/ 15 February 2016

"A good poem is the one which entices you to repeatedly rediscover language"

Interview with Delimir Rešicki

On the occasion of the publication of his new book Lovci u snijegu [The Hunters in the Snow], Saša Šimpraga interviewed one of the most prominent Croatian poets Delimir Rešicki for the weekly magazine Novosti.

The Hunters in the Snow”, Bruegel painting included in the canon of Western art, holds a prominent place in your poem under the same name in which you write about Baranja and the newly-erected wires in the woods. Why do you hold important these cultural references which run through your whole poetry collection and what do you think about the closing off Europe with barbed wires?

Ever since I began writing, sometime in the late 1970s, I’ve always strived, without any exception, to quite explicitly indicate which authors or individual works inspired me to write every single one of my books. The famous Bruegel painting “The Hunters in the Snow” has been following me as a good spirit ever since I’ve first encountered it the 5th grade literature textbook. I’ll never forget the moment when I first saw it…The snow is after all an obsession of mine which, time and time again, encourages me to write. You are correct when you say that “The Hunters in the Snow” is a canonical painting, but what is it in the European cultural context or even beyond it, that we can still consider as a part of the canon? Can we still say that Bruegel is a canonical artist? I am aware that this question is sensational in tone, but I truly believe that we’re living in a time of a perverted value system, where all values, even canonical ones, have taken a great hit. The catastrophe of the barbed wire surrounding so many European borders clearly indicates a monstrous lack of common sense and a problem that can be “solved” only on a global level. But that is precisely the root of the problem – the global “common sense” never existed, and it does not exist today. And, at least for now, I don’t see it developing in the future. I think that the paraphrasing of Pascal Bruckner’s words – the French philosopher who recently visited Zagreb – would be fitting in this context: “Neither Islamophobia, nor Islamophilia.” The wires are just a horrifying sing of a true apocalypse and the all-out chaos in which we live, the evidence that Europe, as well as the rest of the world, hasn’t resolved any of its layers of trauma that have been piling up for centuries. The wires that I’ve seen in Baranja are only seemingly different in nature. They divide the oligarchic class from ordinary people, who are decreasing in number by the day, especially the young people.

How would you characterize your latest poetry collection and how does it relate to your previously published ones?

I know that this might sound like a hideous fad, but I have verifiable evidence that I written and published the poem “Heroes”, also featured in “The Hunters in the Snow”, dedicated to David Bowie, long before he died. Bowie is one of the most important artists of the 20th century and he is one of the people who can be directly blamed for why I write poetry. I mention this because I, within my own means, conceptually conceived each of my poetry books differently. And it is from Bowie, from this genius of transformation, from whom I’ve learned the most.

What do you think, who reads your poems?

There is this overused saying how poets today know all of their readers. I don't want to come across as a liar but, luckily, I still haven’t met all of my readers judged by the encounters, emails and messages sent from people whom I’ve never met. Nowadays, I don’t know who reads what I write. In the 1980s, I could count on the rockers, contemporary art aficionados and not only them. Today, this group of people is quite long in the tooth, as well as I am. It is wonderful to hear how your latest book is well liked and read by a train driver whom I’ve never met and who has been driving his blue rail bus through the lowlands his whole life. My poems, as I’d like to believe, are loved by those who still hold dear the language from the true margin, the mysteries of love and writing, solidarity (in suffering) and, finally, the art itself. By those who love Tarr’s or Krasznahorkai’s films or, for example, Basara’s prose, as well as Morrison, The Velvet Underground, Nico, Cohen, Arcade Fire, Lucinda Williams, Blake, Trakl, Celan, A. B. Šimić, Matoš, Šalamun and so on and so forth…

First to react against the new Minister of Culture were the writers. What do you think about his appointment?

Everything what I had to say on this matter has been stated in the petition letter written by the Croatian P.E.N centre and Croatian Writers' Association, which I also signed. It seems to me that every misery has to come to an end sometime. However, there are some miseries that can just as easily continue to infinity. Before this new Minister of Culture, whose appointment painfully testifies to the complete degradation and the politicization of culture in Croatia, we also had a Mister whose conduct I’ve found deplorable. The negative selection of political appointments within the “cultural sector,” and not just within it, is a black hole unable to produce any remotely intellectual or a better-though out cultural strategy. There’s no mention of the expertise or reputation attained on the basis of one’s work here or abroad, just like none of the political parties mentioned culture in their election campaigns. As you said, first to react were the writers. Some decided to remain silent and to shrewdly await for a sign, probably a comet falling from the sky, just because they receive huge pay checks from the Ministry of Culture, something most writers can only dream of.

What makes a good poem in your opinion?

A good poem is the one which entices you to repeatedly rediscover language – a language full of Eros and wisdom capable to reinvigorate and recreate a completely different vision of the world than the one offered by the necrotic and lobotomizing daily phrases. A good poem is the one which strives, without compromise, to reach rock bottom as well as accompany the ascendancy of one’s being. It is such poetry which does not want to appeal at any cost, the one which demands from its author to completely denounce vanity, poetry which is not afraid to see the abyss which is being sold to us under the manipulative, fatal lie of the so-called progress, in the time when all what is human is thoroughly eradicated, in the time that comes after the completely defeated 20th century. If we are to judge on the basis of the first 16 years of this century, we cannot hope for any improvements because all of these processes that we’re seeing today are just the continuation of the old dystopian ones which marked the last century. The recent oligarchic thievery at the expense of the rest of humanity is starting to show in its ever-more horrifying forms and there’s even no need to make it appear human anymore. We’re living in a time of complete dumbing down masked as (dis)informational hysteria and entropy. Good poetry is the one which is aware that, despite the global Thanatos, a human being should never kneel down because he is the unique miracle of life and as such, needs to be respected. It is about this uniqueness that we are “obliged” to write poems. Good poetry does not suck up to the ruthless and senseless mobs, but nourishes the spirit and fosters human dignity amidst all kinds of dung-infested heartless vulgarities.