Dear Readers,

As the Helezon magazine, we are starting a new project called “Five Continents, Five Poets” with the March issue. Our project includes interviews with poets from five continents of the world. Over the next months we plan to continue the interviews, the first of which will be published this month. With this project, we hope to contribute to the world of literature and art by reflecting the universal face of literature, which is the mission of our journal, by keeping a mirror to the subtleties of art and by bringing together rich accumulations. On this occasion, while we get to know a new poet every month within the framework of the project, we will also have the opportunity to read today’s poetry world from their perspectives of feelings and thoughts.

Within the scope of the “Five Continents, Five Poets Project”, the guest of the March issue of our magazine is Romanian poet Ilinca BERNEA.


“Ilinca Bernea is novelist and poet, she also wrote theater plays and film scripts. She has a PhD in Philosophy. She is also a visual artist with participations in national and international exhibitions and a Romanian Writers Union prize winner. She taught seminaries and  kept ateliers for students from various Universities of Bucharest.  She is specialized in the field of art theory and curatorship, being art reviewer and critic for Liternet Magazine. She keeps a permanent poetry column for the same publication. She directed, as an independent artist, various poetry and theater performances, played by professional performers. She was also awarded a prize for literature by Convorbiri Literare in 2017.

Among the literary publications we mention:

The novel Your name and other heresies / Numele tău și alte erezii (2017), the Polirom publishing house.

The novel The Black Box/ Cutia Neagră (2015), Timpul publishing house, Iaşi.

The novel Androginous Legends / Legende Androgine (2004), Cartea Românească publishing house

The volume of prose Love in Straight Jacket / Iubiri în cămașa de forță (2003), Cartea Românească publishing house.

The volume of lyrics Erotic Stone / Piatra Erotica (2003), Vinea publishing house. “

Dear Ilinca Bernea,

First of all, we would like to thank you for agreeing to an interview with us as part of the “Five Continents, Five Poets Project”, which we started as the Helezon magazine. Now, I would like to start our interview with the following question:

Seher Sağlam: When did you start writing poetry? How have your favorite poets influenced you?

Ilinca Bernea: I started very early. I think I wrote my first poem when I was twelve. I was very impressed at the time with modern poetry, with white verse, but I was also attracted by fixed forms: sonnets, rhymes …  I wrote a gloss in high school. Constanța Buzea combined the modern spirit with the classical form, her sonnets were amazing. She was the first poet I was drawn to and I had the chance to meet her and be close to her. Over the years I loved and was captivated by many others. Obviously, at first it was nothing original. All I did were variations and style exercises on given forms. At that age, in adolescence, you can only be vaguely personal. Your poetry is too related to reading and to cultural content because you don’t know anything about life yet. You didn’t get to have your own experiences.

My favorite poet is Shakespeare. I also translated a good part of his sonnets into Romanian. Among my compatriots, I am most resonant with Matei Vișniec, Traian T. Coșovei and Ruxandra Cesereanu. I am reading with much pleasure and emotion: Gellu Naum, Petru Creția, Angela Furtună, Ion Mureșan, Mariana Marin, Bogdan Ghiu, Dan Coman, Violeta Pintea, Iulia Pană, Ciprian Măceșaru, Dan Sociu. There are a lot of them, actually, these are the first names that came through my mind. The Turkish poets closest to my soul are Ataol Behramoğlu and Nilgün Marmara. But I am also thrilled by the lyrics of  Can Yücel and Efe Duyan, a poets who belong to my generation.  I like Pablo Neruda and a contemporary poet from Baghdad, actually living in the USA: Dunya Mikhail. I much appreciate the modern Japanese poet Ryūichi Tamura and a Chinese poet named Sun Wenbo, a Nigerian: Chris Abani.  I also have a sensible bent towards the poetry of  Nizar Qabbani and Forugh Farrokhzad, the famous Iranian poet. And last but not least, a good friend of mine, contemporary English poet: Sam Brenton.

S.S: Is there something that you draw inspiration from when writing poetry or that you consider indispensable? Are you looking for inspiration or does inspiration find you? In other words, what is your source of inspiration when writing poetry? For example, do you prepare an environment while writing your poetry?

I.B: Indispensable? I do not know. The sources of inspiration vary a lot … they are never the same. My poetry has a philosophical stake, so the theme can be inspired by anything from love to human stupidity. I write wherever and whenever I feel like. When I walk a lot, especially in the summer days I like to wander, I have a notebook with me. If I have a sudden flash, I stop at a bench on the street and write.

S.S: You were born in Romania. You spent some time in England. How does this situation affect your poems?

I.B: Those were my best years. I lived there my great love story… I mean the true passion: mad desire, deep feelings and longing, the whole package. Of course this radically changed, not only my poetry, but my whole way of seeing existence. Love, when it’s mutual, is always an epiphany.

S.S: As far as I know, you can read and write in three languages.  Multilingualism undoubtedly gives your works more richness and diversity. What would like you to say about this topic?

I.B: French is my second mother tongue and I am fluent in English, indeed. I am also a translator of poetry from English. I perceive myself as having different styles in each language. And not slightly different. It’s not only a matter of vocabulary, I mean. The language is organically connected to a certain type of sensibility, there is a “genius” of each. I have a different humor in French than in Romanian and I certainly have more humor in English. Besides I am less synthetic in Romanian.  Latin people like chatting a lot. They love extending and expanding the subjects. My poetry is coined for Romanian, for sure. When I translate it in English the result is, basically, another poem. 

S.S: Is a good poet also a good reader of poetry? What are the subtleties of reading poetry?

I.B: Somehow, inevitably. Artists, I think, have an deficiency of aesthetic emotion, as some have a glucose or serotonin deficiency, calcium or iron deficiency. They are addicted to a kind of inner burning that only poetry, art, or love can give. We are talking here about a type of intimate need … Of course, the appetite for knowledge or for understanding, for communication also produces an analogous “syndrome”. The relationship with art is not a choice, it is not leisure, but a kind of fever, a pressure, almost compulsive… Contact with poetry and various other sources of beauty for me is a vital necessity.

S.S: What do you think is the way to capture universal language and themes in poetry? For example, how effective is poetry in terms of freedom and human rights?

I.B: I don’t know what to say. From a certain perspective any subject could be political. In a society like the postmodern, consumerist ones, which are so pragmatic, cynical and ego-oriented, writing about romantic love or traditional values could be a humanist protest, with political implications. Every public speech and everything we express in a way that is intended for a wide audience could have political consequences. There is always a social and cultural mainstream. I think that good artists are somehow subversive, in their works, they oppose, more or less obviously, the dominant discourse or values or criticize them or at least disagree with some of them to some extent. In the world in which I live, the dominant discourse is already configured in humanist terms. Apparently, at least. The paradigm of postmodernism is mainstream. It has its excesses and abusive approaches and views, as any others. As an artist I embrace a philosophy, for sure. I stand  for what I do cherish and is about to disappear in our times, for endangered values.

There are of course some social issues that concern me in the highest degree. There are few monsters that my poetry faces: poverty, human trafficking, social isolation and marginalization, rejection, solitude, abusive behaviors, the hidden or evident misery of the metropolitan life.

S.S: Every poem has a story, even if it is small. *96Do you have a poem whose story you can’t forget? Can you share with us?

I.B: I believe, like ancient Greeks that poetry is not necessarily words related, that it is the core of all the arts. It is the “deep essence” of an aesthetic experience. So, to me, poetry is rather a state of grace that can shape words or movements or gestures or smiles, exchanges of gazes. Poetry is not only a textual matter, for sure. Even  body language has its stories and its associated poetry for someone who has eyes to notice it. My poetic texts are sometimes connected to a life story, some other times to philosophical insights. 

I remember every single plot in the background of every single poem I ever wrote.   

S.S: You write not only poetry; at the same time, you write works such as novels and plays. You’ve also won awards for some of your work in these genres. What types of literature are you interested in besides poetry?

I.B: I am mostly interested in life. I consider myself an existentialist. Literature is a secondary way of exploring life. I love the 20th century literature more. The writers that I appreciate are all great humanists and existentialists: Albert Camus, Marguerite Yourcenar, Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Stanislaw Lem, Andre Malraux, Aleksandr Isaievici Soljenițîn, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Thomas Mann, Heinrich Boll, Marguerite Duras, Jorge Luis Borges, Vladimir Nabokov, Italo Calvino, Milan Kundera, Danilo Kis. From the 21th century my very favorite is, by far, Orhan Pamuk. 

I appreciate many genres: from Science Fiction to war drama or travel diaries… But the most I read and write philosophy. This is my academic training. 

S.S: As we come to the end of our questions, what are your suggestions for those who are interested in poetry, reading poetry, and especially writing and wanting to write poetry?

I.B: I usually avoid giving advices because I dislike to be advised. 

S.S: Thank you for giving us your precious time as Helezon magazine.

I.B: I thank you too.




A Poem by Ilinca Bernea

Don’t forget to buy bread

When I was a child and I studied piano

I always heard a voice in my head

“Don’t forget to buy bread”

“do not forget”

Until I gave up the instrument

and started writing

It didn’t spare me.

As I sat on the stool as it began.

I wrote what I wrote and it started again

Now what do you want from me?

I would slap it in the face

but it’s a voice

No matter how annoying would be

voices cannot be grabbed by the collar

an thrown out in the street.

I bought bread for an entire neighborhood

I kept buying bread

and it doesn’t leave me alone.

As I sit at the desk

It starts again: see? you always forget to buy bread

Yes, you’re right, bloody voice

I’m a loser

an unbearable one

I have an ugly and lazy character

I am capricious and passionate

I had a difficult teenage

and an even more terrible youth

leave me alone

I’ve only been eating raw vegetables for ten years

I also quit smoking a long time ago

and music

I don’t even write seriously

I’m just pretending

like when I was a kid

and I was imitating handwriting

putting down on paper lines and curves without meaning

Even now my words make no sense

You know I do nothing else but to carry

crates full of bread

as high as the church walls

and I have no one to feed