Paul Vermeersch Interview @ The Torontoist
The third in this series of critical interviews I’ve been doing is now up at The Torontoist’s book page. The partner in talk this time is my good friend Paul Vermeersch, who has a new book, The Reinvention of the Human Hand out next month. You should buy a copy, you’ll like it. There’s a quick excerpt below the stars, but you can just read the whole thing here.
JMM: There’s a lot of that in Reinvention, of the secularization of things previously associated with the magical, or with dreams of the omnipotent. The one called “In the Glorious Absence of Gods” is maybe the most obvious example but, like you said, “Ape” is doing the same thing. Poetry, even the language we use to describe it, has a certain associated religiosity, with words like “epiphany” and “the muse” and others. But many contemporary poets are atheists. Do you think that tension, between the specific secular trend of the poems and the ancient spirituality of the art form, impacts your work in any way?
PV: I’m not sure if a scientific study has been done, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that a lot of contemporary poets are non-religious. Another one of Stevens’ aphorisms says, “After one has abandoned a belief in God, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption.” In light of that comment, I think a lot of people want certain things that religion can give them, a way of feeling a connection to the world or a deeper sense of universal order and meaningfulness, but they eschew the other things, like the inherently irrational nature of faith and the hocus pocus of the divine. Poetry is capable of delivering one without the other, so people can turn to poetry as a form of epiphany or ritual distilled from its metaphysical origins.
On an unrelated note, I have some new poems up at 3AM Magazine, a well-stocked British portal for all things young and literary. When I was 19 and just starting to write, they were my favourite online journal. It’s taken me a little while, but I’ve managed to get inside there, eventually.