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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

OUR AMERICAN INSTRUCTORS

Sheila Bender and Susan Bono at the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

In mid-May of 2012, after almost a year of planning, we found ourselves, two experienced American conference leaders, heading for Istanbul. The plan: to join forces with Turkish colleagues and spend four days walking the city and writing in cafes with a group of U.S. and Turkish writers sharing in the Writing Istanbul project. The magic began before we arrived at Rooms Galata in the BeyoÄ&#x;lu district. We traveled from the west coast with some of our sister adventurers and met others at the Frankfort airport when we changed planes for Istanbul. Everyone, including the non-writing husbands who decided to accompany us, was anticipating a wonderful experience. By the time writer and teacher Yesim Cimcoz and her colleague Fusun Centinel met us at our hotel with copies of Strolling Through Istanbul by Hillary Summer-Boyd and John Freely, we were ready to go, never mind the jet-lag. Touring Istanbul with fellow writers helped all of us accomplish what artist and neuroscientist Beau Lotto claims is necessary for creating: You must see yourself see. It’s about observation and curiosity, having a sense of wonder, becoming aware of the connection between the past and the present. Becoming an observer of yourself enables you to do amazing things.


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

And amazing things we did, catching glimpses of life we are not familiar with, learning snatches of history we hadn’t known, absorbing names and ideas new to us, eating delicious food prepared in what to us were unusual ways, receiving the hospitality of strangers, and, of course, suffering and overcoming the mishaps and embarrassments of travelers. As writers we used our experiences in combination with our own histories and interests to see in a new way and come to new understandings. We discovered our words were ready to lead us to deeper levels if we followed them, if we believed that the substance of our observations would carry the emotional weight of insight and evocation. Throughout our days together, we wondered, as Beau Lotto says we must if we are to create, “What do I notice, what do I ask?” On our last afternoon together, sitting in a circle in our hotel's cozy lobby, we created a list poem as an oral exercise. Based on William Stafford's "Things I Learned Last Week," everyone wrote several lines about what they'd learned during our four days together. Some of what Stafford includes in his list he gleaned from first-hand experience, some from the newspaper, and some from his own meditations. Our group’s blend of insights ranged from becoming aware that olives can be a breakfast food to learning how often what we want requires a climb uphill. Stafford’s poem served as a strong model for allowing a blend of observations to take on metaphorical impact. Our experience writing in Istanbul loosened us up to notice, sense, associate, listen, and reveal our perceptions and questions. The pieces in this publication reflect a small part of what participants and leaders created over our days together, and it represents a dream come true for all of us—a chance to visit a city steeped in history, to unite with some of its writers, to explore our passion for observing and questioning, and to enjoy time venturing into our own associative minds.

Sheila & Susan Sheila Bender: www.writingitreal.com Susan Bono: www.tiny-lights.com


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

OUR TURKISH INSTRUCTORS Dreams are beautiful, and even more so when they come true. It is empowering, self validating, and magical when something that started as a thought, a hope, an excitement in your being, finally manifests. These were my thoughts somewhere around Yesim Cimcoz, Grand Bazaar , photo by Caroline Arnold the second day of our workshop. It took me that long to realize it had finally happened and I was right in the middle of it. About one year before we finally said, “Let’s do it,” Sheila said, “This is Susan,” and we were three. Emails went back and forth. There were numbers, hours, costs and historical sights written in those mails, cushioned with words of encouragement, hope and excitement. I walked the streets of Istanbul once again, this time trying to see it through the eyes of someone coming for the first time. As I sat at the Alaylı Cafe on Kumbaracı, I realized I needed another pair of eyes. I said, “Susan, Sheila...this is Füsun,” and we were four. Then the writers started coming and we grew in numbers. We met in cyberspace before we hugged each other in this ancient city. I worried. Did we have enough writing time? Is everyone comfortable? Did they get enough to eat? Are the beds okay? Is there a place I forgot to take them? But we were an amazing group. Everything flowed. There was a calm, a peacefulness about us, mingled with excitement. When Sheila or Susan stood in the cafe of Rooms Galata and talked to us about Ekphrasis or writing letters, we were students, eager to learn, to discover, to grow, to be guided. Then the writing flowed...and it was powerful, it was moving, and left me hungry for more. When we roamed the streets of the city, we were tourists and then not. And by the last night, as we got in line to read aloud our final postcards at the entrance to Peymane after a wonderful dinner, we were a family. Dreaming of something is beautiful. Igniting the dream and keeping it going takes courage, endurance, and patience. Standing in the middle of the dream and realizing it had come true was a great feeling, but listening to and being a part of a family bonded through words was very moving. Now months later, reading these pages and knowing we have changed each other, each and every one of us, and knowing we did this together, I can find no more words...so just Thank you.

Yesim Yesim Cimcoz: www.yesimcimcoz.com Writing Istanbul


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

It has been almost four months and every detail of our Writing İstanbul experience is engraved in my memory. Four amazing days with sixteen amazing writers from different parts of the world. In those four days I learned many things which I couldn’t dream of before. Counting from one to sixteen in a split second, spotting the best free toilets in the city, cat herding, answering ten questions at once, bargaining to death in carpet shops without being ashamed of it! Although I have been living in İstanbul since my birth, I hadn’t noticed before that the city has so many uneven steps. The huffs and puffs of sixteen out of breath ladies made me aware of it! (Just joking!) And I hadn’t known before that pickle juice tastes the best when drinking in a hot morning with some friends around you. I miss you ladies. We did so many things together. And it was all fun. We shared our feelings, words, laughter and tears. Most of the time we smiled like happy children with a huge cone of yummy ice cream. We loved being together, writing together, sharing our trinkets and those four unforgettable days. You are gone, but your books are in my library, your pen in my holder, your magnet on the fridge, your pillow on the couch, and your friendship in my heart. Many thanks to Yeşim for choosing me as her helper and many thanks to Sheila and Susan for bringing little writers to us.

Your Fifi forever.

Füsun Çetinel Fusun’s Facebook page

Füsun Çetinel, on Facebook


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

Writing Istanbul Itinerary May 12th – May 15th 2012

Program :

May 12th Saturday – Beyoğlu Cihangir and Galata

09:00 – 11:00 Workshop and Breakfast at Alaylı Cafe 11:00 – 14:00 Strolling up Istiklal to Taksim Square Down Sıraselviler to Cihangir Walk around Cihangir 14:00 – 15:00 Lunch at Datlı Maya, a quaint restaurant with a large stone oven

Probable Lunch menu: - Green soup - small ‘pide’ (pizza dough type) with string cheese - small ‘lahmacun’ ( a thin dough with minced meat on top) - Large ‘pide’ - Large ‘pide’ with spinach and goat cheese - Salad - ‘şekerpare’ (Turkish desert in syrup) - soft drink of choice 15:00 – 15:45 Walk through Çukurcuma, the antiques district down to the Galata Tower 15:45 – 17:45 Overlook from the top of the Galata Tower. Walk around the area. A coffee shop under the tower will be our meeting point and everyone can wander as they wish then meet up again to go to the Dervish show. We have two hours here to have a cup of tea, a snack, write, talk about our writing and share or just wander alone. 18:00 – 19:00 Walk down to Karaköy and walk over the Galata Bridge to Sirkeci. You might want to get something to eat before we set off as the return to the hotel will around 9 p.m. 19:00 – 19:30 Reception at HocaPaşa Cultural Center – beverages, lokum offered by the establishment 19:30 – 20:30 The Whirling Dervishes Show 20:30 – 21:00 Take the Tram back to Residence


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

May 13th Sunday – Sultanahmet, Hagia Sophia, Underground Cistern 09:00 – 10:00 Workshop at Residence 10:00 – 11:00 Walk down to Tram. Take tram to Sultanahmet. 11:00 – 12:00 Hagia Sophia – You are free to walk around the museum. I believe it is possible to purchase audio guides but I think just walking around and taking in the place with your senses would be more fulfilling. At the back there is the Museum of Archeology. If you wish to you can visit that as well. 12:00 – 12:30 The Underground Cistern – This doesn’t take long to walk around. Make sure you walk all the way back to where the Medusa heads are placed under a column, and take a look at the gigantic fish in the water. 12:30 – 13:45 Lunch still under consideration :) 14:00 – 16:00 We gather at the Literary Cafe, ‘Edebiyatçılar Kıraathanesi’.

Jale Sancak a published Turkish writer will visit us and talk to us about anything that you want to ask her about writing and Turkey and Istanbul. This will be more of a conversation and she will be sitting with us for a while. If anyone wants to they can go out and wander around the area some more. We are at this point quite close to the Topkapı Palace. It is a place that will take a full day to walk through but you might want to walk up to where it is and take a quick look. This is also a good time to gather thoughts, take notes and maybe sketch out a piece you would like to work on later. 16:00 – 18:30 Meet with Oktay and visit a carpet shop. 18:30 – 19:00 Back to the Residence by Tram Our program officially ends here today. You can eat dinner, relax, write, walk around some more, have a drink, sit on the terrace of the Rooms Galata and just watch and listen to the city. However, the optional Turkish Bath visit is tonight. If you wish to visit the Hamam with us please be ready to walk up to the bathhouse by 19:30. We will leave the Residence at 19:30 19:30 – 20:30 The Galatasaray Hamam 20:30 Back to Residence...


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

May 14th Monday – Anatolian Side. Kadıköy and The Princess Islands 09:00 – 11:00 Workshop at Residence (maybe a sleep in morning) 11:00 – 11:45 Take tunnel to Karaköy and small boat across the Bosphorus to Kadıköy 12:10 – 13:00 Walk around Kadıköy Market. This is a small market that is full of color, sights, sounds and smells. You can take a lot of photographs, wander around, and maybe have a cup of Turkish coffee in a small coffee shop. 13:00 – 14:00 Lunch - Çiya Restaurant – Anatolian dishes.

We meet and Füsun and I will order a selection of vegetarian friendly dishes as well as some meat dishes for everyone. We’ll try to bring a variety of dishes for you so that you can taste different dishes rather than have one dish for your meal. 14:00 – 14:20 Walk to the Boat Harbour 14:20 – 15:05 Boat over the Marmara Sea to Burgaz Island, one of the many Princess Islands.

15:15 – 17:35 We will start at the shore and there are two options to go up to the top of the Island. One is to walk and the other is to take a horse drawn carriage. You can choose. The carriage will take us up to the top of the island. We’ll sit briefly by the water and take in the sea. Then we begin our journey down through side roads and main roads. There are no cars on the island and across the water you can see the tall buildings of Istanbul. We’ll take a short break to write, share and take notes at the Teachers’ Residence. These are low cost residences you can find throughout the country and anyone who is a teacher under the Ministry of Education can stay there and eat there for a very low fee. 17:50 – 18:55 Boat back to the Kabataş. Finikuler from Kabataş to Taksim and walk back to the Residence. This is a free evening ...


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

May 15th Tuesday – The Grand Bazaar 09:00 – 10:00 Workshop at Residence 10:00 – 10:45 Walk down to tram and take tram to the Grand Bazaar 10:45 – 13:30 We will begin at the Şark Kahvesi, a coffee house.

Everyone will have a map of the Grand Bazaar layout so you can wander around safely and carefree. When you want to get back to where we will meet all you need to do is show it on your map to someone. 13:30 – 14:30 Lunch – Havuzlu Restaurant – Turkish dishes.

We meet and Füsun and I will order a selection of vegetarian friendly dishes as well as some meat dishes for everyone. We’ll try to bring a variety of dishes for you so that you can taste different dishes rather than have one dish for your meal. 14:30 – 15:00 Tram back to Residence 15:30 – 18:30 A final bringing it all together workshop session. We can read writing in the works, talk about ideas and plans on what we hope to write and what we are taking away with us from this workshop 20:00 End of Workshop dinner at Peymane


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

Our Writers in Istanbul & Beyond Claudia Larson 1, 2, 3 Aholoaah Arzah 4, 5, 6 Judy Drechsler 7, 8, 9 Fusun Cetinel 10, 11, 12 Margaret Rozga 13, 14, 15 Pat LaPointe 16, 17, 18 Caroline Arnold 19, 20, 21, 22 Mary-Antoinette Smith 23, 24, 25 Wendy Chapman 26, 27 Yesim Cimcoz 28, 29, 30 Marilyn Meyer 31, 32, 33, 34 Susan Bono 5, 36, 37 Barbara Spicer 38, 39, 40 Sheila Bender 41, 42, 43


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

Souvenirs, photo by Sheila Bender


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

New to Istanbul by Claudia Larson

Coming into the city Stop Listen Hear the sounds Situate your feet on the pavement Open your fingers and lengthen your neck The first thing you'll notice is the intensity of all your senses The sights The sounds The scents And all your taste buds will wake with a start Your heart will begin to remember how busy you are How you long for a quiet pool The one inside The call to prayer draws you in You look out over the city Your breath turns inward Prayer is not always quiet It exists in the midst of noise.

12 May 2012

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

Ephesus

Stone and Sky by Claudia Larson Marble stone arches challenge the sky with their curves, pushing blue aside with their ambition to float. No one argues their inherent heaviness. No mention is made of the backbreaking labor or the number of slaves or the amount of time it took to hoist carved stone blocks into the air. Words like “tons” or “pounds” evaporate in the sun. Long-legged columns rise upward in a slender, smooth movement, rewarded by leafy collars as they push an arch farther into space. Stone men, women and animals celebrate the occasion, hustling and bustling with liveliness not usually associated with marble. Rows of carved flowers, beads, leaves edge a doorway. Beyond, a trio of elegantly appointed columns chats with an unruly stack of rough stone blocks. It’s a congenial conversation. They’re cousins. Emerging from the stone atop the doorway, Medusa opens her arms. A tangle of plants surround her, their lushness a match to her intensity. Her blank eyes, her smooth curves are an invitation to take whatever stoniness exists in your body, in your life, to shape it into columns and arches, flowers and beads, doorways and lintels and then to challenge the sky with things that rise and float, even if no one believes they can.

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

Claudia Larson thanks her lucky stars for being part of a twice-monthly writing group that's gathered for 10 years. There, she found the connection between internal images and words, satisfying the singer in her who'd laid her performing days mostly to rest. Her years as a farm girl, raised on the prairies of North Dakota, find their way onto pages of memoirs, smelling of freshly baked bread, colored with orange Case tractors and surrounded by barbed wire fences, the kind that thrill a kid who climbs through them without a scratch. She tends her garden, her goats and sheep, chickens and cats, and grandkids in Sebastopol, CA.

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

I Have Opened a Window in Istanbul by Aholaah Arzah Beyond an occasional foray from my small home town on the tip of Quimper Peninsula across Puget Sound into Seattle for Gauguin at the art museum, dinner with a friend, or the much rarer weekend car trip along the Oregon coast, I can’t remember the last time I really took a sojourn, a detour, from the rather insular routine of my life. Sometimes I have fantasized going to Barcelona, for weeks listening to Spanish CDs on the way to work. Another day I’m dreaming of Paris, trying to dredge up fragments of conversational French from high school. Now this frail egg in a flimsy carton following an impulse and the small fluttering graphic of an airplane making its way over a curved map of the world while outside the tiny window an impenetrable opalescent haze darkens and lightens over Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Germany. When I press open the doors of my hotel’s tiny marble and iron balcony in Turkey, I can see all the way down the old narrow street of Kumbaraci to distant ships on the Sea of Marmara. The delectable smoky aroma of roasting chestnuts and corn drifts through the sheer curtains and begins to permeate my hair, my clothes, my memory. A loud rhythmic drumming begins out on Istiklal Cadessi, a ferry sounds, taxi horns impatiently prod whatever has halted their fitful lurches up and the d own s teep c obbl ed View from Stories Apart, Kumbaraci Street streets. The industrious snap of a nail gun contributes another addition to the continual collage of old and new. There is a woman singing opera, the sax riff from a jazz band, a Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer and cat squabble forming the chorus; all the thrilling, precarious music of a wine bottle rolling down uneven stone in early morning light. 4


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

Palmistry by Aholaah Arzah

The hands are heavily fleshed and rounded. When flexed, the skin gathers up in thick folds. The swollen fingers squeak in their creases like balloon animals. When I reach out to grasp at a task, the blunt ends of these sausages butt the object with only a semblance of function, reminiscent of a dog pawing at an empty dish. Ham-handed, if severed, these mitts might roast, the thick fat-buoyed skin would rise, sizzle and crisp. Occasionally the hands are possessed by the intoxicated inclinations of an artist ritualistically cobbling up artifacts of relative beauty but no particular use. Sometimes the fingers twitch, scrabble at the weaving of words, drop stitch after stitch in an overly elaborate construction. You can tell by the fingertips, stained in dark soil and reeking of garlic, that this is a hand divided, a fitful fistful of creases etched in flesh. The depth and dangerous slant of the headline veering toward the Mount of Luna, Mount of Moon-Lit Lunacy reveals the creative impulses lumped in prophesy with self-destructive tendencies. And here lies the heartline, so shallow and abbreviated, yet scored with the many crosshatchings of the loves lost or squandered. In particular, note the meandering lifeline making its eventual way around a over-burgeoning Mount of Venus, splitting and splitting again like the branching of a spring limb. There were so many directions in which I could have gone. I have gone, a little way for a while, in each.

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

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Aholaah Arzah is an artist and writer living on the edge of Kai Tai Lagoon in Port Townsend, Washington, where she is often lulled to sleep by the strange song of the coyote. Goddard College has designated Aholaah a “Master of Arts” in creative writing and thus encouraged, she is currently working on her first memoir and a second book of poetry. Most recently her work has appeared in Short, Fast and Deadly, Minotaur, elimae, the Pitkin Review, and The Bellingham Review. Her essay “Ring Cycle” received Longshot Magazine’s feature award.

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

Istanbul, The Third Afternoon by Judy Drechsler Tuesday, four p.m. in Turkey, Six a.m. in Washington, USA We have been here three days, Did a load of laundry. The clothes are still damp. Mac tries the debit card, The machine is contrary, “Your card has been declined by your bank” The clothes are still damp. Must call bank later tonight when it is ten hours earlier in Washington, USA Then they will want to know many things to prove it is us… Last four numbers of your Social Security number? What was your first pet’s name? What was your Mother’s maiden name? Where was your first job? What city were you born in? I might recall the last one, but my mind is so stuffed to overflowing with new images, smells and impressions, that I feel overwhelmed. And the clothes are still damp.

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

Ladies of Istanbul by Judy Drechsler

The women of Istanbul, seated shoulder to shoulder, filling the long bench. The silky headscarves announcing their devotion to Islam. Tucked in at the sides to hold and hide the vanity of hair. Large flowers floating in a field of blue, yellow swirling patterns, white swirls on a dark blue background, white with small purple circles, black with white stripes, plain beige, an anomaly among the more fashionable designs. Serviceable black shoes, white socks showing as one removes her shoes to rest her feet. Shawls cover plump shoulders, a sweater in a bright color stands out here and there, revealing a blue print dress, one bright yellow and another on a young women bright red with stripes circling the hem, but mostly long dark coats buttoned up to the neck. They are smiling and laughing and talking, like any group of women do when they are on an outing. They look worn and older. Impossible to tell how old they are. Every once in awhile one of them tucks the head scarf more securely around her hair as if it provided some protection for her female person. Hands folded in their laps, legs crossed at the ankles, they smile demurely. I wonder about them. About their families, their children, what kind of a life do they lead? What opportunities do they have? The language barrier is raised high so I’ll never know.

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

Judy at the Temple of Artemis

Judy Drechsler was a teacher of writing for thirty years in Alaska and Washington to children of all ages. She has had many professional articles published during that time. She teaches Reading and Language Arts courses part time for Seattle City University now. Since retiring to Port Townsend she has had the time to explore writing essays and poetry at a new depth as well as take voice and piano lessons, take care of a large garden, and indulge herself in all kinds of physical activity!

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

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İstanbul is a bitch. by Füsun Çetinel

Restless, never satisfied, Asking more and more. Tempting,with crooked streets of dark neighbourhoods ending nowhere. Dancing and whirling like salty waves of Bhosphorus. Hidden under her translucent veil. Leaving you dizzy and startled. A constant whisper in your ear, Clicking, clanking, hushing, clapping, cursing, horning and roaring. Seducing perfumes filling your nostrils. Spicemarket, fish and bread, grilled chestnut, corn on the cob. Oleasters, linden, jasmin and roses of every kind. An absent-minded mom, her fragile babies left on the curbs. Hungry hands begging for money. You’ve had enough.”That’s it!” you shout. “This time it is the end.” The next morning, when you open your eyes, Galata Tower, Hagia Sophia, Golden Horn, the cherry tree, turkish coffee at Bebek, your feet barely touching the sea. You take a deep breath, “Oh, İstanbul is some city.”

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

MERHABA* by Füsun Çetinel

We met in a poolside restaurant, in Grand Bazaar. I wanted to wash my hands before I sat down. Your gorgeous green shrieked out, “Stop!” Two shiny black beads caught me in, pronouncing a warm welcome. You screamed your lungs out one after another. Blue skies, flying high, coconut trees, goodbye were not in your repertoire. Your cage looked brand new, big and sterile. I scratched your head. Yellow as the sun in the Caribbian. Your gentle bill kissed my finger. Strong as the rocks of New Zealand. Vivid coloures reminded me of Pacific Islands. My tears almost rained down As the waiter put a blanket on your cage to make you quiet. I have no appetite anymore. Thank you, no Musakka, no Sish Kebab, no Cacık. Eighty imprisoned years with a silly ‘Merhaba’ .

*Hello

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

FÜSUN ÇETİNEL in carriage at Burgaz Island

Füsun Çetinel was born in İstanbul, lives in İstanbul and writes about İstanbul. has been a short story addict since she met Yeşim Cimcoz and took part in her project, Writing İstanbul. She had the chance to bring her great passions, the city and fiction, together. is a former teacher of English, runs a print shop with her husband, edits books. She is also a ghost writer, a nonstop student of creative writing classes and a willing participant in any project related to writing. loves reading, walking, exploring flea markets around the world, is fond of coffee shops and cats in flesh and ceramic. doesn’t have a published book yet, although she has over eighty short stories. dreams of writing a proper children’s book in the near future. www.altzine.net

www.galapera.org

www.altkitap.com

www.edebiyathaber.net www.istanbuluyaziyorum.com www.yesimcimcoz.com

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

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Sign Near Where I Changed Money by Margaret Rozga Who are WE to think so large and so loud? To print white serif-style letters on a stark background? To use English? In Turkey? Why post this dark sign in an empty window on busy Istiklal Street? What are THEIR rules? Who are they? What threat to tomorrow? What safety on this street? In this neighborhood? A woman heading up the street clutches her wallet and smokes. She doesn’t turn her head, concerned perhaps about a doctor’s appointment or her job. A man heading in the opposite direction, hands in his pockets, shows less sense of mission, seems not to notice at all the sign with letters stout as his belly. I stop. The sign calls up recent scenes at home, of peaceful protestors being corralled, arrested, or hit with pepper spray; of picketing, marching, canvassing, only to be ignored or ridiculed, to lose elections and court cases, money, pensions, health care. Except no one I know at home is thinking quite this large. Or this dangerously. I hurry to catch up with my group and puzzle over whether to have baklava with pistachios or almonds. Çay or kahve. Later from Galata Tower, people appear small and even less concerned about political direction and who rules: all streets lead down toward water. Six minarets for the Blue Mosque, four for Hagia Sofia. Buildings rise and endure, though sometimes they change their purpose, or their purpose is changed. Later tonight Orhan Pamuk’s new Museum of Innocence. Tomorrow will go according to plan. The plan is to go to the Grand Bazaar. To bargain for towels to use tomorrow after tomorrow. In stall after stall there’ll be rows of key chains, bracelets, necklaces, door plaques, each with one prominent, wide-open and protective blue eye. Not to worry. Here. 13


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

Extending Kindness by Margaret Rozga In the dazzle of Istiklal Cadessi Thursday evening people strolling up to Taksim Square— it’s almost the weekend—link arms, handsome athletic young men with each other or one of them with a somber older woman likely his mother, even his grandmother. Girls, women, wearing head scarves likewise keep in touch as they walk, as do those with hair uncovered. What comfort there must be resting a hand in the soft hold of a friend’s arm. We thread our way single file up a side street where diners at tables from this restaurant and that one across the way meet in the middle to the place where we’ll squeeze close to fit into the last places open in a snug second floor dining room and share bowls full of Turkish specialties, eggplant succulent in tomato sauce, eggplant in rich yogurt sauce, lamb, squid, sausage, something like tabouli, strong flavor of mint. Plenty for everyone, the servers flushed, a little breathless from flights of stairs. Take what you want and pass the dish. I set down my glass of tea to enjoy first the sight of raki turning milky in water then a heady sip from the glass Marilyn offers me. None of us link arms as we amble back to the hotel but tomorrow Sheila and I stand arm in arm for a photo at Hagia Sofia, and after carpet shopping, Kurt extends his hand to help me from the taksi. A few days later Mac, Claudia, Susan and George rush to help steady Judy when she misses a step.

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

May 2012

Sheila Bender, Peggy & Marilyn Meyer at the Hagia Sofia

Margaret (Peggy) Rozga is a poet, essayist and playwright. She has published two books of poetry, Two Hundred Nights and One Day and Though I Haven’t Been to Baghdad. Her poems and essays have appeared recently in Nimrod, Mid -America, and Verse Wisconsin. She has had work included in six collaborative exhibits with visual artists. Her essay on poetry and politics will appear in the fall 2012 issue of Verse Wisconsin. A frequent poetry workshop leader and speaker on social justice issues, she lives near Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. Margaret Rozga blogs about poetry and social justice at www.benupress.com/for-words.

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

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Finding Treasure by Pat LaPointe

There is nothing I can hold in my hand to evoke the pleasant memories. Instead I must turn to the image that remains in my mind. We are far from home yet somehow all connected. The scent of coffee and tea fill the room. I see the yellow, brown and black crowns adorning treasures that lie within. I watch as these treasures are awakened from their resting places and begin to pulsate down their white, brown and black arms to their fingertips where, with fingers that grasp a pen or are poised over a keyboard, their treasures will come alive. There is quiet except for the gentle tapping when the misty rain falls on the ivy which adorns the courtyard wall. And yet in the room the air feels almost electric as the sparks of creativity jump from their pages. It is an energy that is beyond description. It is through this energy that their treasures will be born. Suddenly there is movement. Heads are raised. Pens are clicked closed. Their treasures are saved with one stroke of a key. The white, brown and black arms have carried the treasures, and for now, no treasure remains. The room fills with many voices, some soft, some hardy. It is the final stage. It is when all will hear those treasures and be better for having been in that room.

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Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

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There’s Always Room For Pie by Pat LaPointe

This tiny clay pie was made for me by my super artistic, creative nearly twelve-year-old granddaughter, Olivia, AKA Princess Raspberry. More than being significant as a trinket made by Liv, there is a family story behind it. When Olivia was five years old, I took her and some of her cousins out to dinner before going to a movie. Service was slow and there was no time for dessert. I told the kids that maybe we’d have something after the movie. As we reached the theater, Liv was looking glum, but not talking. When the movie ended and we left the theater, Live began to cry. It was late, and thinking she was tired, I said “It’s OK. You’ll be home and in bed very soon.” She looked up at me, now sobbing, and said, “I don’t want to sleep. I just want pie.” Since then there has always been pie at every family gathering, and of course, Liv always gets the first piece. Because I’ve kept the tiny pie in my wallet, I would probably lose it while paying for something. Most likely it would be when I was excited to have found the perfect souvenir for my Princess Raspberry. Once I would realize that it was gone, I’d retrace my steps until I found it, much like how I retrace the years I’ve spent being Liv’s grandmother in my memory.

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Pat and her husband Marty

Pat LaPointe lives in Prospect Heights, IL. She is the editor of the Changes In Life on-line newsletter for women and has recently published an anthology, The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships To Self Empowerment. Pat is also the current President of the Story Circle Network, a writing organization for women. www.changesinlife.com www.storycircle.org

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May 2012

Letter from Istanbul by Caroline Arnold

Dear Mrs. Guiney, I write to you from Istanbul, where I sit with a group of writers, mostly from the U.S., but some from Turkey too. We are here to see the city—the great domed Hagia Sofia; shops filled with spices, sweets, kebabs, carpets, jewelry; boats on the Bosphorus; the hotel where Agatha Christie wrote her book Murder on the Orient Express; a performance of the mysterious dance of the whirling dervishes, and more—and then try to put our impressions into words. Each day is punctuated with the calls to prayer broadcast from skinny minarets aside crescent topped domes of mosques. In the streets, trams clang along metal rails from one part of Istanbul to another. Overhead, raucous gulls wheel in the sky and the smell of the sea makes the air slightly damp. Never did I think as I sat in your fourth grade class nearly sixty years ago in Northeast Minneapolis that one day I would be on a trip half-way around the world to the city that is the meeting point of East and West. (It is a ten hour difference between here and my home in Los Angeles. As we finish our dinner each night in Istanbul, my friends and family in California are just starting their day.) My dream of traveling and seeing the world began in your class when you handed out the books we would use to study world geography. I remember turning the shiny pages filled with pictures of people and places so different from our world in Minnesota. The first chapter featured the Belgian Congo and was illustrated with black and white photos of dark-skinned women pounding manioc with wooden poles in large containers. I loved the new words and ideas–what was manioc? What did it taste like? Did they eat it every day? Why was the country called the Belgian Congo? Belgium was a country in Europe!

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I also loved the maps in the geography book with their rivers and mountains and wide oceans. In Minnesota, where we lived, we had the Mississippi River, which you could cross to go to our twin city, St. Paul, but at age ten I had never seen mountains or oceans. Here in Istanbul, we walk downhill from our hotel near the Galata Tower to the bridge across the Golden Horn, an arm of water separating our part of Istanbul from the old quarter, with its many mosques, museums, and markets. From the bridge, lined with fishermen, we can look out into the Sea of Marmara, filled with ferries, fishing boats, cargo ships, ocean liners, yachts, and party boats turned into restaurants. At night, the sea sparkles with the lights of all this water traffic, in the process of moving goods to and from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and beyond. We are staying on the European side of Istanbul, but just a short ferry ride away lies the Asian part of the city, where we went one day for lunch and to explore the market stalls. I think you would love Turkey as much as I do with all its sights and sounds. It is a photographer’s paradise. I have taken hundreds of photos, which, when I get home, will help me remember the wealth of things we saw. I have always loved to take pictures and got my first camera for my tenth birthday. It was a Brownie box camera. I remember that I had to open it carefully to insert the roll of film, making sure to keep the film rolled tight to prevent it from being exposed to the light. You probably don’t remember, but I took it to school on the last day before summer vacation. I have a picture of you, Mrs. Guiney, taken on the playground. You are wearing a plaid dress and have your head slightly cocked, perhaps because you are looking into the sun. The picture is slightly blurry, because I must have jiggled the camera, but I can see that you are smiling. You were always one of my favorite teachers and you encouraged me to read and dream. Thank you. Your former fourth grade student, Caroline Scheaffer Arnold

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The Temple of Artemis, Selcuk (Ephesus) Turkey by Caroline Arnold The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once boasted twenty-one marble columns surrounding a large open-air platform. Now, all that remains is a single lonely column, bravely standing in a damp meadow, its broken pieces reassembled like a child’s tower of blocks. On top, a pair of storks have built their messy nest, adding yet another level to the tower. While they wait for their eggs to hatch, one bird hunts for food, and the other stands watch, stretching its wide wings, flexing its long legs, periodically leaning over to rearrange the sticks of the nest furniture. On the ground below, spring flowers bloom and grasses sway in the breeze. Pistachios ripen on hillside trees. Out of sight, a lizard scampers along a wall in search of a sheltered niche for sun bathing. A mother goose herds her fluffy goslings toward the safety of the pond, where clusters of turtles cling to rocks that rise like small islands in the water. Two millennia ago, throngs of worshipers came here to pay homage to Artemis, goddess of the hunt and wild animals. Then, in 400 A.D. Artemis and her cult fell out of favor and her temple was destroyed. Its pieces were scavenged to build churches, roads, and forts. Little is left of the ancient wonder. And yet, like the single column rising to the sky, the spirit of Artemis remains. I think she would be pleased to know that so many wild creatures have made her temple their home. 21


Writing Istanbul: Words and Images

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At the Temple of Artemis

Caroline Arnold has been writing for children since 1980 and is the author of 147 books. Recent titles include A Polar Bear’s World, illustrated with her own cut paper art, Wiggle and Waggle, five stories about two hardworking worms, and The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers, winner of the Parents’ Choice Gold Award. In 2008, Caroline received the California Readers Leo Politi Award for her body of work. Her books are inspired by her travels, her love of animals, and the out-of-doors. Caroline lives in Los Angeles and loves visiting schools and libraries to share her books. Website: www.carolinearnold.com Blog posts about Turkey: http://carolinearnoldart.blogspot.com/2012/05/writing-istanbul-workshop-and.html http://theintrepidtourist.blogspot.com/2012/05/istanbul-museum-of-innocence-mevlevi.html

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Cultural exchange at the Grand Bazaar

Experiencing The Grand Bazaar by Mary-Antoinette Smith Heckling! Beckoning!—“Over here, Miss!” “Lady, Lady! Over here, Miss!” “Lady, Lady, Lady with the scarf . . .!” “How may I help you? What do you like?” “Madam, hello. How can I take your money?” (Liking that one for its sheer honesty) Then out-of-the-blue an allure with a difference “Hello! Are you from Hollywood?” (Hmmm . . . well, actually, I AM from L.A.) A cacophony of questions . . . How bizarre at the bazaar!

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Night-Sounds in Istanbul by Mary-Antoinette Smith

Hamman-relaxed, rejuvenated, cleansed Plush downy sheets and a soft gentle breeze Soothingly drawn into slumber . . . Suddenly wakened! That mystical—no, musical—no, inexplicably unexplainable Ubiquitous Call to Prayer! Rhythmically alluring—wafting gently on air Satisfying, fulfilling, ever-yearning no longer Soothingly surrendered back into sweet slumber . . .

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Mary-Antoinette Smith is an Associate Professor of English and the Director of Women and Gender Studies at Seattle University. The Writing Istanbul Conference was a perfect venue for her writing interests, since professionally she is a published academic writer, as well as being a creative writer in search of global opportunities that offer inspiration for her sociopolitical and gender-related writings. This experience did not disappoint, and she is excited to return to Istanbul soon to teach a study abroad course while gleaning additional inspirational fodder for writing and publishing her poetry and prose narrative writings.

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May 2012

Crown of Saffron by Wendy Chapman

Imagine long ago, rich kings and nobles from ancient civilizations that surround the Mediterranean Sea. Proudly wearing their saffron crowns in ceremonies. Donning their gold and silver crowns, comparisons would be made. How much saffron weighted that crown? Whose colors are richer on the eyes? Which crown best entices the senses with true hay fragrance? There is an official saffron crown checker, making these difficult decisions, risking punishment for his judgments. Imagine long ago, the poor and enslaved people in these ancient civilizations. Laboring long, hard hours in the intense Mediterranean climate. Working for their saffron crown-wearing rulers. Backs bending where crocus flowers grow. Toiling in tough terrain and conditions with nimble fingers, and a quick pace. Retrieving the minute stigma, the precious saffron, from inside each delicate purple flower. Hundreds and thousands upon hundreds of thousand of flowers. Needed to surrender their red gold stigma to the poor and enslaved. Who also surrender themselves. So the rich kings and nobles from ancient civilizations that surround the Mediterranean Sea can wear a crown of saffron.

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Wendy Chapman took herself to Istanbul, Turkey. to celebrate turning 60. After teaching in public schools for 33 years in Melbourne and Seattle, she is retiring to Port Townsend, WA where she plans to write, dance and live a more creative life. She’s travelled the world and looks forward to adventures in places She’s yet to experience and explore. Having this opportunity to meet, spend time, and connect with writers in fascinating Istanbul was a perfect gift to herself.

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An Invitation to Innocence by Yesim Cimcoz Is it possible? To enter a book To turn the pages and capture the sounds Before you’ve even touched the cover Museum of Innocence store

Is it possible? To enter the mind of a writer To take rest in the crowded corridors of his thoughts Before you’ve even read a single line Is it possible? To make love to someone you knew years ago And feel the breeze from an open window on bare skin Before you’ve even met the hero Is it possible? For a window sill and a cup of tea To jump out of the pages You haven’t yet read and invite you in. Is it possible? To look at handwritten lines Above empty pen cartridges And become the crossed-out sentences With a promise of innocence in their bags And oceans between them They walk through the pages of a museum And exit by the wall of Fusun’s cigarette stubs 28


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Found by Yesim Cimcoz It's a simple key chain really: square with a painted map of Washington State on it. There are highways; 82, 90, 5, numbers spoken easily by people who travel these roads everyday. A small tag just above where the chain begins says “Made in China� An ocean away a 90-year-old woman travels 90 minutes every day on her bicycle to a factory where she sits before a machine. Every day thousands of Highway 82's, 90's and 5's pass through her hands, highways she will never see, never travel. A woman in Washington State walks into a store, searching for a trinket. She takes a keychain that says Washington State, buys it and puts it in her suitcase, then sets out to another country across another ocean; arriving in a city that looks like Paris but sounds like India, she gives the key chain to another woman. The other woman sits with the keychain. She listens to it, feels it, touches it and allows it to tell the story it wants to tell. She in turn hands it to another woman in a room full of women with memories, pain, hope, courage and words to weave them. They pass the keychain from hand to hand. Their memories run through the highways 82, 90 and 5 and become a story told. Heavy now with all the world it has travelled, the roads the highways it has seen, empowered with the strength of the women, the keychain comes full circle back. The woman throws her into the Bosphorus. A young girl somewhere in Istanbul sits by the water. She dreams of courage, of words, of stories, of other countries and other hopes, of books. With only her dreams to hold her she sits and prays for a sign. Waves rush to greet her, a gift among their white foam. She reaches and picks up the keychain with a map of Washington State with highways that run through it... 82, 90 and 5. She smiles. Somewhere on Highway 82, a young woman sits in the passenger seat of a car and looks out and the world that passes before her window. Somewhere in her bag is a keychain. 29


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Yesim Cimcoz lives in Istanbul, and teaches writing both online and offline. She also works individually with writers on their larger writing projects, runs the Writing Istanbul Project, which she designed, and teaches a writing therapy course called The Hero’s Journey—Living a Symbolic Life. She has two books on writing published in Turkish and is presently working putting together the Hero’s Journey course into interactive form. She believes that with a pen and piece of paper you can at any time rewrite the story you are living if it doesn’t suit you. www.yesimcimcoz.com/eng

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Love Affair By Marilyn Meyer Today, day seven of my trip to Turkey, was an almost perfect day after the worst of beginnings. Just before midnight the night before, the town had celebrated some unknown festival with shouting, fireworks, followed by extended honking like one twenty-horned salute by honking cars. I had awakened, imagining a fire alarm, prepared to evacuate the hotel, yet the halls were strangely silent. The adrenaline rush combined with a clogged, congested head kept me awake most of the night until I settled into a deep sleep around 5:30 a.m. Unfortunately for me, it lasted until 8:55 with the group leaving at 9:00 a.m. for a group field trip to Pamukkale and the ancient city of Hieropolis, a day long trip. I threw on clothes, splashed water on my face, put in my contacts and dashed down to find the group ready to roll. I grabbed a hardboiled egg from the buffet and hopped on the bus. Turns out it was a three hour ride. The ride reminded me of Eastern Washington with distant mountains, rolling hills, except for the ancient villages, olive orchards in the distance, herds of meandering sheep. As an aside, someone asked the guide why many of the houses had bottles sticking out of their chimneys. The guide said, “We like to tell tourists that it's a sign of a house with an eligible girl. Any young man who wishes to marry her must shoot the bottle and break it first shot to prove both his willingness and his intention. In truth the bottles prevent storks from nesting in the chimneys.” The first stop, a variety store, provided a trip to the WC—outside, past the gas station, around the garage and to the WC building—and a chance to relieve my thirst with freshly squeezed OJ and a cup of Turkish coffee. Variety was provided by the clothing annex, where I purchased a two piece ”bathing dress” for the next stop. Hieropolis, our destination, had been the site of a Roman metropolis. Along the route, we could see what looked like cottoncovered hills—hence the name Pamukkale—which were in fact huge, deposits of limestone. The main attraction of the area were the calcium hot springs which flowed from the snow-colored hills, called terraces. We joined throngs of Turks and tourists with guides directing visitors to take off their shoes before testing the warm, flowing waters. Off in the distance we could see the remains of what had been the auditorium of the ancient city, which seated 22,000 for gladiator adventures. It seemed the Greek citizenry entertained themselves with theatre, poetry and public speeches, the Romans with bloody fights. Yesterday at Ephesus, a German tourist demonstrated the remarkable acoustics with a soliloquy, which we could hear from the top bleachers. 31


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Not to be outdone, Kurt followed with Brutus’ “Friends, Romans, and countrymen…”from Julius Caesar. But the highlight of the trip was the “Antique Pool” built for Cleopatra. Originally a canopy-covered, marble-columned swimming pool, it had been constructed by Mark Anthony for Cleopatra at this site. When medieval earthquakes destroyed the surrounding city, the limestone columns supporting the canopy roof of the pool were buried below.. Today swimmers, taking in the healing waters, can sit on the submerged columns. I had celebrated the purchase of the bathing suit too soon, since I hadn’t first tried it on for size. Dressing in the bathhouse, the navy blue, skirted two-piece suit was a bit too revealing of boobs, thighs, and lower back for this 60-plus mama, so I chose door #2. For 35 Turkish Lira ($18), Sheila, two other members of the group and I were treated with Doctor Fish, not a Jewish podiatrist, but a 20-minute session of sitting on a bench while placing our feet and/or hands in an aquarium stocked with little minnow-sized fish, who nibble the dead skin and leave your feet free from calluses. Kengal Garra Rufa are an indigenous tiny fish of the Kengal region of Turkey, so unfortunately, it’s not an exportable treatment. On our return, at the pit stop at the variety store, the owners allowed me to exchange the bathing suit, no receipt or questions asked, for a locally knitted scarf and three chewy bars. The Turkish equivalent of Lara Bars. My favorites are the sweet carrot nut bars. We returned at around eight for what in Turkey is a very early dinner, since most Turks dine after nine. Tonight at Kurt’s recommendation, we dined at, Edjer, an outdoor village bistro owned and run by a Kurdish family who originally lived near the Turkish Syrian border. When I greeted our waiter, the owner’s son, with, “You are so handsome. I wish I could marry you to one of my daughters,” he answered that he was already married part-time. His Swiss wife, whom he had met on the street of his café, lived in Bern with his two young daughters, including a newborn, whom he lamented, ”I have not touched. I will go in June.” The food, prepared with the classic Turkish elements of greens, eggplant, tomatoes, red peppers, and olive oil, combined with lamb, chicken, local sea bass or bream, was grilled and flavored to incredible succulence. When we asked where we could purchase raki, the owner himself walked us to the corner liquor store, where Kurt and I purchased bottles, then minutes later appeared with a pair of free Yeni Raki goblets, the equivalent of a saloon keeper gifting customers with Compari glasses gratis. After the incredibly splendid meal I returned to my room to find three short-stemmed coral blossoms arranged across my top sheet which was folded like a paper flower. I love Turkey. 32


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Bargain by Marilyn Meyer We spent our last morning in the village of Selcuk. I had vowed to make it a shop free zone, but once again the hospitality and warmth of a Kurdish shopkeeper in town proved irresistible. Unpolished, ornate silver pendants decorated with onyx, turquoise, pearls and flattened silver bangles, hung from three of the walls of his shop. I imagined them as the decorative jeweled phylacteries of favored camels. There were also polished beaded necklaces of translucent gold, green, yellow and brown onyx as well as mounted displays of antique earrings. Many had been part of dowries, but when nomadic families fled to the cities to escape the Iraqi wars, they found themselves having to sell their jewelry. A pair of hand-woven peasant slippers, which hung individually on ropes in the jeweler’s shop, caused me to reconsider my vow. The outside was a coarse red wool, intertwined with primary shades of blue and green. The insides were soft undyed felted wool. I could envision them on the feet of a young goatherd, shepherd, or camel herder of eastern Anatolia. I would have gladly traded those woolen slippers for last week’s purchases of scarves, pillow cases, bowls (maybe not the bowls), and books—in fact almost every item I had purchased, other than my bottle of Yeni Raki. “How much would you sell each of these slippers? They are lovely.” “I would love for you to have them. I will make a very good price. Can you pay $200 for each one? They very special. “I cannot afford that.” “I give you them, because you nice lady, $100 each. “ In the end I kept my vow, almost. Although I purchased a pair of silver and turquoise earrings for 50 TL; the slippers remain a memory of shopping in Turkey.

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Marilyn with a new friend at Edjer Restaurant, Selcuk

Marilyn Meyer is a writing coach, editor, essayist, and occasional poet. Her personal essays, poems, and radio commentary have appeared in numerous publications over the past 35 years. Retired from a career as a high school English teacher and Learning Specialist, she spends her days volunteering as an ESL teacher, literacy tutor, cook, and dog deshedder. The mother of three grown children, Marilyn lives with her dog Gilah in West Seattle.

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Letter from Istanbul by Susan Bono May 14, 2012

Dear Dad, I have the feeling you know I'm here in Istanbul. In my goodbye phone call to Lucius, the last thing he said to me was, "Write if you get work," the way you always did. I think it surprised your grandson to hear your words coming out of his mouth, but now whenever I'm sad that you don't visit in dreams, I can remember you have your ways. Since you know where I am, you know I'm wearing the silver necklace you made for your mother, the one piece of jewelry I never asked you about. Where did you get the slice of agate you used as the back of the pendant? Are those birds perched on its face? It's kind of trendy-looking now, heavy and abstract, but when you presented it to her on Mother’s Day 40 years ago, it startled the entire family. As much as she loved you, I never saw Gumma wear it, and after her death, it languished in Mom’s jewelry box until I rescued it a few years ago. Like many of the things you made, it became dear to me when I knew I was losing you. I often wore it when I visited you in the hospital. Someday I'm sure I'll tell myself I was wearing it when you died, although I don't think that is important. What's important is that I'm wearing it now. Here in this lovely sitting room whose walls are of handmade brick, the sound of trickling water is making itself heard as it did yesterday in the Underground Cistern. There, as I descended yet another set of stone steps, I imagined the pendant was a camera connected to my heart and your eye. That way, we both saw the rows of stone columns standing to their ankles in collected rainwater, the vaulted arches, the way the damp pillars were lit from below. It was a tourist trap, no doubt about it, the kind of place you taught me to love, but it also had an air of grace and mystery, like the churches and concert halls you took us to. As I leaned over the railing, I wasn't surprised to see the floor of the cistern littered with coins. You and Mom taught me the power of pennies for wishing, but I wasn't expecting the fat, pale fish wallowing in the shallow water. They didn't swim so much as roll. They seemed to live the way you do now—in varying degrees of shadow. I pictured the largest` one of them opening its mouth in a rubbery “O” big enough to swallow my necklace. There would be worse places to leave my grief. I miss you, Susan

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Bust of a Roman Woman In a Museum at Ephesus by Susan Bono What color were those eyes and why so sad Did the living woman pose 2,000 years ago imagining her statue’s fate Many of the marble faces here still carry the shock of their broken noses the melancholy of missing body parts This bust is now displayed in a room of headless torsos Over the centuries they’ve all been praised, disdained, buried, unearthed People have been saying, “How lifelike!” for what feels like Eternity

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Susan Bono is a writing teacher and freelance editor who lives in Petaluma, CA. She founded Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative in 1995, when she turned 40, and www.tiny-lights.com, shortly thereafter. When she turned 50, she got chickens. Susan also co-hosts the quarterly Speakeasy reading series, and serves on the boards of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference and Petaluma Readers Theatre. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Sheila Bender’s Writing & Publishing Personal Essays, the St. Petersburg Times, the Petaluma Argus Courier, and Passager Magazine. She’s looking forward to whatever new adventures the writing life has in store for her.

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What I Found by Barbara Spicer

Hagia Sofia is too large and too crowded. Some of the tour guides are too loud. Almost all of them are too quick. There are no silent spaces, but there are open windows. Dark strips of Windows in the Hagia Sofia wood frame square panes of glass that jut into the overloud cathedral-turned- mosque-turned-museum. These openings are possibilities. Birds are free to fly in. Spirits are free to fly out. There is open air and silence and unroofed space just beyond this spot where I stand with my camera, framing the frames, reminding myself that I can walk away. I can move freely from here to there. No one will stop me. I am not obliged to listen to anyone’s explanation of what this moment means. I do not have to stand still for stories that have been told too many times. There are other stories to hear on the street, in the cafes, beside the water, just the other side of those open windows. I came here for the windows and doors and stones and tables of food. I came here for the silence of living in a sea of foreign words. I came here to wander. I came here to escape what is familiar and settled. I can taste the stories in the soup. I can sip the history in the tea. I can see this world through the wide open windows and half-opened doors. I can write myself into it and away again. I can hear the echoes of what this means in the words others read and in their laughter. I can feel it in the warmth of their touch. I can see it in the wonder in their eyes as they look through the windows and walk through the doors and touch the stones with their tired feet. We are explorers, and the windows are open.

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What I Left Behind by Barbara Spicer. I brought a eucalyptus button from my ranch. They attract me like stones or shells or bits of broken glass or feathers—must be the magpie in me. They are easy to find and should be easy to set aside, but I haven’t done the deed. The act does not matter to me. What does matter? Transforming myself from the stone that sheds experience to the sponge that soaks it up. I want to do less sloughing and more absorbing. What does that have to do with a five-pointed eucalyptus button that is still nestled in my pink pouch? The seeds are long gone from the button’s hollows so there is no danger of inflicting a eucalyptus tree on an unsuspecting Istanbul. The gift would be harmless. But how do I know? How often do even well-meaning gifts hurt hearts, trouble minds, unsettle souls? Since I stole the button from the bowl that my super-sized cat, Paws, uses as his toy box, it might be most appropriate to leave it on the sill of Alayli’s window for their cat, Yamuk, to find. Would a city cat take much pleasure in such a rural plaything or does Yamuk pounce on more sophisticated objects of desire? Perhaps he only plays with little live things, catching the unsuspecting country mouse easily while the city mouse skitters away. Am I a country mouse, too quiet and solitary for these city streets? Will I reach my limit of noise and close bodies and quick conversations and walled vistas and hard paths and windows and doors and hooded crows before it is time to leave? And when I leave, what will I leave behind besides a single, seedless eucalyptus button—a cat’s brief bauble? And what will I take with me apart from what I brought? Words scattered in three different notebooks, images of moments, a craving for dolmas that are tender, a fondness for apple tea, scraps of other people’s stories, photographs of strangers’ lives, a book of folk tales, a stone I plucked from the cobbled street outside Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence, the possibility of friendships, and friendships affirmed.

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Barbara and her daughter, Cat, on her visit to Beirut later in her trip

Barbara Spicer is a mother (still), bookseller, storyteller, journal keeper, walker, country dweller, a solitary soul with admirable friends. She spent the first half of her life moving from one place to another (22 bedrooms in 21 homes in 13 towns in 5 states in 2 countries in 28 years) and is happy to have spent the last 24 years in the same place. She reads herself to sleep each night and writes herself awake in the morning.

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Letter To My Daughter Emily from Istanbul on Mother’s Day by Sheila Bender My feet on an antique kilim, I write to you thinking of the Christian mosaics in the Hagia Sophia, how on one wall they are partly revealed beneath Islamic frescos painted to cover them when the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottomans. Amidst our arrivals and our departures, between lire coins and tram passes and food we order with names new to our tongues, I remember that in life all of us are both hidden and revealed, both essence and clutter, at times hungry, at other times sated. When we visited the nearby Underground Cistern built for New Rome we walked its length to two marble blocks with carvings of Medusa’s head underground now as bases of pillars because the Emperor Justinian did not want pagan reminders; still the stone made good blocks for construction. One Medusa’s head is installed sideways under the column she holds up; the other is upside down. At the entrance, we saw the Weeping Pillar, a marble column with a worry hole. Visitors are invited to put their thumb inside and rotate it to wipe the smooth marble, to make a wish. And I did, just as we did in Japan at Kiyomizu Temple when you were studying at university, its ladles of three waters to drink from, for longevity, love, success at school. Tonight when I cannot sleep among the city’s motorcycles and calls to prayer, I will pretend Medusa is winking at me, standing on her head, never tired even after centuries holding up pillars, the snakes of her hair but yarn for spinning the wool of a strong and double-knotted rug, like the one I bought today. It comes from Kayseri, 10 hours by bus from this city, a traveler like we are, holding a girl's story of wishes. You, my daughter, are my wishes, and in my love for you I am revealed and I am sated. Love, Mom 41


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After Olives, Cheese and Coffee by Sheila Bender An old man sits at his table of fountain pens and magnifying glasses, the antique flame maker—rub a stone against metal and heat, then light. He collects the decades at this table. How does he do it, make those years disappear, come again into our hands? How will we remember you, Istanbul, city of women in alleyways chopping wood for cooking stoves, men outside the restrooms collecting entrance lire, cobblestone climbs, cafes under grapevines, blossoms of black pepper trees, city of sunshine, of pickle juice, of sweets for birth, and for death, decades upon decades until fruits of centuries sit on an old man’s table, ride in our satchels transforming home.

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Sheila with Doctor Fish, Pamukkale

Sheila Bender founded www.writingitreal.com in 2002 with her husband Kurt Vandersluis to foster those who write from personal experience in poetry, personal essay, memoir and short fiction. Her latest books include Creative Writing DeMystified, Writing and Publishing Personal Essays, A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief, and a forthcoming volume of poetry, Behind Us the Way Grows Wider. She hopes to lead more writers' conferences to exotic locations both in the US and abroad. There is nothing better, she believes, than being in the presence of those who love writing and the writing life.

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Writing Istanbul  

An anthology created in May 2012 by writers traveling to Istanbul, Turkey, with Sheila Bender, Susan Bono and Yesim Cimcoz.