One is a CROWD – Jenan Selçuk

Literature as a European mother tongue: In our series “One is a CROWD”, we introduce you to authors from all over Europe who will be involved in the CROWD omnibus reading tour, taking place from May to July 2016, featuring 100 authors who will be travelling through 15 European countries. We asked them five questions about text production, reception and mediation. In case you were wondering what a literary activist in Berlin looks like, meet Jenan Selçuk! 

Who are you as a poet/writer/author/artist?

No one significant. Have been infected and cursed by poetry for many years now,

I consider myself as an interpreter. Observing, interpreting and translating the languages of nature into languages that could be understood by human beings.

What kind of literary tradition, authors or concepts have you found inspirational for your work?

The ones that makes me think ‘I wish I could have written that’. As long as it is genuine literature (or art) it doesn’t matter what literary tradition or movement it comes from. I prefer minimalist, disturbing, provocative, sincere and plain/simple poetry/literature. It should be (we all should live) in harmony with nature. Lately I have been translating Native American Songs and Poems. They are amazing. So straightforward, so simple, yet so real and impressive. This is how I am trying to write. If poetry is the essence, that is how it should be.

Please name several contemporary authors who you think are most significant – in any possible sense – and why?

Jonathan Franzen – Freedom. I’ve been reading it since last september, it was a birthday gift. I am usually very skeptical about bestsellers. But this one is a masterpiece. It made me feel like if I finish the book my life will come to an end as well. So I am taking it slow. Reading some passages over and over.

What do you think about the current state of the relationship between the author and the reader? Is there a mentionable shift in that relationship through new media as in terms of being alienated on the one hand or being enlivened on the other hand?

I may say it is quite kinky in this part of the world. I am trying to stay away from the few readers that I think I have, because every time I experience some intimacy with my enthusiastic readers, later on, when they found out what I wrote about them, they quit being my readers anymore… I have no Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts. Only good old Hotmail which is keeping me warm enough. I prefer not to get involved too much in this illusion. I have allergy against anything artificial. Instead I go out and hug a tree or throw stones into the sea!

There always have been interactions and disputes between the discourses of poetry and politics. Do you see possibilities of emancipatory strategies concerning contemporary interactions between poetic and political discourses and agendas? What can/should/do these literary strategies look like?

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/ None but ourselves can free our minds. /Have no fear for atomic energy/’Cause none of them can stop the time.”

I studied 2.5 years in the medicine faculty. When I realised that the majority of humanity does not deserve an extended life, I quit. Later I graduated from International Relations. And become a poet. The answer I was giving to people who keep asking why I studied something that I dislike/oppose so much, was ‘to know my enemy better!’ My country was divided in the year that I was born. Since then, every aspect of life is divided just as. Politics around here (Cyprus, Middle East) is like the polluted air that we breathe in, I am trying to breathe less.


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