The Argotist OnlineTM
Nick Piombino Interview
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.
Vincent St. Thomasino lives in New York City where he edits the online poetry journal,
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?
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
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).
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.
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.
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?’
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?
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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).
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
cloaks itself in paradox, lies in deception, poetry in obscurity, love in
important remains masked.
who can no longer be surprised lose the capacity to surprise.
By being predictably astonishing, some console themselves.
stories are the hands we need to grasp the truths of life and the arms we use to
hold it close.
mind's truth needs fiction's face.
truth will produce a thousand lies, one kindness a thousand hurts, one success a
all the potions, balms and drugs, there is no more powerful elixir than a smile.
Copyright © Nick
Piombino & Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino