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Poetry across borders | Marc Delouze and Peter Semolic

We speak to poets Peter Semolic (Slovenia) and Marc Delouze (France) ahead of their visit to the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival, taking place at the Msida Bastion Historical Garden, Floriana, on September 4 to 6.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
3 September 2014, 8:30am
Marc Delouze
Marc Delouze
Peter Semolic. Photo by Nina Medved
Peter Semolic. Photo by Nina Medved
MARC DELOUZE

What are some of your key themes and/or preoccupations as a poet?

Time (the one that persists in making us believe it exists). Memory (the one that we ignore, i.e. – the real one). Death (which is not the opposite of life, but its completion – just like one completes a painting, a work of art, a concerto…)

What have been some of the most important milestones of your career so far – both in terms of actual publishing, and beyond?

In chronological order: The first four poems of mine that were published in Les Lettres français by Louis Aragon: he was like a devilish Santa Claus in my life as a ‘poet’. The birth of my daughter, Marie. Breaking away from Communism.

What do you think is the role of poetry in the world today? 

Trifling, because profoundly essential: poetry says that which language is meant to conceal (especially in the way language is generally used).

Do you think poetry can serve as an important facilitator of inter-cultural dialogue?

After music, painting, dance, movies… and food.

How important is translation in this day and age?

It is essential in its attempt to serve as an important facilitator of inter-cultural dialogue, as you said in the previous question.

What are some of the most significant challenges when it comes to translation?

Forgetting oneself without forgetting one’s language.

Does having English present more problems than solutions to the non-English writing poet?

That’s a strange question… for a non-English speaker, English is all Chinese, isn’t it ?

What have been some of the most interesting ‘findings"’ for you, as you set about exploring how poetry can connect with urban life?

People’s curiosity, something which is ignored by poets, but also by those who drive that same curiosity (urban life).

 

PETER SEMOLIC

What are some of your key themes and/or preoccupations as a poet?

At the beginning I was fascinated particular by the sound, so my early poems were close to the sound/concrete poetry. Later I realized that in this form I couldn’t write about topics which were important to me. Slowly I changed my style towards a more narrative poetry. Finally I started to write about my childhood, and eventually I became able to write love poetry and erotic poetry. These days I am obsessed by poems in prose, and I write about the violence in the modern world. My most recent poems are more or less written in this form and they speak of various forms of violence: from individual violence to violence of politics.

What have been some of the most important milestones of your career so far – both in terms of actual publishing, and beyond?

The most important milestone in my career was when I met Dane Zajc, one of the greatest Slovenian poets of 20th century. Dane is my master, my teacher even my poetry is very different from his poetry. The next milestone is my third book of poetry, A House Made of Words (1996), because there I found my own style. The book also won the biggest prize for poetry in Slovenia, award of Simon Jenko, named by the Slovenian 19th century poet, and consequently had an impact on young Slovenian poetry of that time.

What do you think is the role of poetry in the world today?

Poetry can assume different roles, it depends on the historical and cultural context: in Slovenia the poetry played an important role in the national movement from 19th century till the independence of Slovenia; today it is more or less marginalized and it holds a position very similar to that of poetry in France, England, Germany. But this doesn't mean that poetry no longer has a role. According to Ernesto Sabato, poetry plays the same role in the life of human kind as the dreams play in the life of individual. For me personally, poetry is a form of eroticism: here I’m a follower of Georges Bataille.

Do you think poetry can serve as an important facilitator of inter-cultural dialogue?

Yes it can, and in my opinion it does. Through translations of poetry we are in  touch with the deepest sentiments of people from other cultural environments. So translations are very important.

How important is translation in this day and age, and what are some of the most significant challenges when it comes to translation?

I’m not a lingustic relativist so I believe in the possibility of translating poetry. But this is a very hard job, because the language of poetry is culturally marked, it is full of lingustic idioms and so on. English is very helpful as a lingua franca – through English we can translate even from languages the translator may not be familiar with... with a lot of help from the authors of course.

What led you to decide that you didn’t want to “play the part of the poet” for – what turned out to be – a 20-year period?

In the period of communism Slovenian poetry was very hermetic, poets used this way of speach to express their thoughts and feelings about the totalitaristic regime – this was very powerful poetry. In the transition from communistic regime to democracy poetry has become more communicative, we started to talk about our personal experience, everyday events and so on. Today we can define the mainstream of Slovenian poetry as ‘poetry of experience’.  Slovenia is right now in deep economic, political and cultural crisis and somehow this kind of poetry can no longer confront reality – it has become tired, even boring. From my point of view we need to invent new forms, new language – in my last book (which is not yet published) I moved towards “found poetry”. Perhaps this is the right way to make poetry more interesting and challenging again. We'll see…

The Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival is organised by Inizjamed. For more information log on to http://inizjamedmalta.wordpress.com/

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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