August 9, 2023

About Anita Sezgener 

By Dalia Kandiyoti & Nesi Altaras

Anita Sezgener’s trajectory as a writer has been neither conventional nor linear. Born in Istanbul in 1971 and raised in a multilingual Sephardi Jewish family, Anita attended a prestigious English-immersion public school and moved to Israel in her early twenties. After living on a kibbutz and elsewhere in the country for two years, she happily returned to Istanbul. She kept notebooks of her writing, known only to her friends, and did not publish poetry until later in her adulthood. Once her work saw the light of day, there was no stopping: to date, she has nine books to her name, each volume quite different from the previous one, while at the same time, each volume explores new formations in Turkish poetry. In these works, Sezgener blurs the boundaries between theory and poetry, the local and the foreign, authorship and daily life, visual art and writing. 

After a stint in art direction, followed by work as a coordinator for Amargi, a well-known Turkish feminist organization that advocates for the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people in Turkey, Sezgener launched a literature and art zine in 2008 called Cin Ayşe. She has called the zine a “visibility project for women.” The collection of monthly writing invites and centers feminist, queer, and ecocritical voices, providing a breath of fresh air in a Turkish literary scene dominated by straight male authors and critics. By gathering such work on the zine’s pages, Sezgener helped create a welcoming space for many artists. The project also made Sezgener herself more visible in the public eye, a situation that neither her education nor her family had prepared her for. As a member of a minority group, she had been raised to fear the larger world (“a minefield,” in her words). Sezgener had learned the code of kayadez—silence and quietism—early on in life; the antisemitism she experienced at school only confirmed the warnings of her family. As an adult, Sezgener has become disengaged from the Jewish community. In other milieus too, belonging has been problematic for Sezgener at times. In the literary world, her melding of international and local influences, and her own uncommon poetic language, has met some resistance; her work has been accused of not being rooted enough in the Turkish poetic tradition. By now, she has said, the sense of outsiderness is familiar, internalized.

At the same time, Sezgener has found success and increasing renown through her work at Cin Ayşe, as well as becoming a key member of a close-knit circle of like-minded poets and critics involved in Moero Fanzin, another poetry zine that she co-edits. Together, they support each other’s work and collaborate on projects in a feminist spirit of solidarity. Sezgener’s books include: early works of “closed” (opaque or abstract) poetry; Pusu Bilici (Ambush Finder; 2008, represented in this folio); followed by Hafif Zehirler (Light Poisons; 2012) and Normalia (2014), on the discontents of family, with reference to Jewish textual traditions; Aritmi Koridoru (Corridor of Arrythmia; 2020), a collection of original refractions from a vast gallery of authors and thinkers; and other volumes including the “antepartum postpartum book” Nabız Kayıt (Pulse Record; 2020, represented in this folio); and even an illustrated collaboration with her young daughter, İpi Atmış, Gölü Çekmiş (Alina söyledi Anita çizdi), published in English as She Threw the Rope, Pulled the Lake (2021).