Poet Maya Herman Sekulic’s Epic Poetica Raises Awareness

Mesut Şenol

Lecturer at the Communications Faculty of Bahçeşehir University (Istanbul), Author, Poet, Translator & the Executive Board Member of the Three Seas Writers and Translators Center


Poet Maya Herman Sekulic’s Epic Poetica Raises Awareness

Abstract

Mehut Senol
In human civilized history, there have always been women figures who proved and asserted themselves against the backdrop of the majority of the cases where women were on a lower status or repressed. Dr. Maja Herman Sekulic thinks and feels that she is very much connected and associated with Old Europe’s Moon-White-Death Goddess as the embodiment of the whole cycle from birth to death and rebirth. In “Lady of Vincha”, the lines give us a sense of a narration bridging those mythical stories to us. Do women possess some divine and omnipotent capabilities or are they so deeply visionary human beings that they cause good and bad? Since the Moon-White-Death Goddess can control all the cycles of life, it is worthwhile to listen to the voice of an extremely intuitive and perceptive poet, - as it is her claim that true poets are always women -. We can readily see in Maja Herman Seculic’s poetica both a spiritual and legendary formula to give us a sense of the old days’ myth when women were much more potent leading figures. And her poetry certainly makes us question who we are and what we should do to correct the wrongs in today’s constantly changing, and unfortunately in many ways unjust, societies.

KEY WORDS: woman poets, spiritual leaders, poetry, awareness.



Poet Maya Herman Sekulic’s Epic Poetica Raises Awareness

Introduction

Today we have an abundance of distorted and biased knowledge about our past depending on who wrote our history books and how things were characterized. Up until modern times, the perceptions, thinking, attitudes and actions about ourselves and others have been influenced by those of embedded clichés and stereotypes. “These clichés and stereotypes – whether they are positive or negative, true or untrue – fundamentally affect our behavior towards other places and their people and products.” (Anholt, Competitive Identity: 1)

Actually literature is one of the ways to overcome these clichés and stereotypes. A celebrated author, musician and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Zülfü Livaneli asserts his views on this subject:
         
Literature treats people solely on the basis of their being “human”, separating them from symbols such as religion, nationality, uniform and flag. An example I admire is A Journey to Arzrum (Erzurum) by Alexander Pushkin. The great poet travelling with the Russian army fighting against the Ottomans and gaining some land in the Eastern Anatolia. One cannot find in any sentence of the poet any hidden prejudice whatsoever that conveys concepts of militarism or friend-or-foe. He speaks of both the Russians he belongs to and the “enemy” Turks with the same clean-hearted approach. (Livaneli, Rosetta Literatura 02: 9)

What kind of womanhood saga is embedded in the history of humankind? Have women had their time of enlightenment, power and recognition superior to men? This is obviously all about the journey of men and women together and their interdependence or proportionate power sharing relationship, and an equilibrium established according to their given societies in certain periods of time.

Poet Maya Herman Sekulic’s epic poetry raises an awareness in the recognition of the leading women figures in European history – be they poets, warriors, commanders, administrators, scientists, philosophers, artists, magicians and other public personalities. Poet Sekulic’s being vocal about her mythical thesis adaptable to modern times in terms of its spiritual validity, is something that should resonate strongly among contemporary poetry circles in the world. Actually in every corner of the world, humanity has witnessed such legendary women’s existence and their imprints in true history which is not always written the way we have known.


Gender Issues

Gender issues play a huge role in growing our own biased opinions towards the expected personality traits of men and women throughout the centuries. This unnatural formation of personality in boys and girls, pathetically though, have been causing many women to nurture an obsession which could alienate them from their own valuable potent common humane qualities and womanhood. In other words, they fall into the so-called beauty trap given the conditioning environment in their respected communities.

Extensive records show that the use of beauty aids in ancient Rome rivals that of contemporary women. Wealthy Roman women spent hours being primped and painted by their slaves. Although their clothing was loose and they did not corset their bodies, they used vast quantities of scents and cosmetics. Some women even used a different perfume for each portion of their bodies. (Baker, The Beauty Trap: 16)

There is a very strong correlation between the way women dressed and the degree they were being repressed in their social environment. Through their struggle women, in time, have gained a relatively equal footing and freedom in dressing now in comparison with their male counterparts.

During Elizabethan times, women were extremely repressed socially, which was reflected in their wearing of restrictive corseting and broad skirts and their exaggerated concern with their hairdos and toiletries… In the eighteenth century, tremendous technological advances made fabric easier to manufacture and dye, and an age of elegance was born. But women were still restricted politically and socially, and their clothing reflected their social status. (Baker, The Beauty Trap: 17)

And there are somewhat heroic and tragic stories of the women who were able to capture the imagination of certain generations in history. One of the recent historical figures to analyze is Marilyn Monroe who has been considered a matchless beauty as well as a dumb blonde. However, when you investigate her life, you may find how clever and capable, how brave a woman she was, although she was suffering some psychological problems. Here you have a renowned Slovak playwright Milan Richter’s words:

Who was Norma Jeane really and who was Marilyn Monroe? A promiscuous, uneducated girl yearning for an acting and modeling career? Was she a woman of unique beauty and sex appeal that no man could resist? Was she an orphan longing for her father’s love? A wife and a lover demanding absolute love and devotion from her partner? A woman yearning to have babies whom she could give a happy childhood? Was she an actress wishing to play in a Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky drama? (Richter, Marilyn Monroe’s Short Unhappy Life: 20)

Another sad story comes out into the light by the Irish novelist, Sebastian Barry, and his novel called “Secret Scripture” where an old woman in a mental hospital writes about an ordeal she had gone through in the last century’s extremely conservative Ireland. Literary critic Joseph O’Conner writes:

Roseanne McNulty, forgotten centenarian, long-time resident of the Roscommon regional mental hospital, is facing an imminent upheaval. The decrepit Victorian institution is soon to be demolished, leaving its residents displaced in a starkly changed modern Ireland that has all but buried its violent origins. Attempting to organize her memories, some reliable, others shifting, she embarks on the writing of a chronicle. (theguardian.com/books/2008/may/24/fiction1)

Men and Women – Discussion on Natural Difference from Sociological and
Political Psychological Points of Views

In scientific circles, debate continues to reveal the difference between men and women in many respects. Even in sociology though, there are theories opposing or supporting the natural difference approach.

How far are the behaviour and communicative practices of women and men the result of biological differences? Some scientists hold that aspects of human biology, ranging from hormones to chromosomes to brain size to genetics, are responsible for innate differences in behaviour between men and women. These differences, they claim, can be seen across all cultures, suggesting that natural factors produce gender inequalities in society. For example, evolutionary psychology draws attention to the fact that, in almost all cultures, men rather than women take part in hunting and warfare. Surely, this indicates that men possess biologically based tendencies towards aggression that women lack? Sociologists remain unconvinced by these arguments, which tend to be reductionist – reducing complex human activities and social relations to a single biological ‘cause’. Anthropological and historical evidence on human behaviour actually reveals much variation over time and place. Because a trait is more or less universal, it does not follow that it is biological in origin; there may be cultural factors of a general kind that produce such characteristics. (Giddens & Sutton, Sociology: 624)

When in group, social and psychological settings, individuals may act in a conformist way to go along with their group norms or actions even to a degree leading to massacres and killings. This also provides an explanation why historically and socially woman intellectuals and leaders have been repressed and seen as second class people in their societies.

Many of the ethnic conflicts that occurred in the post–Cold War era have
been shockingly brutal and can devolve into genocide. How can violence become so severe? These are situations in which the group perceives an intense threat, which, in turn, increases cohesion; dehumanization of other groups; deindividuation, so people see the group as responsible for events, not their own actions as individuals; and strong pressures for conformity and unanimity in the face of threat. The emotions emanating from ethnic out-group stereotypes are often extremely powerful. They
can change from simmering bitterness and resentment to rage and hatred toward other ethnic groups when underlying conflicts increase in intensity. (Cottam and et. al., Introduction to Political Psychology: 259)

Some Mythological Context

As it is evident in Maya Herman Sekulic’s OPUS, the European women had their heydays in European history. Let us see how it was in the Black Sea Region of Anatolia as far as powerful women lived—known as Amazons, are concerned:

The Amazons are the legendary people of this region. The Amazons, who are thought to be the warrior women living between Giresun and Samsun, from the accounts of the legends, had come to help Trojans during Trojan War against Achaeans to defend Anatolia. This is so because again according to the legends, Aphrodite who was considered the mother of the Amazons is from Troy. Even it is cited that Penthesileia, the queen of the Amazons, fights with Achilles one to one. She would not be recognized as a woman in her armor. Through trickery Achilles manages to wound her, and when he takes off her armor he falls in love with her, but it would be too late to do anything.  She dies in the hands of Achilles. Who can claim that the queen of the Amazons is not our country-women? (Dizman, Second International Ordu Festival of Literature: 196)

Another historical woman figure is Hypatia. She was in her time a very influential and respected woman. 

Hypatia (born c. 355 CE—died March 415, Alexandria), mathematicianastronomer, and philosopher who lived in a very turbulent era in Alexandria’s history, was in her time, the world’s leading mathematician and astronomer, the only woman for whom such a claim can be made. She was also a popular teacher and lecturer on philosophical topics of a less-specialist nature, attracting many loyal students and large audiences. Her philosophy was Neoplatonist and was thus seen as “pagan” at a time of bitter religious conflict between Christians (both orthodox and “heretical”), Jews, and pagans. (www.britannica.com/biography/Hypatia)

In human civilized history, there have always been women figures who proved and asserted themselves be it in political, social, cultural or intellectual life spheres.

Maya Herman Sekulic’ Modern Mission to Raise Awareness
about the Modern Women’s Place in Society

Maya Herman Sekulic revisits its roots to create an awareness in her inner self as well as in others’ conscience via her poetry she uses as a powerful weapon.

She takes her grand and divine muse from the Goddess of Birth, Death and Beauty which also refers to the embodiment of womanly qualities, so to speak. She talks about some forgotten women powers not recognized properly in our modern times. She thinks we lost the good memory of what capabilities women used to have as leaders, healers, warriors, survivors and saviors of their communities. Being in true harmony with nature, revering the moon instead of making it a mere satellite of the Earth, Maya sees the poet as the truth-teller as Goethe does. And her poetry collection entitled Lady of Vincha, is not only a culturally and intellectually relevant to her philosophy and mission she has taken for the rest of her life, but also a very close acquaintance to her soul since there is a link between Lady of Vincha and her ancestral lines. This fact makes her a genuine activist of her own cause to promote symbolism of the first truth telling person, and through her, the heritage of Old Europe giving wise women a very special place and prominence.

Vincha’s script and other archaic, ancient writings are testimony to old and extraordinary wisdom and spirited poetic expression the world should be aware of and recognize fully. The aim had been to create a harmony between nature and humankind, and women are best suited to lead the way. The influential role of women was not limited to Europe as Maya Herman Sekulic indicates. It was even more the case in those ancient civilizations in Africa, Asia and Americas.

I would like to share here with you a part of Maya Herman Sekulic’s long poem called Lady of Vincha, to me a meaningful representation of her powerful poetica:
……
At the edge of meadow, in the chaos of stones,
Hidden from views by high blades of grass
She lays naked shameless, fearless,
She has a nice name – Freedom,
She became Mother and Mistress
Of life and death, of fertility – Goddess.

The Goddess of Moon, he loved her
Lips, her small feet, he kissed,
He sculpted her in clay, in stone,
With those big eyes, masked,
Omniscient, omnipresent – Vidovdanka
 “Not of this world”, in owe he prayed.

She was his, mine – Maya, our Proto Mother,
Lady of Vincha, of Divostima, of Danube,
Bent arm over her heart, in prayer, in spite,
Painted black and red to stand out among equals,
The mistress blessed of a Thousand-year Empire,
From Mura to the south of Vardar river,
peaceful and fair as in fairy tale.
Still, when he would hear her cry
He would take her in his arms, her with wide hips,
And he would kiss her eyes, he with those wide shoulders,
Her eyes otherworldly, scary, passionate,
Illuminated under moonlight,
He would kiss her white face, her white thighs.

…. (Sekulic, Lady of Vincha: 21)

Conclusion

With her credentials and living in both the US and Serbia, Maya Herman Sekulic has elevated herself to a level of becoming the first internationally recognized woman poet in Serbian literary circles in her particular position. To make sense of current social and political relationships in a given society, some of the most revealing indicators have to do with the intellectual personality figures and their composition. So, Maya Herman Sekulic proves to be a woman poet now embraced in her beloved country and a scientific conference on Maja Herman Sekulić’s Contribution to Scientific Research, Literary and Translation Studies organized by the Faculty of Foreign Languages, Alfa BK University in Belgrade.

Since she is listed in the official history of Serbian literature, since she has produced numerous literary works in different genres, in different languages, and also since she provided so many literary translations into various languages, Maya Herman Sekulic deserves to be recognized as one of the leading literary figures to create a more inducing and encouraging psychological environment to make more Serbian woman litterateurs come forward. I think Maya Herman Sekulic’s advocacy on Old European Culture and the Role of Women in Today’s World shall be understood widely in time throughout European countries if not in the whole world.

List of References

- Anholy S. (2007). Competitive Identity. London, Palgrave Macmillan
- Baker N. (1984). Beauty Trap, New York, Toronto, Franklin Watts
- Cottam M. et. al. (2016). Introduction to Political Psychology, New Yourk & London, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group
- Dizman I. (2011). Revisiting Ordu’s Distant History, Second International Ordu Festival of Literature Book, Ordu, Alametifarika
- Giddens A. & Sutton P.  (2013).  Sociology, Cambridge UK & Malden USA, Polity Press
- Livaneli Z. (March 2013), Goethe’s Dream, Rosetta 02, Istanbul, p. 9
- Richter M. (2015), Marilyn Monroe’s Short Unhappy Life), Istanbul, Opus
- Sekulic M. (2017). Lady of Vincha, Belgrade, Pesic & Sinovi,
- O’Conner J. (24 May, 2008), The Secret Scripture, Retrieved on 22 January 2018,  theguardian.com/books/2008/may/24/fiction1  
- Encyclopeadia Britannica (online), britannica.com/biography/Hypatia

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