Artist Spotlight: Dila Toplusoy
Dila Toplusoy is a writer and poet. We got to chat to Dila about her life, work and inspirations. Dila has also submitted 2 of her poems and a flash fiction story to go alongside her interview.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and your work?
I am a 26-year-old writer/poet based in Istanbul, Turkey. I graduated from University of the Arts London with a First-Class Honours BA degree in Media and Cultural Studies (now renamed as Contemporary Media Cultures) and went on to study Art & Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art for a semester. During and after my studies I have worked at several leading arts and culture organisations, gaining experience in various positions such as Community Lead, Project Assistant/Translator and Membership Representative. Currently, I am in the process of pursuing my childhood passion for writing and working on my healing poetry project in Turkish, as well as some collaborative projects that I am quite excited about. My writing revolves around the themes of our common humanity, inner/outer relationships, mindful and compassionate living, modern and contemporary art and culture, literature and nature… My work has appeared in several publications and platforms including Coronaverses Collective, The Story Seed, Any Segment Magazine and The Bower Monologues.
What inspires you?
Authenticity and interconnectedness… I am deeply inspired by our shared human experience – all the big questions, the late-night conversations, the irreplaceable memories, the life-changing relationships, the unexpected turning points…as well as all the in-between moments, all the ‘little things’ that often seem insignificant, yet are anything but, ‘in the family of things’.*
How does your work reflect your lived experience?
My work does not necessarily reflect my lived experience, yet it is intrinsically linked to and constantly influenced by it, either consciously or subconsciously… In other words, it is intimately fused with lived experience, as well as imagination and contemplation.
What do you wish for your viewers to take from your work?
I hope my work serves as an invitation to pause, to ‘feel’ and remember – the freedom and joy of simply being who and how we are, doing what we are called to do… the core common ground between all of us, from all walks of life, no matter how vastly different we may seem on the surface… and the serenity that stems from being truly present and compassionate towards ourselves and others, towards ‘this pale blue dot we call home.’**
What is your process?
My process almost always begins with a ‘seed’ - an idea, an inspiration, an instinct – which I try to ‘plant’ as soon as it arises within me, either by hand in a notebook, or in the notes section of my phone. After leaving it for a while, I come back to it with a fresh mind, with a curiosity to see where it leads me, a genuine need to understand it on a deeper level, to express it openly and authentically through words – and then I wait, hoping for it to bloom on its own time :)
What is your favourite quote based on writing and writers?
“A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.” Ursula K. Le Guin
Have you got any advice for creatives starting out on their journey?
As an emerging creative myself, one of the most profound insights I’ve gained along the way is that our ‘light’ – our innermost potential, our distinctive gifts, our creative life force- is here to be honoured, not hindered. It’s here to be embodied, not dimmed. As Marianne Williamson so eloquently put it, ‘There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.’And so instead of doubting your light; acknowledge its existence and take a step towards it. Walk hand in hand with your light. Remind yourself that this is an essential part of who you are, and that it’s here to flow freely through you, to merge with life… And to be life itself.
* Mary Oliver, **Carl Sagan
Come closer, child
There's nothing to be scared of
She whispered, smiling
She was still like a tree
A tree, having a beautiful dream
I took a step towards her
And held her hand
I was not afraid
I felt free, as I looked at her hair
Dancing like a wildflower in the summer air
Welcome, child, she whispered
All we need is here
We don't have to change anything
We only need to water the seeds
And watch them turn into wildflowers
And just listen
Listen to the song they are dancing to
It’s coming from the birds, the tiny robins
They come here everyday
They sing and the flowers dance
And everything comes to life
Everything becomes eternal
And this is how the story goes, my child, she whispered
As I slowly drifted off into sleep
Still hearing the song and feeling the wind
She closed the book
"Beautiful Mind", it was called
And those were the words I repeated in my mind
Until I was in a place made of wildflowers
They were dancing in the summer air
I was still like a tree
A tree, having a beautiful dream
This poem was originally written for and published in Any Segment Magazine, in response to the illustration below by Helen Panayi.
'You Are Home'
She closed her eyes and inhaled the sunset mist…
As she let her breath out slowly, a deep sense of nostalgia filled her.
It felt like she was in a long-lost 19th-century Romantic painting.
Time was standing still. There was only the pure silence of nature…
She looked at the elegant trees surrounding her - her wisest friends, who always listened and never judged. At the lake that always embraced her with all her human flaws and vulnerability. Looking at her reflection in the water, she softly whispered to herself:
“Edith, you have arrived. You are home.”
This flash fiction story was originally written for and published by The Story Seed, in response to the image below by Ramon Haindl. It is inspired by and dedicated to the teachings and meditations of Thich Nhat Hanh, a beloved Zen master, spiritual leader, activist and poet.
'Now Has No Fears'
Your fears are not here
The last time you met them
They told you
On your knees
And you were
But then the fire
In your chest
Started to burn
The lion in your breath
Started to roar
And you rose
From your ashes
You left them
And in that moment
Now has no fears