The Argotist Online

Home       Articles       Interviews       Features       Poetry       Ebooks       Submissions       Links

 

Nick Piombino Interview

 

Nick Piombino is a poet, artist and psychologist. His books include: Poems (Sun and Moon), The Boundary of Blur (Roof), Light Street (Zasterle), Theoretical Objects (Green Integer), Hegelian Honeymoon (Chax), and Fait Accompli (Factory School's Heretical Texts series) and the collage-novel Free Fall (Otoliths). His collages have been exhibited at the Marianne Boesky Gallery and have been published in Chain #6 and Poetry Plastique.

His writing has been anthologised in The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book, The American Tree, The Politics of Poetic Form, From The Other Side of the Century, The Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative American Poetry, Close Listening, Manifesto: A Century of Isms and E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E V-A-L-U-E-S, the first XI Interviews. A number of his readings are available at the Penn Sound site including a reading at the Bowery Poetry Club. His blog can be found here.

 

Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino lives in New York City where he edits the online poetry journal, eratio.

 

 

 

GVST:  Nick, you are both a psychologist (a practicing psychotherapist) and a poet; I’d like to take advantage of this to ask you some questions about creativity. Creativity is not discussed much nowadays but it is, after all, what we’re all about. I get the feeling creativity—as a term, as an idea, as a topic for discussion—has gone the way of “poetic inspiration” in that not only has it lost currency, it is, methinks, become the stuff of myth.  (By “creativity,” I mean specifically artistic and intellectual inventiveness and purposiveness, and not, say, run-of-the-mill problem solving.) I have observed in myself (and as we are our own best cavies) basically two types or phases or modes of creativity:  creativity by rote (or rut) where I do what I usually do only I try to do it better than before, and the creativity that follows upon the new (it is given to this creativity to work with). “The new” can be a fragment of verse or an idea for a text; in any case it is a germ that requires cultivation. This last mode of creativity is more primary than the first (I’m certain of that).  And as for “the new” I’ll tell you that however welcome it may be, the coming of it is not “conscious” or “deliberate,” and I wonder if this is not the stuff of “poetic inspiration.”  What I’d like you to share with us, then, please, is your own experiences of creativity (in yourself and in others), and what do you make of it, what is going on. I believe that the knowledge in poetry is (in the final analysis, beyond the obvious “content”) none other than psychology. What do you think of this. And isn’t it the case that while not all psychologists are poets, all poets, whether they know it or not, are psychologists?  

 

NP: Gregory, thanks so much for asking! In my opinion, creativity arises as a compensatory function. Something urgently needed has been to a greater or lesser extent denied to the infant and child. The child, however, must at all costs protect its treasured idealizations of the parents. These idealizations are the core of what later will be the basis for several important internal psychological functions having to do with caring and loving for and of the self and others. Since it is essentially impossible to be a respected and valued participant in any human community without a good measure of such capacities the child’s psychological challenge is to find a way to protect these idealizations that form the core of the capacity to care for self, things and others. 

 

The imagination is the engine of the process of constructing internal object representations. To be able to create an inner representation of the parent, especially the good enough caretaking function of the parent, is what makes it possible to resist feeling overwhelmed by the unthinkable anxiety that accompanies the parent’s absence, neglect or hurtfulness. Experiences of the parent’s absence, neglect or hurtfulness place the child’s idealizations in jeopardy. The functioning imagination goes to work in the face of these potentially harmful experiences summoning creativity to process and integrate contradictions between (necessary) idealizations of the parents and perceptions of the parents’ potentially injurious, but not necessarily deliberately hurtful behavior (this includes the parent’s unavoidable absences). 

 

The creative function places a halo or aura of greatness and perfection around these internal representations to protect them from obvious and unavoidable apparent contradictions and paradoxes discovered in daily experience. The imaging capacity of the mind becomes a source of intense pleasure in amalgamating sensory impressions, thought and language partly for the purpose of maintaining idealizations that in turn strengthen the functions of the mind that generate self-esteem. It is important to remember that idealizations form the basis for positive identifications that are crucial to the internal process of generating self-esteem. Later, in adolescence, as the identification process is modified to extend to the world outside the family, these identifications will be challenged and transformed by the gradual accretion of individual and social goals and values.  Whatever is the later outcome of external and internal relationships with the parents, the creative functions, once established, remain relatively stable and will ordinarily function as a source of enhancing and protecting an internal philosophy of life, particularly in terms of relationships—both in work and in love.

 

Poetry, among all the arts, has made one of the most invaluable contributions to humankind’s needs for idealization. Reality and truth contain “unspeakably” painful and harsh aspects. Great poetry contributes much in the spirit of making such burdens more approachable, giving voice to the struggle with comprehension and destiny. Words offer one of the most effective bridges between external and internal experience. At times in our lives when harshness and contradictions appear to be virtually insurmountable, poetry is capable of contributing greatly as a kind of Rosetta stone in deciphering that which is otherwise untranslatable between individual internal experience and external physical and social realities and expectations. I might put it that poetry is a thesaurus or translating dictionary to the incomprehensible and indecipherable, in part by fully embracing those aspects of life rather than avoiding them or passing over them in silence in the spirit of helping each other to transcend them. 

 

Perhaps what we experience as “inspiration” (connected, obviously to respiration and perspiration) results from accepting the unavoidable pause in confronting irrationality, chaos, mystery, confusion, the blank, the void, the incomprehensible, an internal benefit for tolerating the interval between despair and hope, nothingness and the idea. D. W. Winnicott’s contribution to psychoanalysis has much to do with art and writing as “transitional objects.”  I highly recommend his book Playing and Reality.  Winnicott wrote that creativity ‘is the retention throughout life of something that belongs properly to infant experience.  I mean seeing everything afresh all the time.  When we are surprised at ourselves, we are being creative, and we find we can trust our own unexpected originality.’ And Rainer Maria Rilke: ‘Who has not sat,/ anxious, before the curtain of his heart?’

 

GVST:  You make it clear that creativity is essential to well-being, and for the maintenance of well-being.  And yet, in consideration of your articulation, the image I’m getting is of the pearl in the oyster—that is, that the pearl is born in stress and irritation.  To the degree that my image is an apt one, is this state of affairs necessarily so, must it be this way?  It can make of the sensitive poet a grim and calculating person.  Speaking for myself, while it has never prevented me from writing (to the opposite, actually), it has indeed sent me inward. (—Inward, where I wait, anxiously, for inspiration.) This idealization, too.  In this idealization, do we not project and then strive toward that projection, as we would to evolve (personally and emotionally and, indeed, as a species)?  Is my knowledge of myself only an idealization?  Do I ever know myself as I really am?  Is there a real “I”?  The analogy of the Rosetta stone is intriguing.  What is the language of the Rosetta stone—that is to say, is it of psychology, is it of grammar, in what way is it of poetry?  

 

NP: When I spoke of poetry as a Rosetta stone, what I meant was that it has as one function the task of holding thoughts, ideas and feelings that are otherwise hard to identify, acknowledge, accept or believe for psychological, intellectual or cultural reasons in an intermediate experiential space. Some of these aspects of the unspeakable have to do with a few of the social dynamics of role expectations that are either taboo to discuss or, given the contradictory demands of culture on the personality, are difficult to identify for the individual and remain largely unconscious. For example, after a certain age people are expected to show fairly complete control over their emotions, particularly in public, and to resist the open display of sentimentality. The is expected to be consolidated during adolescence and to continue throughout life. There are some gender based differences but perhaps these are not all that consequential. 

 

Literary culture emerged over time as a safe, and up to a certain point, one of the acceptable domains for the communication of such otherwise controversial and somewhat disguised cultural issues. Even so, such intentions are expected to be codified and masked creatively by artistic aims and devices. As a result, culture is enabled to construct an intermediate zone for otherwise taboo areas of communication; sometimes taboo because they are not "serious" enough and sometimes because they are "too" serious. In contemporary poetry such transgressions are expected and encouraged. As for the genesis of the poetic function making a poet a "grim and calculating" person, to the extent that narcissism is unrestrained within the personality this is one of the developments that certainly can and does take place, among many other troubling possibilities. A person whose creative functions too far outweigh their participatory functions might find it nearly or completely impossible to flourish as a person within society. Such examples are all too numerous in the past and even now. You might say that the aesthetic is a balm in the sense that it enables idealizations to continue in the face of the overly constrictive or destructive aspects of everyday life. A balance is needed in the personality so that the individual can find social life endurable not only in terms of ideals but also in a pragmatic way. Poetry has a function to both restore and reveal. But for everyone even comprehension and idealization must have functional limits. All psychological functions have to have limits in order to enable the personality to live both vibrantly yet realistically.  Ideals must flourish for the sake of the spirit and society but for the individual the body and social relationships need to flourish as well.  

 

GVST:  Would you, maybe, take a moment to apply this to (the case of) Vincent van Gogh, and maybe to the ideas of ”outsider art” and of “art brut” (Jean Dubuffet’s term, which he found in the spontaneity—and which he perhaps construed to be a “truth-in-practice”—in the art produced by psychotics)? There is, it seems to me, a lot of poetry that is consonant with outsider art, art brut. Is there a term for this sort of poetry?  Are you familiar with Julia Kristeva’s Revolution in Poetic Language? And also would you apply this to Lautréamont and to Artaud?

 

NP: Vincent van Gogh has always, for me, represented the saint/martyr of contemporary artistic nonconformity. His letters to his brother Theo were one of my earliest artistic bibles, and began my infatuation with artistic isolates and diarists that continues until this day. Psychoanalysis (I am not a psychologist, by the way, I am a social worker and went on to complete my formal psychoanalytic training in the early 80's) is a form of psychology that puts its emphasis on the unique challenges of individual development. What attracted me to Freud in the first place had as much to do with his social critiques (look at his anti-religion tract, The Future of An Illusion, in relation to the fundamentalist movements of today) as his emphasis on dreams, free association, writers and creative artists.

 

While most studies of psychology search for ways to classify individuals, Freud explored those aspects of mind and culture that prevent people from completing their unique development. Unlike most forms of psychology, psychoanalysis has always explored the potential for individuals to make a creative break from culture, thus contributing to its transformation, while at the same time avoiding self-destruction. Freud understood this as a necessary balancing act—his earliest vision of this is the tripartite ego/id/super-ego blueprint of mind. The early 20th century American imported version of psychoanalysis, so-called ego psychology, was its most culture-conforming formulation.

 

I've always been drawn to its early European dialect, as well as the more recent object-relation and particularly self-psychology schools as created by Heinz Kohut.  (‘Psychoanalysis is unique among the sciences . . . by virtue of the fact that it has consistently based itself on the data of introspection and empathy.’  From his, The Restoration of The Self.)  As for outsider art, for me the blogger of today carries on the tradition at its best.  Simultaneously diarist and epistle or open-letter writer, the blogger defies the MFA/academic tradition of poetry and criticism.  I was pleased yesterday to see a blogger, who was new to me, link to my December, 2003 discussion of  Walter Benjamin as Blogger.  

 

GVST:  There’s that line from the Cammell/Roeg film, Performance: ‘The only performance that makes it, that makes it all the way, is one that achieves madness.’ I was reminded of this by Karlheinz Stockhausen’s remarks following the attacks on 9/11 (‘What happened there is—they all have to rearrange their brains now—is the greatest work of art ever. That characters can bring about in one act what we in music cannot dream of, that people practice madly for 10 years, completely, fanatically, for a concert and then die. That is the greatest work of art for the whole cosmos. I could not do that. Against that, we, composers, are nothing.’), and I am reminded of this now as I am reading the  fait accompli blog (I think there is a distinction, now, where the double-colons bookends denote the blog, and their absence, the book?). First of all in the title, “fait accompli,” there is here, it seems to me a sense, but more than a suggestion, of the fugitive (and by that I mean of the exile and of the refugee, and also of the ephemeral and of the evanescent, both of the fleeing and the fleeting).

 

But it is in the text, in this series of utterances, of articulations—they remind me of the poems of Lautréamont, the ones he wrote under his real name, Isidore Ducasse—they are terse, epigrammatical, nothing excessive, nothing slips away, these are not “throw-away lines,” they are a record, a documentation, and yet, again, in that title, my sense is of an avowal or declaration of resignation, a submission to the will of Providence.  What is the “fact,” what is the “act,” indeed what is the fate, what is the inevitability that is in contestant here, that is under witness here, what is the crux, the crucible of this contest, this conflict, this agones. . . ? (Is it some kind of perfection—is that the prize?  Is it the utterance/articulation itself?  The perfect utterance/articulation? Is perfection a form of madness?  What could be more heretical than this?)  

 

NP: The title *fait accompli* is intended as an ironic comment on the conventional viewpoint regarding time. The concept for the blog was to choose and post excerpts from my handwritten journals dating back to the 60's. Each passage was to correspond to ideas, feelings and concerns that I was concerned with that very day, thus creating a journal within a journal in an attempt to create a setting for synchronicities to occur: thus the subtitle of the blog, spellbound speculations, time travel. The blog had grown out of the dialogues I had sought out, mostly on the University of Buffalo listserv, after 9-11. The similarities between the war torn years of the 60's and the post 9-11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were, and are, inescapable. In fact, the phrase, fait accompli, is sometimes employed to characterize wartime events involving violence or political actions that politicians want to see regarded an final. What is done is done and there is no going back; the only choice is to aggressively respond.

 

For the most part, I do not conceive of time in this way, which probably results from my professional experience in the fields I have been practicing in for most of my life: writing, art and psychoanalysis. For me, time and history are recurrent, as in Freud's return of the repressed and repetition compulsion, the aphorisms of Heraclitus and the timeless insight of tribal shamans. Of course, there are the irreversible finalities of aging and death, utterly indisputable, except for religious believers and mystics, who usually don't completely deny these things but factor in their caveats. The quotes from Stockhausen and the Cammel/Roeg film belie extreme thinking, for me, bordering on the delusional or grandiose, that sometimes artists are inspired to apply to extraordinary or drastic aspects of life like war, death, murder and madness. There is a continuum in these things, of course, and what one person calls a vision the other might call a delusion. 

 

From my own point of view, death or madness written about, filmed, painted or photographed are being depicted and thus exist at a distance, enabling the artist to incorporate such harsh human realities into their singular visions as metaphors, symbols, emblems, fables, or allegories. Close-up, of course, actual madness and death are not ordinarily experienced as if they were similar to works of the imagination, yet they are inevitably and importantly crucial content for works of art since they are so basic to life but not to everyday life.  Also, partly because of the nature of memory and history, such experiences can later become aspects of one's understanding of the artistic process. But the content of art and the content of life are two distinct, albeit related, things.  Art is a release from life, a mode of taking distance, and although it can be a way of reliving, content in art plays a very different role, although in some ways, of course, an analogous one, from content in life. 

 

My book Fait Accompli concerns itself mostly with an alternative view of time that grows out of my artistic and psychoanalytic work, that is also not so different in character from some forms of mysticism. That Stockhausen can find inspiration for art or a vision of art in a horrifying event does not make that event art. The advantage of being an artist is that some of the painful events of life can be viewed as lessons. This is what philosophers usually do and it can be a helpful or even a great way to look at things. Everyone is, or should learn to be, a philosopher because this is a fine way to discover insights, to add breadth to life's experience and to try to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again: which is what we all mostly do anyway. On the other hand, one's philosophical or artistic work ought not to be used as a device for furthering delusions. This is a fine line.

 

 An alternative, then, to fatefulness or "submission to the will of Providence" might be the artist's philosophical process which chooses to reflect on life's experience as an ongoing series of lessons, not seeing events as ends in themselves.  This helps the artist to avoid the pitfalls latent in the narcissistic yearning for godlike perfection, and the related fears and anxieties around devilish guilt or damnation, by viewing their personal experience, and that of others, as works in progress. The Stockhausen quote is at that extreme end of delusion where the artist conflates life and art.  This can certainly be part of the process of creating works of art, but should never be its goal or resting place. When creating a work of art one can feel like they are going mad, but actual psychosis, while having its creative aspect, is mostly destructive and depriving and not very much like being an artist. Art can come out of psychosis and war but psychosis and war are not artistic in themselves. After making a work of art, the artist walks away from the creative process for awhile and contemplates it, and returns to everyday life. Neither the psychotic or the violent sociopath have that kind of freedom of choice much of the time (of course, I'm not equating the two).

 

In Hannah Arendt's important interpretation, the violence of war is not great or larger than life, but is a banality. While sometimes violence is an outcome of physical courage it is often the result of moral cowardice, the result of outrage, anger and revenge, or misguided loyalties, and saddest of all, impatience, thus banal. People resort to acting out their feelings because they believe they cannot be heard or understood and that dialogue is useless.  I've been reading two books by the novelist Joseph Kanon. One is titled The Good German and was made into a movie with George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Tobey Maguire. The movie was excellent. The other novel by Kanon is titled The Alibi, which I liked even more. Among the many points Kanon makes in his work is that violence breeds violence and inevitably transforms and corrupts everyone involved in it, and finally, entire nations.

 

In a culture of war, there is clearly no exit: everyone must adapt. The one exception to even most pacifists' concept of war is WW II.  In The Good German last night I read a passage which moved me deeply. A woman is talking to the main character, Jake, who is a reporter. Most of Germany was bombed to the ground at the end of the war. I happened to witness this outcome myself because I lived in Nuremberg from 1950-1953. The character, Frau Dzuris, who had lost many close to her during the bombing asks him: "Why did they want to bomb everything? Did they think we were Hitler? . . . So many dead. Terrible, you can't imagine, all night . . . A hospital.  They bombed even the sick."

 

Certainly violence should be understood as a serious and meaningful message about the conditions under which an individual or a group of people are living, whether such conditions have deprived or corrupted them, or both, and is, for the most part, a product of desperation, delusion or manipulation. But to respond in kind only increases the dimensions of the tragedy, and furthers an endless chain of hurting and killing. This is certainly one of the abiding points of many of Shakespeare's plays, for example. Works of art may contribute to the lessening of violence because they offer an alternative way of dealing with feelings of rage ("the play's the thing wherein we'll catch the conscience of the King"). But when you conflate the two you elevate the violence and reduce the efficacy of the mediation and meditation that enhance the social and personal refuge that art has to offer, and this is a grave mistake.  

 

By the way, everything in Fait Accompli is taken directly from the weblog of the same name. The dates in bold with the double colons indicate the dates on which writing was posted to the weblog.  Dates in parentheses mark specific extracts from my handwritten notebooks, which in the Factory School volume go back to the mid-seventies.  

 

GVST:  Thank you, Nick. Well here are my final two questions and with these I think we can bring this full-circle. When I was in my teens, and as my writing and as my enjoyment of poetry increased, I somehow acquired the notion (I’m not certain how or where it came from) that poetry was somehow synonymous with “Truth,” or that there did exist a relationship between poetry and Truth but such that the poet, in his poetry, did avouch and did communicate the Truth. Plainly this set poetry on a pedestal for me, and making sense of it today I think what is left of that notion is the tenet, scarce as it is, that poetry is not journalism, and never to confuse the two, and that poetry ought never be the vehicle for propaganda, and never to confuse the two (indeed, to know the two distinctly). 

 

Would you say what you think about poetry and Truth, and about poetry with regard to journalism and propaganda?  Maybe we can approach the matter this way:  You know these lines from William Carlos Williams’s ‘Asphodel, that Greeny Flower’: ‘It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.’ But granting that, I must ask, what is the poet’s “burden of proof,” or does he even have any?  And finally, to ask about your own particular station in our language (small l) idiom—that is to say, about your writing style and the decisions you make therefore.  For convenience I describe our “general language idiom” as “postmodern,” and I am conscious, in my own writing practices, that this is my place and time, this is my situation, and this consciousness affects my writing.  I wonder, do you feel yourself a part of this, or any, “general language idiom,” / this “postmodern situation,” and are you comfortable in it, and are you, perhaps, trying to write your way out of it?  

 

NP: Partly as a result of the contemporary rise of fundamentalisms, no offense intended, I've definitively had it with Truth.  Since I'm a long lapsed Catholic, a childhood alter boy who had some passing thoughts of priesthood, when I let go of all that I developed a rather strong antipathy towards dogmatism, cults and to a great extent, even groups with their "us and them" mentality. This applies to aspects of poetry groups as well, even the ones I've had the good fortune to participate in. I've talked and written about this extensively so I am going to try not to repeat myself here. But anyone who has been the victim of extreme trauma at the hands of someone in power—particularly a parent in early childhood—learns first-hand the immense value—and the elusive character—of truth. Don't worry, mine was not at the hands of a priest, it was an angry and punitive parent instead.

 

 Absolute power corrupts, as we see everywhere now, in presidents, in corporations, among intellectuals, artists, poets, anywhere. My admiration for poetry, psychoanalysis, art and philosophy no doubt grew out of the early childhood estrangement from my surroundings that resulted from my precocious sensitivity to these and other issues. If I was going to be denied knowledge or knowledge was going to be hidden from me by others, I was anxious to discover alternate routes. As I discussed in the first part of this interview, it is my conviction that processes of transformation, healing and change tend to engender internal compensatory structures.  The more the sensitive and curious aspects of our developing personalities are intruded upon by deceptions and propaganda, the greater the poet's need to develop an inner ear that can detect whatever truths can be unearthed in their available, but often disguised, disconnected and fragmented forms. Just as any individual might replay a particular experience in memory, seeking to understand more fully the underlying connections between events, the poet replays words in the imagination, and later writes them down, sounding them against each other, just as someone might tap a wall in search for the areas where plaster might be covering a beam, and the other areas that might be hollow. 

 

This is not as easy as it seems, however, because all the senses and cognitive processes are vulnerable to the social deceptions and resulting self-deceptions that been consciously and unconsciously devised by those in power to hold on to their power. And there are as many kinds of power and authority, within and without, as there are motivations to obtain control and influence over others. Like anyone else, poets seek power and are to one extent or another under the sway of predatory instincts. They crave support, response, acclaim and influence as much as anyone. As powerful as these instincts might be, and as tempting the satisfactions that might correspond to them, the essential task of the poet in our time is not so much to "purify the dialect of the tribe" but to uncover the musical scales and constructs in which the rhythms, harmonies and patterns of the truths of our time might be heard, as episodic and fragmentary as these might be. In Nada Gordon's recent book  Folly, Drew Gardner's Petroleum Hat, Katie Degentesh's The Anger Scale, K. Silem Mohammad's Deer Head Nation, Gary Sullivan's How to Proceed in the Arts, Rodney Koeneke's Musee Mechanique, Mitch Highfill's Rebis and Stan Apps' info ration, to name a few, the language of pretentious and inflated expertise and authority is sounded out and parodied, for all its false suppositions pomposity and emptiness.

 

Yet since even these false formulations are composed of and reflect our shared language and expressions, our universal foibles, aspirations and triumphs, vulnerabilities and follies, all the underlying everyday accumulated realities and truths of human experience are still laid bare, but here often by means of sharp, and sometimes even biting, parody, sarcasm and satire.  The deeper the truths have been buried beneath the dingiest contemporary cultural debris, the sharper the shovel needed to uncover it—allowing, at the same time, considerable justifiable outrage to release itself in poetic hilarity.  In the modern era, from Baudelaire forward, poetry has sought to offer in language political, philosophical, psychological and emotional tools to expose and release the masks insisted on by social conditioning.

 

The love of truth is, for the most part, no matter how passionately expressed and received, an unrequited love. In contemporary life, the truth in literary terms has much more to do with "treatment" than it does with diagnosis and explanation. The Flarf group is offering much needed poetic shock therapy for the dulled and damaged senses of the traumatized and inescapably passive victims of an insanely and blindly cruel authoritarian corporate ruling class (as I was writing this I learned that a US Army corporal will soon be in front of a judge who will consider his court-martial for an alleged shooting of children and women in cold blood in their homes in Iraq).  Field workers in the Google archives, the Flarf group's miner's lights flash onto the buried objects and bodies whose accumulated evidence might get us far closer to the truth than the pompous phrases of pundits and politicians. 

 

My own path as poet has pointed me in other directions of late than most of the peers whose poetry I so admire. This very likely has something to do with my work over decades as a social worker and psychoanalyst. For the past year and a half or so, in addition to creating a collage book (selections from the manuscript of  this 168 page book have been published over the years on your webzine e ratio, and the complete book is now out from Mark Young's Otoliths Press under the title Free Fall), I have been writing aphorisms in a form I call “Contradicta.”  These have now been collected into a manuscript of the same title, with over 70 collage illustrations by my wife, the artist Toni Simon. 

 

The initial idea for Contradicta was to compose sets of aphorisms both of which are true yet are nevertheless contradictory. Eventually this evolved into sets of aphorisms that resonate paradoxically, but not necessarily in a contradictory way. Perhaps I am something of a postmodernist (the term is such a loose one) in my eclecticism and skepticism. Unquestionably when I began writing I was completely immersed in modernism: A. E. Housman, Freud, Pollock, T. S. Eliot, Thomas Mann, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Gide, Ibsen, Camus, Neruda, Rilke, Baudelaire, Vallejo, Pavese, Stevens, Ashbery's Tennis Court Oath, Ginsberg, Creeley, Ted Berrigan, Joe Ceravolo,  Frank Kuenstler,  Bernadette Mayer, Vito Acconci, Anne Waldman, Robert Smithson, Ponge, Burroughs, Jackson MacLow. 

 

I greatly admired and enjoyed the work of Derrida and Barthes as it emerged in English in the 70's.and of course, the New York School and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets. But as much as I continue to greatly enjoy and admire such work, in my own writing in recent years I've tended to offer contributions that on the surface, anyway, resemble more the 17th Century maxims of La Rochefoucauld.  A close study of the history of the aphorism as a form has made me aware of its continuing relevance, not so much to the process of poetic form, which has long been one of my central interests, but to the processes of psychological and social transformation by means of insight.  After expressing my immense gratitude for the care and patience you have put into this interview, which has taken so much of your time for over two years, I'll conclude with a few of these Contradicta:  

 

 

Contradicta

 

 

Truth cloaks itself in paradox, lies in deception, poetry in obscurity, love in self-effacement.  Everything important remains masked.

 

 

Those who can no longer be surprised lose the capacity to surprise.  By being predictably astonishing, some console themselves.  

 

 

***

 

Our stories are the hands we need to grasp the truths of life and the arms we use to hold it close.  

 

 

The mind's truth needs fiction's face.  

 

 

***

 

One truth will produce a thousand lies, one kindness a thousand hurts, one success a thousand uncertainties.  

Of all the potions, balms and drugs, there is no more powerful elixir than a smile.    

 

   

Copyright © Nick Piombino & Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino