We asked Catalan poet, Mireia Calafell, five questions about the themes she likes to explore in her poetry and her latest collection Forked Tongues. You can find her at IFOA 2017.
IFOA: What are some themes and subject matters that you like to explore in your poetry?
Mireia Calafell: I guess the main subject matter I like to explore in my poetry is how we are related to others and by other, I mean people, animals and everything around us.
Love, death and identity are always present in my poems and what I try to do is approach these subjects through the everyday experiences we have. When I write, I want to draw a path from what is small and quotidian to a bigger reflection in order to suggest a re-reading that changes the sense of what seems—at the first—small and quotidian.
IFOA: Tell us a bit about your latest work and what inspired you to write it.
As an adjective, it would be translated as So many mute (women), as it is feminine and plural. In this part, there are poems that reflect on silence, literature, writing and gender, as historically women have been silenced and have not had the opportunity to speak.
When “muda” is a noun, the title would be translated as So many changes of clothes, and in this part of the book, there are poems that reflect on body, desire and love.
Finally, if we read “muda” as a verb, the title would be So many skins, and here there are poems that suggest a reflection of death, moves, and changes in general. The presence of animals that are not humans in this part of the book is really important.
As you can see, I really like to explore the different meanings that a word can have depending on the reading.
IFOA: What makes a good poem? What makes a great poem?
Calafell: Surprisingly, I think that it is easier for me to define what a great poem is than what is a good poem. In my opinion, a great poem has something to do with what Derrida said about hospitality and what he calls the absolute guest:
“The absolute guest is this arrivant for whom there is not even a horizon of expectation, who bursts onto my horizon of expectations when I am not even prepared to receive the one who I’ll be receiving. That’s hospitality. Hospitality is not merely receiving that which we are able to receive”.
Certainly, I want to think that a great poem is the one that makes us receive what we are not prepared to receive, what we are not expecting, what we don’t see coming because it is unpredictable. How difficult it is to find a great poem!
IFOA: What are you reading now?
Calafell: Oh, there are a lot of poetry readings waiting for me: Adam Zagajewsky, Nicole Brossard, RaúlZurita and some really interesting Catalan poets: Dolors Miquel, Màrius Sampere, Maria Cabrera and Francesc Josep Vélez. These are all books I bought last month.
IFOA: What are you working on now?
Calafell: Currently I’m working on a book that reflects on who we are. In Catalan, the title will be: Nosaltres, qui which translates to something like We: who. The use of we, what we understand when we say we, who the community is, who they are, who the others are… and all the concepts related to a pronoun that these days is as terrifying as it is encouraging.
Mireia Calafell is the author of Poètiques del cos (Galerada, 2006; Amadeu Oller Prize for Poetry 2006 and VIII Memorial Anna Dodas 2008), Costures (Viena Edicions, 2010; Josep M. López Picó Prize for Poetry 2009) and Tantes mudes (Perifèric Edicions, 2014; Premi de poesia Benvingut Oliver 2013). In 2015 she was awarded the Lletra d’Or for the best book published in Catalan for Tantes mudes which has recently been translated into Spanish (Stendhal Books). Her poetry has been included in anthologies published in Argentina, Brazil, Holand, UK, the United Arab Emirates and Spain.
Calafell also works for Artsmoved, where she is involved in the development of cultural and educational projects as well as studies into cultural politics. She has had several articles published in research journals in the field of cultural studies and, since 2016, she is the co-director of the i+ Poetry festival.