I enjoyed reading and writing poetry since I was a child, but poetry became a healing practice especially in the past ten years. In 2010, I lost my mother. She had severe mental health issues in the later years of her life and had episodes where she completely lost touch with reality. In the four years prior to her death, I was trying to be available for her and at the same time finish the PhD program that I was attending while working a full-time job. I was travelling back and forth between two continents. It was a turbulent time in my life. After her loss, reading and writing poetry became my guide and savior. It stayed that way in the following years as I continued to find refuge in other poets as Rumi, Szymborska and Rilke and in ancient Tao texts.
Through the poems that I wrote, I not only started to explore ways to stay connected with my environment, but also slowly became a person who actually can enjoy life despite all its complexities and challenges; individual and collective. My poetry is purposeful; each of my poems is also a meditation practice which helps me maintain balance in life.
The world around us is wildly brutal. My collaboration with Donna opened up new windows for me in how I view and deal with the discomfort of stark social and political realities not only in my own country but in the whole world. The vast magnitude of these problems make each of us feel, perhaps, too small and too powerless, at times, even paralyzed, such that we cannot see the ways that we can contribute. Our exchange reminded me, once again, that we cannot give up.
Making authentic and heart-felt connections with our surroundings, with our family, friends and nature, helps us be at peace with who we really are. This process involves a ritual; it is a sacred process of paying attention, being present, being open and accepting. When this ritual is practiced, an opportunity opens up, where one can learn what truly ‘taking’ and ‘giving’ mean.
It re-asserts our connection to life and offers a way to enrich our
meaning-making. My heart is filled with happiness that the fruits of this journey will be added to humanity’s vast collection of ‘Ways to Survive’.
Berna co-founded Turkey’s first storytelling podcast community, Onbironsekiz, (onbironsekiz.com) in 2015, a platform for sharing persons' real stories.
She produced near 250 podcasts which focus on individuals from different walks of life including writers, poets, performance artists, musicians, documentarists, and wanderers. In 2018, with a few colleagues, she created and organized Anlat Hikayeni, a series of live storytelling events held in Istanbul first, recently in other cities in Turkey and which has reached hundreds of storytellers and thousands of listeners.
Berna has devoted her experience of more than 10 years as a PhD researcher at universities in Istanbul, Leiden and Boston to collecting and telling stories.
A book which includes a collection of her poems written in the last ten years of her life, 'Ways To Survive', a collaboration with Visual Artist Donna Haig Friedman, will be published in Boston and Istanbul in 2020.