Aldo Qureshi

France

The Evening Paper. A bio-bibliographical essay

            by Aldo Qureshi 

 

 

 

            My career path is an utter and complete failure. Bankruptcy began with an internship in a printing plant. Then came McDonald’s, with the manager’s unbelievable enthusiasm, the French fries eaters’ frenzy, etc. A while later, I joined a drama school, then it was McDonald’s again, telephone surveys, extras, babysitting, more surveys, and – an almost inevitable and logical consequence – I landed a job at Disneyland Paris. Then I started working in a pub, first as a dishwasher, and then as a waiter. This resume is sometimes the inspiration for my poetry, when I decide to use myself as a practice target, or when I feel I should return to my own humble level and remember where I came from.

            As for my school years? A long succession of zeros, jazzed up with extracurricular experiments.

 

            I was born in 1975 and started writing poems in the early 1990s (that was about two or three years before my time at the printing plant). These poems I wrote were not borne of any real urge to express anything in particular – a little like those drawings you make while talking on the phone. When you hang up, you’re faced with that sort of landscape you’ve just drawn – and something tells you to carry on and widen your scope.

            I first published my writing on the internet, then in chapbooks, and in reviews. I started exploring this inner landscape– as well as this writing – 28 years ago, and even though this is my main occupation, I’m well aware that it might fail me anytime.

 

            There is an episode in Twilight Zonewhere the main character, on his way to the bank where he works, buys the morning paper out of the subway station and drops a coin in the vendor’s box. As he begins his day at work, he can hear one of his colleagues speak ill of him – however, the said colleague’s lips haven’t moved. A while later, it’s the director’s secretary who – her lips also closed – sounds her opinion of him, expressing a romantic feeling which he hadn’t been aware of – until he eventually understands that he is able to hear his colleagues’ thoughts. He even overhears a clerk who plans to steal a certain amount of money from the bank – just a whim, as it later would turn out. At the end of his day’s work, as he reaches the subway station, our man buys the evening paperand puts another coin in, which topples over the one he had inserted in the morning, which had stood in balance on its edge. The vendor complains about it to his employee, since he had been able to keep the coin standing the whole day. Afterwards, our man realizes he cannot hear any thoughts around him anymore.

 

            I must have been about ten years old when I first saw this Twilight Zoneepisode, and my imagination was struck by its both absurd and benign outcome. This absurdity and apparent benignity somewhat suffuse most of my poems, insofar as I do think that poetry writing is quite similar to this bank clerk’s situation, in that he can hear what his colleagues think. Something is in balance, in an unusual position, and as long as that balance holds, I have access to these poems which, as they map out a territory, seem to be pointing to a specific place and location, the address of which is missing. Just like the bank clerk who was unaware that the coin had remained in balance on its edge, I cannot quite explain where these poems come from. As I said, I have long thought that the writing of these poems was similar to drawing some sort of a map of a given territory, like a parallel world which only made sense to me. Or so I thought, at least, until my poems started to be circulated. And suddenly, when the first books were published – Made in Eden(L'Atelier de l'agneau, 2018) and Barnabas(VANLOO, 2018) –, it turned out that these bits and pieces, these fragments of maps, seemed to be familiar to other people as well; that they had been to this territory too, they knew the place, they were familiar with its relief. “Half-man, half-beast, his world looks like ours in an odd way, a 2040-version of ours.”(Carole Darricarrère, Sitaudis.fr)Other readers seem to have been guessing, more than the time, the place of origin: “This physiological oneirism has its roots in childhood and spells.” (François Huglo, Sitaudis.fr) The jobs I mentioned, however pointless or short-lived, seem to partake in the population of this country. Such is the case with my experiences at McDonald’s and Disneyland Paris: “The dog-headed man will eventually bite his own fingers, not out of guilt, but by reflex. It all boils down to either skin, or synthetic fur.”(Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret, salon-littéraire.linternaute.com)

 

            I had obviously lost my ways. Those aforementioned bits and pieces, and parts of a map were not born by accident; they were parts of a common territory: “There is something irresistibly disgraceful about this 3D-Male and Female Inhumanity, which the Aldo Qureshi tracking station faithfully depicts.”(Carole Darricarrère, Sitaudis.fr).This map, which draws the outline of a parallel world, looks a lot like what we find on Google Maps: “a pestilential world where man is as much a man as it is a utensil (…), a world where there no communication is possible, where ugliness is the only currency, where violence is domestic, ordinary, accepted.” (Carole Darricarrère, Sitaudis.fr). The map is increasingly precise; maybe the paper on which it is drawn is getting thinner, too. Soon the world (our world) will show through. The readers can actually feel it coming – it’s actually the most obvious option: this inner landscape thing will soon fall apart. There is no turning back. “This is a tad of the dehumanized brave new world in which we’re living.”(François Huglo, Sitaudis.fr)

 

            This cartographer’s craft, so to speak, was supplemented from March 2017 by performances and public readings where the poems sometimes struck me as more revealing and violent than I had expected. “He devours his text by heart, mouth afire, biting his tongue, he writes with an almost maniac perversity, he does away with a certain number of certainties, goes over a fair amount of clichés (…), flirts with oneirism, onanism, with the juicy, he pushes back limits, makes a fool of himself and has lots of fun doing so, holds our breath, and awakens our inner child.”(Carole Darricarrère, ibid.)

 

            It then struck me as impossible to move from one book to another without taking into account the territorial community between the reader and the propositions I put forth. Each poem either matches or follows the other. Each book is bonded to the previous one, and to the others which are being written – delving deeper into the territory. “Aldo Queshi’s work is built in strata, from one collection to the next. His poems have no time frame – each lives amidst a swarming immediacy. Bodies become things. Their use is untimely. The poems move among bodies; they swerve. In the area thus – often ironically – created, they dig out the uncanny, the utterly useless; language, maybe, with its expectation, its deceit, and the truth of it when it appears by chance.” (Philippe Hauer)

            I have endeavored to build a house with my first collection, Made in Eden, which I filled with the people of my second book Barnabas; the others are in progress (one will be published by l'Atelier de l'agneaulate in 2019). All will partake in that ensemble which I henceforth cannot divert from.

            Consequently, insofar as this territory is apparently not mine to claim, and since I have no idea where these bits of maps (my poems) come from, nor what they have in common with my fellows’, I will most likely keep on groping around, mapping, visiting this territory. And all I have to do, in order to go as far as possible and get the most accurate results, is to keep in mind that Twilight Zone episode, and remember never ever to buy the evening paper.