to deserve the pen. Pen is a man instrument just like the language. We should pour our deep rivers into it recklessly.
The second reason is that our biology, our hormonal change together with our social nevroses makes us more creative. Our bodies are designed to give birth mentally and phsically. I write most of my poems before and on my periods in which I am more vulnerable to outside and widining inside. I feel that period of time as the secret lands of my subconscious with which I interact with lost people, objects, symbols, coincidences. The voices of the buried breasty goddeses under Anatolia have much to tell. The Amazons, their spirits are like the second body covered on my soul. Symrna (İzmir) my hometown are founded by them. I very much care about their wild and unhindered nature.
- MT: In your poetry one of the main themes is the one of the body, or better, of the woman’s body, so I’d like to ask you what do you think about the way nowadays it is treated in the western countries of the world. What do you think about the concepts of surrogacy and rent womb?
The dialogs with the body are so much in my poetry. The philosophy of body can change life. Firstly it is very worldly. secondly desire which comes from there is the root of life. The body of woman has religious and political connotations too. Helene Cixous, in her essay “the Laugh of Medusa” where she coined “ecriture feminine” she asserts “women must write herself: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies” Personally as a poet I am trying to understand the private life of my body, my organs. I am, for sure, using metaphors to grasp it. I wrote on breasts, on vagina, on masturbation, on menstruation. These are taboo topics even in world. In one of my poems I formed an analogy between fishmouth and vagina. In another, I resembled womb to a room in fish that prophet Jonah had been for a while. I am excited even while I am writing. Writing is like building new cities that nobody knew before and life there is without injustice. So I am inventing new metaphors for the women of our time. Poetry is not discovery it is an invention by the unknown.
As to the body, my poetry is resembled to the poetry of Sappho which makes me so happy. It is is also sensual and full of desire. Female desire is also waiting to be expressed without any censore. I don’t censore my texts, that’s because I have trust and courage in myself which requires certain mental and educational prerequisites.
About surrogacy and renting a womb, I think womb is a sacred place for humanity since it is the symbol for the universal completeness and comfort. This world –at least in the Middle East- it is like a museum of pain. So I also hardly approve giving birth to a child and destroying the eternal peace of him/her. Thank you very much for the interview.