From Travel Guides to a Poetic Travel Memoir
I write travel guides about the Bodrum Peninsula, and built a popular travel blog on the same topic. I’ve taken a break from writing travel guides to create “Turkey Tales: A Bodrum Travel Memoir in Verse”, which is a collection of poems about people we’ve encountered on our cultural journey, and the experiences that have coloured our memories since relocating to Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula.
Our plan of moving to Turkey full-time finally fell into place on the 16th year of intention! (Good things come to those who wait. Finally!). So, in honour of this time-frame, my first poetry collection features sixteen poems.
A few of these poems were written before we made our move from Los Angeles to Turkey, and have been lingering in notebooks waiting for their moment in the spotlight.
“My Thoughts for a Penny” was written at the point earlier this year when I decided to write and publish my first poetry book, so it has been sequestered on its own. The rest of the poems were written in situ here on the Bodrum Peninsula.
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Here’s the Foreword by author Jack Scott:
Eleanor Roosevelt once famously said, “The purpose of life is to taste experience to the utmost.”
I can think of no-one who has adopted this approach more energetically than Jay Artale, prolific blogger, writer, photographer, serial traveller and proud Turkophile. As ‘Roving Jay’ she bounds around the Bodrum Peninsula on our behalf and has produced two definitive and impressively detailed travel guides on the area; she has launched her evergreen blog, The Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide, plugging us into the beating heart of Bodrum and its hinterland; she has shared her dazzling portfolio of photographs, capturing the colour and intricacies of Turkish life; and now we have a collection of her poetry – something she describes, modestly, as an ‘interlude’.
When I first met Jay in 2013, she was on a brief pilgrimage from her base in LA to the Norfolk flatlands of her birth. It was a whirlwind visit in more ways than one, and from the outset, her thirst for life – and for Turkey – was obvious.
Like many people around the world, Jay was pining for a different way of living and she had her sights firmly set on Bodrum on the southwest coast of Turkey. It was a yearning I knew all too well. Several years earlier, I had jettisoned London life for an uncertain future in Turkey. Now Jay has made the same life-altering leap, and judging by this unique collection of poems, she has chucked herself in with her usual drive and aplomb.
That ‘yearning for a change’ theme opens this collection – with the reflective and double-edged Turkish Coffee is my Cup of Tea. It will resonate with anyone who has regularly holidayed in Turkey: people watching and sipping tea or coffee at a Belediye café is pretty much synonymous with Turkish life, something picked up later with “Tulip cups with steaming tea,” in Forget Me Not. And that, in many ways, is the allure of Turkey. Approached in the right way, it offers expats an opportunity to carve out a simpler, if hugely stimulating, way of life. As we hear in Moving to Turkey, “All that clutter… anchored us down,” and “How many shoes does one girl need?” Quite.
Jay leads us through the whole gamut of feelings anyone who has pitched their tent in Turkey will recognise. We get the reality check of Our First Winter (“Rising damp, mould on the ceilings, and regular power cuts,”), the sea views of Enjoy the Dance (“skies that fall into the sea,”) and everything in between. But what makes this every bit a book from Jay Artale is her acute power of observation, particularly when it comes to Gümüşlük, her local village. Here we get “A tiny mosque and a barber’s chair,” in A Quiet Place to Write in Gümüşlük, and “draping rods with ekmek bait,” and “eyebrows twitch at harbour boats,” in Gümüşlük’s Fishermen.
She’s not afraid to say it as it is either, describing her pores as she hikes in the hills above Bodrum as “working hard like Patpong whores”. There is even a less than oblique reference to my own Bodrum legacy lingering “like a fart.” Ahem.
In Hiking Muse and Porn Star we get some witty and well-drawn pen pictures of fellow expats, and in Am I Alien? we see the first signs of cultural friction (“Why do you stare?”), something anyone with even a passing acquaintance with Turkey will recognise.
To say I was surprised when Jay told me about her poetry is a bit of an understatement. And that’s what makes her such an interesting person to know. She is full of surprises.
Jack Scott, Author