Poetry and love: an imperishable, indestructible pair, also (and especially!) at the age of Facebook. I meet Giorgio Anastasia, Neapolitan performer and poet born in Potenza who refuses or limits the more traditional publishing system (“it is sad to see how few poetry books are sold or stand in Italian bookshops”) and seems to prefer poetry blogs beside his own (that hosts the Camera Buia collection) to make him visible with crazy followers and faithful, loving readers.
Offline Giorgio is an avid, non-stop organizer of readings and is inviting also other poets and actors or performers coming from different art disciplines beside his best friends. In order to shout his and others’ verses: vibrating, often hard and loud jam sessions that are always up and hype. This interview has not a start and does not come to an end, as Camera Buia seems to be. This interview likes only to make poetry, that’s it.
The only certain data is that this interview happens more or less at the twentieth year of Giorgio the poet, the man is 42 nowadays. He started to write at the age of 14 but we decide to consider his 20 years old as mature start up, only because 20 is a nice and rounded number.
Me and Giorgio crossed our writing souls ages ago in indie publications – as we can define them now; sort of books and poetry collections we were self-building (not with Apple but in the crowded Naples typing and photocopy shops) and then self-distributing or in those fanzines some other friends were able to issue – rich, substantial meteorites for that city orphan of fanzines around 1988-1995 after the long times dictated by the famous visual poets and middle 60s famous poet-groups that even today stand as a crucial experience for poetry and literature in Italian language.
You wonderfully write about love, without a fixed genre and gender identity: it is a big jump after Whitman, Dickinson and J.T. Leroy – even after discovering that he a fictious character (his writings luckily still exist) – this told just to do not going back to some lines by Boccaccio and by the Pasolini of the collection Poesia in forma di rosa. You seem to write about love for all genders, by electing your biography as material glue? How do you make this and why?
You reminded me when, 20 years old, me and few friends have chosen a former, abandoned timber mill downtown old Naples as an awkward cultural underground centre. It was around 1991 and we were drown in the middle of the starting of a winter afternoon with Sara Sole, Francesco di Bella, Giovanni Zoppoli and Sandro Fucito, we moved on the idea that our cultural center – “Il Cerriglio” – had to be our further chance for this city and its young creative sons. Lots of energy and courage were needed, together with some fresh ideas, to give a new way, even short-lived and small, to this city (that is still today going through a never-ending economic, social and cultural default). In those years I was printing for Cerriglio and its peculiar neighbours a small collection of books entitled “Gesuvio – writings by minimal men and women”. I was completely forgetting this experience. Anyway, we are trying to make a prologue of an artistic experience that many times I tried (and itself tried) to find a continuum over generations, but it was not always successful to edit and understand or to make a living of it. It is not by chance that after the failure of consolidating this experience (during this gap I stopped to write for 10 years) I went through a catharsis and put myself aside.
Thanks for the compliment, but believe me, I do not think to write “admirably”.
When I restarted to write, I could only speak of love, only love; I could evoke the poetry of the images made of slices of life that sometime tell ourselves to the outer space….I took myself and put it on verses and if it is true that on sexual things you can be also objective, on love affairs this is impossible, you have to be subjective. On this personal intuition I built “Camera Buia: lyrics of an impossible love”. The biopics and the storytelling, the repetition of actions transform ourselves into a plot, the daily happenings in a love affair, the play we call life and on it you bet the majority of emotions – all this is always hazardous. You can be fucked by all or you could build a fortune on it. I only tried to push the daily troubles a bit further and I tried to exorcise the problems: at the very end, everybody searches happiness, I indeed say that we can be only serene and to so into that mood, we have to forget and we have to continuously free ourselves.
The life movement is more or less the same, on more and diverse latitudes, unless we consider the difference produced by culture and traditions. Mankind lives to share with other human beings, to enjoy, to get better or to indulge in repetitions that could somehow damage – still many, too many, prefer wars, profit, misuse of power. To write only about love is, according to you, enough straight to put all (your) life in, or according to your opinion, love stories are (still) the only way to sing life, because the rest is less exciting and so writing about it is un-useful? And here I could use again Pasolini, and other artists who were less politically engaged, to sustain my question….
I do not remember who told me that the time to hate is only in old age, because when we are at the end of our lives, when all the love affairs are finished and new ones cannot arise, when our expectations are less than zero and the excitement of waiting is exhausted, all that remains is hate, the opposite of love, as a unique form of vitality, of staging our life still, a last coup de theatre left to us….and If I think about this, I already picked a couple of people that will hate with all my forces, keeping and preserving with care this feeling, strong and vivid, a fascinating feeling exactly as love could be. To answer your question: no, I feel that love is an important part of life, but there are so many other pieces that could be considered as objects-subjects of narration. I simply choose love because is a common language we all share, the deepest essence of our past and present tense. I envy those who are able to get in love once in their lives, or even twice or those who are able to get in love all the times they want to…I was not able to and I feel very lucky because to get in love is a revolution, a discovery act that penetrates so deep in you and thus is so able to change the chemistry of elements driving you crazy, in other moments it could lead to heal you.
I also see that today there are still lots of poets living in not free countries where are censored, who still write and unveil errors or other explicit and hidden violence in their regimes, running the most difficult path: the one giving to words, still today, the privilege to be a weapon, the most powerful as well as the unique to be bloodless.
Technical and tactical question: do you write thinking about an audience reading you and virally exchanging your lines or clicking I like? Or, on the contrary, do you write thinking about the best reading format for those words and so on, i.e. thinking about screaming some lines more than others, with living followers listening to you? Then why do you write instead of making sculptures or paintings or recitals?
I ask you this questions because it seems you are not interested to publish in paper books of poetry, even if you are embodying the forerunners of those teenagers without internet, mobile phones, messenger…. (you are not a digital native, just like me). And now, living fully and only in a digital world, you could have audio books making your poetries published, new forms of song-poems and thousands of other outlets, some of them small and hilly, to run…Including feeding some video art or certain theatre with your poems…Where do you want to place poetry in your life?
I never thought about these questions. The only certain thing is that I do not write for somebody else or for a next – real or imagined – reading. I write essentially for myself and for anybody else! There are days, weeks I do not compose a line and so I start to get worried, I get frightened and think maybe my creativity goes over. Then, willing or unwilling, the inspiration comes again: there are no other possibilities than writing, I choose writing and especially poetry to depict my uneasyness in front of a reality that causes arrhythmia. I found in poetry the tool to overcome worries, to carve a balance, in few words to save my ass. I felt the fascination of a publication at my starting carrier, when I was also thinking that words could even stand better with a glossy cover. Now I changed my mind! Everybody writes poetry also because it is the easiest thing to do and everybody publishes something that, read and immediately digested, becomes a commodity as all the others and is, sometimes, also of low quality.
This material surplus of lines that titillates the emotional sphere beyond words, the shadowed parts of us, the inaudible results of what is not familiar, becomes confidential, and so remains only for me. Writing for me is not only a mental state, it is physical: I write only in a room, only at night and I cannot make it elsewhere or at any other hour. This small shelter I gave to me has a gigantic power, a magical and therapeutic relief and differently it would not have any sense, it will be only emptiness calling for other emptiness. Here we are, this is how and why I write.
Another technical question: you seem to have studied metrics and you then apply or un-apply it by following the emotional weight you channel in some private feelings you put in your poems or by following the sound that some words, once put together, are able to create? Am I right?Which is the relationship you have or have had with metrics? And which is your “light-house”, i.e. a big master, driving you (a poet, a musician)? How do you insert other poets suggestions in your pieces? Can you give me some example?
Poetry is also a bunch of rules. In old Greece, at a certain point there was the need to get away from the burden of too many conditioning norms, (even by keeping the respect for the differences among genres) and surrender to the harmony, the sonic marvel. We had to wait the XIX Century to see the start of a search of a poetry standard that is able to stay in the middle even if is not the common language used in any other communication form.
The musicality is a very evident character of my poetry and if I would not be able to play this it could be a chess game without rationality in moving. Game is loss before starting it. I can write also fast and in few minutes, I can lose myself in the stream of words that are coming up, reaching the last part of my fingers typing on the laptop..but after, I suddenly start another, more delicate job: the labor limae. Editing here and there, feeling which word is wrong or is not well placed, sometimes you have to kill to change or to knock words. Once the line is born, I repeat it as a song, as a mantra. I tell myself “do not get close to all what you write”, I learnt this when I was a ‘baby’ poet and I was following the famous Italian poet Antonio Spagnuolo, there were weekly meetings, I went to his house and he was used to take my lyrics (at those times I was typing on the writing machine, there were no laptops and home printers), he read carefully and then cancelled, or edited, but not only with my lines…He was used to take a book by Montale, one among the others, opening any page and telling me: Listen, if I were him, here I would rather write this, there is ok….”Before presenting me one of his latest poetry collections, Antonio Spagnuolo suggested me to buy a synonyms dictionary.
Antonio had a great influence on me and he was always available with all the young poets bringing us lyrics and sharing opinions. And he was very supportive for all of us, youngsters starting to run through the street of poetry.
When I started to write again I needed to recover the lost time and so I started to listen Philip Glass, seated with the laptop and a white page. I got a second chance and I would not have been happy to lose it.
Readings: let me know how, which ones and especially why? Where do you will like to organize a new one?
Readings are the last step of my poetical experience…I still remember the ones I used to organize 17, 18 years ago in the bars downtown the city with Silvio Talamo, Marco Nieli, Vozla and Emilio Piccolo, with the blues guitar of Franco Sansalone; to give you their flavour I just quote the crazy titles of some of them: Rutti e lutti d’amore, Beatrice il mio cuore è pieno di turbamenti… Even in those times I was already convinced that poetry has to be singed, has to become a chorus, has to be celebrated and interpreted by different voices, has to mix and shake different artistic sensibilities. Two years ago I started again with readings, I prepare one reading per year and then I make tours in the places I like the most. I am always accompanied by the collaboration and friendship of Vozla and Arturo Castaldi. One of the last readings has been Hash Poetry, set in the fascinating Piazza Bellini at the bookshop Evaluna (the feminist shop, ndr), in this case the blues guitar was of Angelo Capone and the trumpet of Emiddio Onorato. Every place is good enough for readings, but I prefer small ones, crowded by different – for age and provenance – audiences. The formula I share is easy. We often make a few rehearsals before the reading (this maybe could be improved). Readings have to get in touch with audience and, believe me I get surprised every time: usually many people show up and they arevery attentive! Maybe it happens thanks to social networks or it is the pleasure of spending a different night out, the curiosity, who knows: I can tell you that poetry nowadays does not leave people indifferent. In Naples there is a sort of awakening for things as readings or for nights where stage is left for free voices. Sometimes I also join readings not organised by me, curious to know who are the young poets who spin words and passion. I get curious to know who is the next, who are going to be the new ones.
Camera Buia is a cool name. It reminds me a small shop in Naples on some stairs close to square that was a neverending poetic source: it was in 1990 in Naples, when the city was much more a myth-producing factory than nowadays, for people staying in town, for the nights out in a place over there (Caffè della Luna). Camera Buia also made me think about a similar words – camera obscura (photography that is so much similar to poetry!): the place for alchemy, where everything is born. Can you tell me why you named your collection (readable at http://giorgioanastasia.blogspot.com/) like this? You do not seem to me a performer or a maudit poet living only without light or a poet post-hangover….
When I started writing again, I was not able to understand I was making a project with very defined borders. The title of my collection came up in a certain evening, better night, because as I told you I only write at night with a small, barely perceivable source of light. But you are right when you compare it to something similar to a camera obscura: a parallel and corresponded process where a transformation is happening, where a development is in its act, where there is a choice, where an image is starting, an image that initiates its corruption only after the termination of its fixation…I also believe that everybody has his dark room and tries to live it (and in it) as s/he can, with the tools and the capacity he is provided with: sometimes it gets harder, or it is even enough to open a window to make it clearer. I am a very reserved person, I do not like to show myself a lot and I do not like to consider myself a maudit poet or an hangover, cheap poet – even if beer or rhum are often my most faithful friends. For this reason I close myself in my room that, luckily, is less dark than the first day I opened it. With the passing the time, I tell you that days provided warmer and increasingly abundant light.
When Camera Buia was born? How many poems does it contain? How many readers does it have? Have you also thought about transforming it into an audio form? According to you, what is the importance of the mother tongue of the author? Would you consider writing in a different language? Would you like to be translated? Do you like to write on commission, as the times in which there were painters making portraits of dukes, cardinals and unfitting princesses to whom give a garden as a present for a clandestine rendez-vous (here the reference is to the story behind the Garden of Floridiana in Naples, built by a rich person to meet in secret his beloved lady, note of the editor)?
Camera Buia started 3 years ago but its actual form (a blog) started only one year ago and is summarizing what I have done in these years. At the moment it contains more than 120 poems and I’ve recently concluded it…It received more than 7000 visits from every part of the world (Spain, France, Germany, Russia and other European countries but also from US, Canada and South America, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, India, China, Australia…). Then I’ve started A Pugni Stretti, since April 2012: it already contains around 150 poems. For the moment I am very happy of my mother tongue due to the intense research and study I make over words, sounds, and meanings. But, who knows, translations in different languages could happen but I think that in the first one, Italian, the sign of the author is more visible. At the same time, my idea is that poetry is not of the author but of the reader, so anyone has to have the pleasure to make of my lines into what s/he likes more. I would love to close this nice talk by quoting an author I like, because Camera Buia is written for clandestine loves:
“Guarda l’essere che ami nel cuore di un paese: vedrai, se l’amore è forte, quanto è grande il paese del tuo cuore, e come esso è un regno, e come la tua e quella dell’essere amato volga ad essere la signoria senza schiavitù.” (di Giorgio Cesarano da “L’insurrezione erotica”).