miercuri, 10 august 2016

f(requently) a(sked) q(uestions)

- Yigru Zeltil? What does that even mean?

It's a pen name conceived through an automatic (as in Surrealist) process. It doesn't mean something in a deliberate way, though it did suggest me some things subconsciously, people have noted the similarities with some real words ('tiger', 'igloo', 'zeal'), but there isn't anyone else with such a name (although, if you can trust googling, it seems Yigru may be a name around Ethiopia... I like Ethio-Jazz and a lot of other forms of African culture, so I don't mind at all; in any case, I don't regard it as cultural appropriation).

Some were misled, thinking that I may be downright foreigner or, at least, a Turk or Tatar (I love Turkish, I wish I could have learned it, but I missed a chance...). No, I'm (too) Romanian, although I certainly don't feel like one. Maybe I could say - like Fernando Pessoa/Bernardo Soares - that my mother tongue is Romanian, but I can't stand the notion of separation that is implied by nationalism. It's 'trendy' now to reject, to denounce any notion of cosmopolitanism, of multiculturalism (at least in its neoliberal implementation), but I'm not like that. 'My place' could only be something like, maybe, Toronto, a melting pot of cultures and languages that would be both challenging and stimulating for me. Romania still has to feel like 'home' to me at the moment, but there's also a sense of menace floating around, deriving from my deep incompatibility with this culture and the lack of respect for my values as a part of the creative class and as a queer person.

Returning to my gesture of opting for a singular pen name (and, maybe soon, legal name too), it is rooted in my childhood shock of discovering in the Yellow Pages that, even around my city, there are more than a few people who have the same birth name as me. Should my statement be seen as a metaphysical revelation of the Nichita Stănescu sort? Well, no mythology was there for me, which explains my later interest in linguistics and, as of recently, in conceptual art or literature that investigates this system or other kinds of systems that regulate our fundamentally bureaucratic civilization. The rest is noise...

- What do you think about 'inspiration', 'creation'?

Don't call me Platonic or Aristotelian, I can be both on demand. (laughs) I am tired of discussions on 'inspiration', not unlike when I am asked about biographic details around, say, our 'National Poet' (M. Eminescu). (Don't ask me!)

I prefer having a text in front of me, dealing with it, discussing it... Beyond that, there's often a lot of unpleasant (for me) speculating. Call it 'bumper-car structuralism' if you will, but biographical mumbo-jumbo is uninteresting to me, trivial. I prefer being 'grounded' in paper. Then again... I guess a lot of people read writers depending on their human quality/qualities, on how interesting their life is/was; the generation of writers before me (the 'Generation 2000') talked much about 'writing the way we live' (or vice versa). Too puritan to emulate the spirit of Bukowski or of the Beats, I rather take refuge in the outskirts of the 'dead-serious' academic spirit.

So yes, I think a ('poetic') creation is an artifact, but - for their author(s), obviously - it can't be just an 'artifact'. In fact, I'm not necessarily 'materialist'. There is a real process behind the word 'inspiration', as well as bits of Romanticism that are not my concern. How real are they? I don't even want to bother with discussing them, being rather hostile to creating anymore second-hand mythologies, icons...

Even poets I - let's say - somewhat respect fall in the trap of discussing, for instance, what is 'real poetry'. Poets who can tell (with their nose?) if something is 'real poetry' or not... Awful discussions. If one is to delve into this kind of affair, the job has to be done very rigorously or not at all - my view. I do fall sometimes as well in the temptations of literary cafe discussions (partly because my isolation developed in me a sense of yearning for deeper literary connections), but my preference is: 'tl;dr' mode over vulgarization, sorry.

In the recent past, I admit I have engaged in rather aggressive talk on the fiercely conservative nature of the literary world of Romania and its institutions. From old to young critics or even poets, confusing divine inspiration with writerly talent, attacking the idea of creative writing (such courses barely even exist in our country), being hostile to experimental/heavily theoretical approaches (long ago learned by the Romanian art world) seem common threads to me, no matter if it happens in the name of old literary traditions or reckless sincerity.

It's no wonder that, with such a severely undereducated and underfunded literary world, fascination with the image of the 'poet' as a cursed marginal or, at best, common person hold sway. The rule of the land: taking things for granted instead of deconstructing.

- As a foreign reader, what can you tell me about the context of your writings, about what is written/read around you? What are the expectations?

If you live in a Western country where even public money is given on a regular basis to artistic/literary manifestations that otherwise make little sense to a wider audience (of people who are uninitiated, who usually don't hold the assumptions and beliefs that are behind a lot of (post)modern art) - just because this is what is 'supposed' to be promoted in a culture with certain values -, you might find the rampaging anti-intellectualism that exists on all levels in Romania... jarring.

So my early interest in the historical avant-garde(s) and my newer attempts to engage with contemporary forms of 'experimental' arts and literature aren't really tied to a local 'tradition' (though I do recognize a precedent in my city, the Constanța group of poets: Mugur Grosu, Gili Mocanu, the late George Vasilievici, Sorin Dinco, Mircea Țuglea and so on). At first, I was just glad to explore writing and only later did I try to get into the literary world, become 'initiated'.

At the time, of course, a lot of my poems were poorly written, beyond the occasional Dadaist nonsense or Surrealist dreamtellings that, however, seem short-sighted in retrospected. But even then I knew that I have to move on (when I did, it was when the joyful moods of my high school years started fading away, becoming more and more disenchanted).

It was in part my prejudice, but also true that, at least back then, one had to be a 'tough person' to draw attention as a poet - no metaphors, preferably not even a word about literature, hard-boiled cynicism and hard life... or just something too 'extreme' for a puritan geek like me. I tried to react in my own ways, but the texts in my first printed chapbook (cocoa, 2012) were little more than lyrical collages (autobiographical, but not authenticist); otherwise, that step meant a lot to me. Now I'm less 'colorful' and 'juicy', hence why some of the readers who were into cocoa... turned out to be alienated by my newer texts - reactions like 'this is not poetry' or 'it's just an experiment'.

At least I can say now that there is more diversity on the Romanian poetry scene and there is more awareness of it, even though there are still quite distinct "streams" and groups. As for me, I don't entirely fit in any of those. Anyway, I am more strategical, but also less enthusiast in a way (my personal, emotional life also getting in the way - sometimes I just don't want to read or write anything at all).

I have some "big" projects ahead, but I know they can only have effects on the long-term. People nowadays can have so easily access to experimental stuff through archives like UbuWeb or sites dedicated to contemporary art, but I suspect there is a lot of boredom, feeling of saturation... I would love to manage to bring some of this stuff closer to an audience somewhere around here - maybe they can actually get it, even if they don't have a "training". I am idealist at heart, after all.

 A somewhat different F.A.Q., this time in Romanian: