Obrigada a Régis Bonvicino for including me in the interview sessions with contemporary poets hosted by the Brazilian journal SibilaThe series includes phenomenal writers from all over: Nanni Balestrini, Liliane Giraudon, Josely Vianna Baptista, Maggie O'Sullivan, and on and on... Sibila's premise:

Contemporary places for poetry

There are plenty of moments in our current life when the practice of poetry seems exactly a practice, something empirical, a kind of routine. One makes poetry because poetry has been made. One publishes poetry because books of poetry are published and were published, why not going on publishing them?

But what meaning does art have when art is reduced to empiricism, the habitual procedure which doesn’t discuss its means? Which doesn’t any longer make up its own aims? Which is not suspicious of its usual form, nor runs the risk of a move against itself, unresigned?

Trying to know what some of the most distinguished foreign poets in action today think about their own poetry, Sibila proposed some very simple questions, some naïve questions – silly questions! –, whose principal aim is no longer to consider as natural ( as obvious) the automatisms of the poetical practice.

Sibila asks the poets to tell in the more direct way what still moves them to read, to write, to publish a book of poetry – or, more generically, to publish poetry, in whatever support.

The choice, for the moment, to listen only to foreign poets’ voice is a strategic one. It’s better to avoid answers which would be neutralized a priori, due to suspicious neighbourly attitudes.

Reading poetry, straining to write poetry, publishing poetry: not at all compulsory, all this, not at all explainable in advance. Everything you do in this domain is the result of mere imaginary exacting. Nothing obliges you, unless the obligation you invent yourself, for yourself. Sibila wants to know what kind of invention is that. Id est: what poets may still make up for the practice which defines them as poets.

An excerpt from my interview:

Writing poetry

Sibila: What do you expect from writing poetry?

Scappettone: I expect the language being channeled to reconfigure experience, to transmit something I didn’t already know—about history, politics, feeling. I expect it to do so mercilessly, unremittingly. I think of poetry as a storehouse of memory—not only for my own mereness of experience, but for those of countless recorded and nameless others who have struggled with language, either as writers or speakers, slowly altering our tactics of communication across space and time through myriad microdisplacements of meaning. The poet Emilio Villa spent decades of his life compiling a renegade etymological dictionary of the Italian language and a dictionary of myth on bits of paper and card stock recycled from art opening invitations in the years of the postwar “economic miracle”. He was tracking the migration of tongues over time and space, without regard to the prejudices of a Eurocentric outlook, and trying to chart that in his verse. I have such ardor for that kind of work.

Sibila: In your opinion, which is the best effect one can get from practicing poetry?

Scappettone: Conscious participation in the processes of memory and understanding described above, as an individual and as part of a collective. As workers in language we can redefine comprehension and involvement in the sublime disaster that is the current world system.

Sibila: Do you think your poetry has any public value?

Scappettone: I hope that in its opacity, which admittedly limits its accessibility as “message,” it constructs an experience that cuts against the seemingly transparent networks of communication and information transferral that dominate discourse of all sorts, from the Hallmark – or Upworthy-popular to the esoteric and academic, with their marketing and surveillance tactics, false urgency and inevitable exclusions. To quote Édouard Glissant as brought into English by Nathanaël, “the poetics of relation assumes that to each is proposed the density (the opacity) of the other. The more the other resists in his thickness or his fluidity (without being limited to it), the more his reality becomes expressive, and the more fecund the relation”. To oblige an experience of language as confused music or noise incarnate sets into motion a sort of grappling that can be vexatious, rich, transitive.

Lina Bo Bardi, L'ombra della sera, drawing, 1965. Courtesy of Arquitectura en Dibuixos Exemplars