HEIKE FIEDLER /ch on: "european poetry forum", 2013, Interview by Zuzana Husarova.

1. Poetry, a little alien? Why care about it?

Because the little alien has to become bigger, not ceasing to grow, ‘til it becomes such an enormous bubble, that it will explode, spread out words and letters all over the place and definitely nullify wars and battlefields.

2. Who are (is) you as a poet?

I am myself, exploring ways of cross-art expressions, basically trying to link art and research in field of language and performance, or falling in the obsessive process of writing.

3. What kind of literary tradition, particular authors or modes of literary thinking have you found inspirational for your work?

My first inspiration certainly comes from German post-war literature and poets such as Bertolt Brecht, Else Lasker-Schüler, Paul Celan, this for the world of their images, their innovative combinations and of course exploitation of poetic forms. The second important discovery was the movement of concrete, sound and visual poetry, especially Franz Mon, Ernst Jandl, Friedericke Mayröcker, Ferdinand Kriwet, Henri Chopin, Bernhard Heidsieck, most of them linked to the Bielefelder Kolloquium Neue Poesie. I found inspiration through the Vienna Group, as well as the Beat-Generation or the concrete poets Eugen Gomringer and Augusto de Campos, who is member of the brasilian group noigandres.

4. Please give several examples of contemporary European or international poets that you believe are most significant (in any possible sense) and comment briefly on their merit.

Well, as most of them mentioned above are contemporary, I would say their merit is that they have explored the material aspect of language and the extension in other fields of art through experimenting with the material that language offers, in terms of sound and visuals. I’ll add Thomas Kling and Christoph Tarkos, both died very young. Kling for his concrete intermedial approach of poetry through language itself, Tarkos for his minimalistic approaching the language through repetition and extension of minimalistic forms, Vincent Tholomé, who works in a similar way, or Michael Lentz, performing his poetry, searching sometimes extreme speed of speech. There is as well the Greek intermedial poet Demosthène Agrafiotis, writing also about the meaning of poetic performance. I’ll mention of course John Giorno for its incredible way of diction, also his minimalism, realized by taking simple statements, pushing them to a kind of climax (for example. it doesn’t get better…). There are contemporary Swiss poets as Ingrid Fichtner, Elisabeth Wandeler Deck, Michael Stauffer, in Germany Elke Erb, Nora Gomringer; Tanella Boni from Côte d’Ivoire, the young Austrian poets Sophie Reyer, Augusta Laar… the list could be endless.

5. If asked about transnational influences in today’s international or European poetry, what examples would most readily account for?

If I understand the question in a right way, I would definitely mention poets working on multilinguistic poetry, such as, Katalin Molnar, Anne Tardos, Demosthène Agrafiotis, Vincent Barras/Jacques Demierre, Ide Hinze, Heike Fiedler (myself), Cia Rinne or young poets as Zuzana Husárová, who works in this direction, too. By the way, there was already an important Dadaist, Walter Serner, who wrote poems by mixing languages. Other transnational influences are to be observed as well in the field of new media writing and intermedial working poets, as mentioned before. We have to elaborate new, enlarged notions about what is a poetic text, as other dimensions enter into consideration.

6. In all likelihood, some of the innovative patterns in contemporary poetics have not yet reached the acknowledgment of either the national or international literary canon. Can you provide some examples of specific authors or poetics that you believe are still undeservedly flying below the radar screen of broader critical community? What makes these patterns innovative and makes them supersede established modes of writing and/or reading?

I think spontaneously, and especially, about poetry working as performance, including visual or sound projection, like work of Jörg Piringer or Philippe Boisnard and Hortense Gauthier. I was or I am also myself confronted with this matter of fact. First, intermediality implies another way of writing, and consequently of reading, which is hardly admitted in academic fields. Semantics are dissolved, reorganized, far away from metaphoric expressions. I don’t want to sound like a sort of negative critic: many of my friends are good poets, let’s say in a more traditional way and I appreciate their work. Secondly, the transposition of language outside of the book, was, and is always a problem for acknowledgement. Many editors, critics or professors in university simply think, you have to have book publications to be considered as a poet, ‘cause for many people, only books give validation to call someone as such. But there is of course an increasing interest, as new technologies can simply not be ignored. Just, it took or takes time. Also, we need especially editors, who are open-minded. One of them is certainly situated in Switzerland: Der gesunde Menschenversand and its “edition spoken script”. This points to the fact, that there are performing, intermedial working Swiss poets, whose existence is concretely taken into consideration by the young editor Matthias Burki.

7. Are there any influences or inspirations emanating from the poetries and poets from the former “communist countries” that you have been able to recognize as having an impact in the countries of “the West”? If yes, how would you describe this inspiration and the possible reasons for it receiving acclaim or resonance in certain artistic or social communities?

I think first of Russian poets as Mayakovksy, the period of russian futurism, poets who already wrote poetry under a concrete sonic aspect, producing a special type of literary production close to what we know about dadaism or later sound poetry. It is absolutely important to mention the astonishing work of Carlfriedrich Claus, who developed an amazing amount of sound and visual poetry, for example his “Sprachblätter“. Not to forget Gherasim Luca, who also turns his poetry from simple statements into kind of spoken delirium. I also would like to mention Marius Daniel Popescu, a Romanian poet and novelist living today in Switzerland, writing in French. His experience of communism, the “parti unique“, has strongly influenced his writing and his books receive a big resonance.

8. How do you see the poet–reader relationship’s current state and its evolution in the contemporary cultural landscape? Please share any possible examples of that very relationship as being alienated, or, on the opposite side enlivened, re-energized, or newly franchised.

Here you use the word alien again, having characterized poetry as a little alien in your first question. I think, there is no alienation in the poet-reader relationship, just reading is realized in a different way, implying more senses. The terminology of poet-reader relationship should even be expanded in poetry production and poetry reception, especially in regard to the forms we are moving in, which is poetry performance or poetry action (definition invented by Bernhard Heidsieck). This points to the evolution in the cultural landscape, having transformed the process of what is called reading, I mean reading in a classic way. Through festivals, the oral form of reception of poetry has to be taken into consideration, think about the festival in Medellin with its thousands of spectators, or the slam poetry, even if I can’t develop a special admiration for the competition, encouraged, pushed, acclaimed by the public in field of slam poetry battles. This is linked to my personal dislike of crowd movements, searching for kind of leadership or idols, reminding me of gladiator games or excitement for public executions in the Middle Ages. Well, I guess, I’ll have some enemies now, but if sharing of poetry is the aim, I don’t really see the necessity of such marketing, high-event orientated behaviour. Another modern wor(l)d is interactivity. Of course, also new poetry or writings even in the field of prose, novels, change the conception of reader who becomes more a receiver asked a) to intervent in the development of narration, b) to activate words through sound, c) to assemble sentences or words by touching the screen and so on, which is very interesting. Franz Mon, a German poet, wrote once a book (herzzero), where he asked the “reader“ to intervene with à pencil. In fact, interactivity has always been involved, since ever people read poetry, which was an interactivity, running through imagination. In some way, it might be more free, as it is less conducted than some new media orientated interactivity. Concrete poetry developed short forms, wishing to liberate words of semantic context and free imagination. A dilemma? I don’t think so and finally, we should re-energise poetry as well through forms as through the content that is transmitted.

9. What kinds of fresh genres or types of poetry do you see emerging in today’s international landscape? Can you see any identifiable new kinds of “ars poetica”?

It are indeed the new forms of media poetry you mentioned. In general, we can observe that there was or is never any problem, when art involves words: it still remains recognized as “art”, respectively the persons as “artists”. New kinds of “ars poetica” and its contribution to poetry is the fact that finally also poets, involving art, are recognized as “poets” and their work as poetry. Another, very refreshing type or genre, are concrete collaborative poetry works between poets. I’ll soon have the opportunity, if everything doesn’t crash, to experiment this in Egypt. In Switzerland, for example the group “Bern ist überall” is a collaborative project, in Austrian the duo “Onophon”. This collaborative art can easily be extended through new media poetry mapping work. Of course, festivals like “ars poetica” are places for exchange and enrichment both between poets and public. There is just one obstacle: in my opinion, we unfortunately observe an increasing tendency of concurrence between poets, transforming the market of literature in a kind of comedy of néo-capitalisme, encouraged by economic laws, which interrogates even the question about leading poets (see above), or lets say, why just them. Think about the music market and the deliberate exclusion of artists, having lead, historically spoken, in fields of racism and misogyny…

10. Both the discourses of poetry and politics seem to carry an aspiration to win human hearts and minds, or even change lives. What examples do you see of fruitful interaction between political and poetic discourses and agenda?

I see poetry as a field of possibility for political action and reaction against some politics. Thus, the function of politics shouldn’t be the aspiration to win human hearts and minds, which brings up the danger of demagogic behaviour, known in fascism and dictatorships. Their role is to save life, to protect environment, to guarantee equality, and I would say in a worldwide view, we are unfortunately far away from this. Poetry should point disfunctioning. In terms of interaction, we have to take care that we keep our independence. Also, we should not forget: actually, and not far away from us, writers are still chased, imprisoned, even killed sometimes.

11. How would you envisage an optimal cohabitation of the two “pos” (poetry & politics) that would be beneficial to your co-citizens?

Contributing to call for liberation of writers and poets. Contribute to defend independence against censorship. Or to act as a collective for special topics. For information or examples, look at  pen-international.org  or the group  art+politik  I am involved in.

12. What kinds of values and qualities do you think media poetry (sound poetry, visual poetry, kinetic poetry, digital poetry and poetic performance) can offer in comparison with poetry conceived of as a traditional written fixed text form? Please exemplify.

The appearance of poetry out of the page is not a new invention, having known a first climax with the avantgarde movements as dada and futurism. Today we are in a kind of continuation of what already had become a tradition. Media orientated forms enable poetry to work in a multidimensional space that the page doesn’t offer, a synergy or interpenetration of involved dimensions, going hand in hand with an extension of signification, as well as the necessary reflection on it. It is a kind of switch to the aesthetic aspect of poetry, bringing poetry closer to art, lets say the aesthetic turn, already a used terminology. Shortly said, it permits to work on the materiality of language by involving other medias, even voice, think about Henri Chopin, who made sonore compositions and cut ups with his revox.

13. How would you describe the difference between the kinds of creative inspiration that you may experience as generated by your imagination as opposed to the potence emanating from the appropriative process of handling meaningful contexts and patterns already existing?

I don’t think you can put on the same level meaningful contexts and already existing patterns, nor oppose them to creative inspiration. It is indeed possible to create a meaningful context with existing patterns through your imagination. The page was and still is an existing pattern that somehow determines imagination in terms of writing and creating process. Mallarmé exploited the page structure in his well known poem “Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard“. Before, it was the Papyrus, or a stone or a surface in some cave. Remember, often you can observe a correspondence between the form of an animal and the curve of the wall it’s painted on. Personally, I like to experiment with different contexts of writing surfaces, even sometimes for the same text, which is an interesting aspect in several ways. I also like to write on paper rolls, for example, and the experience of writing, or the product, is not the same from one medium to the other.

14. Would it be fair to say that we have witnessed a gradual shift in a broader understanding of the very notion of (creative) writing due to the rise of the media and programming?

No doubt. And hacking poets can be the creative writing media-avantgarde.

15. What kind of unique experience does media/experimental poetry mediate to you (your mind and body) that you would not be able to find otherwise?

Using the word otherwise, do you mean by reading different kind of poetry, or any situation in my life? Whatever it is: I have a unique experience every time I like whatever I hear or see or feel or read or eat or do. It’s not just a sufficient condition to belong to media/experimental poetry, able to activate through synergic processes different regions of my brain, to provoke a unique experience. Of course, the involvement of several senses is unique by itself, but it depends on the way how it is done to make it become a “unique experience”.

16. What do you think poetry stands for today? Has the recent advancement in the natural sciences and humanities influenced our very understanding and possibilities of poetry?

Poetry stands for the possibility of the extension of its realization and hereby of course, there is an influence in terms of input and output. Looking through the history of poetry, we observe its rapid reaction in response to social, especially scientific and technical evolution, leading to the appearance of new poetic forms (media poetry). The understanding of something new generally is more slow, but understanding is consequently modified by the existing of this new, linked here to the multidimensional space opened by the use of media. On the other side, language is not just responding to something coming from the outside by the use of technologies. Language of poetry itself is modified by introducing/creating new words, mentioning new environments and realities, applying for something like peace, harmony, interculturality, or doing nothing else but realizing the pleasure of playing with words and letters. In this sense, I would not say, as William Burroughs, that “language is a virus from outer space”, but conceive poetry as a possible “vaccination against the virus in the inside of a sick society”.

17. What makes a poem a poem?

It is, I think, the research of adequacy between the chosen form and the content (language, linguistic material). This very open answer is motivated by the idea, that in between different forms of poetry is no hierarchic verticality, but a horizontal side by side, or even overlapping, symbolizing the aim of a global and globalized civilizational experience.

Heike Fiedler, author, poet, performer, sound and visual artist. Born in West-Germany (1963), living in Geneva. She works with laptop, paper, modul8, realtime-electroncis and pencil. Since 2000, participation in many international poetry festivals, readings and collectif exhibitions (Schamrock – Festival der Dichterinnen, Munich ;; Notopos – Festival de poésies européennes, Val-de-Marne ; krikri – festival international de polypoetry, Gent ; Internationales Lyrikfestival, Basel ; @ptt, Geneva…). Workshop with Henri Chopin at sfd Vienna (2005). Participation in research about performing authors (HKB, Bern). Collaborations with musicians in field of electroacoustic and improvisation. Participation at first edition of Festival Cotonou Jazz, duo with Steve Buchanan. Member of IMO Orchestra. Award of foundation for contemporary art, Geneva. Conception of pluridisciplinary projects (La Bâtie-Festival de Genève…). Workshops in field of interdisciplinary performance writing. Many publications in poetry magazins, CD’s, last book publication : « Langues de meehr », edition spoken script, 2009, « nanu nano nouvelles », le persil, 2013. Upcoming book : « sie will mehr », edition spoken script, automn 2013.

homepage :  realtimepoem.com , vimeo

All contributors :

Jim Andrews, Simon Biggs, Philippe Bootz, Amaranth Borsuk, Ian Davidson, Stephan Delbos, Michel Delville, Natalia Federova, Heike Fiedler, SJ Fowler, Sylvia Geist, Andras Gerevich, Loss Pequeno Glazier, Malgorzata Davidek Gryglicka, Ian Hatcher, Thomas Havlik, Jeff Hilson, JHave, Katalin Ladik, Brian McCabe, Leslie McGrath, Nick Montfort, Jörg Piringer, Derek Rebro, Gabriel Rosenstock, Boel Schenlaer, Helena Sinervo, Zoe Skoulding,  Stephanie Strickland, Endre Szkarosi, Jaume Subirana, Rui Torres, Julieta Valero, Günter Vallaster, Jan Wagner, Elizabeth Willis, Sam Witt, Marc Woodworth.

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