Jessica Pujol in conversation.

October 11, 2009
I sat down for an interview with our resident Catalan poet, Jessica Puyol, in order to find out a bit more about the inspiration behind  her poem “Para Dice”.
Tom Slingsby: When we started the project thinking about the idea of ‘resampling’, now we have a related title of ‘It’s All About Paradise 2’, what do those notions mean to you?
Jessica Puyol: Yeah, I think they are quite similar. To me it’s something quotidian, in particular the idea of the fight between reality and an idealised world. We can never reach paradise, but we try to reproduce it. I had a friend who said ‘God doesn’t exist, so we always end up trying to make him ourselves’. Because it’s an ideal, it will never be what we expect it to be. That’s how I understand Paradise 2.
TS: Do you think it’s a sad thing that we can never attain those ideals?
JP:  No, I think it’s a good thing. It means that we have hope. The fact that we cannot reach our ideals doesn’t mean that we have to abandon them. If art is in some way reproducing elements of a discontented, sceptical society, it is important that it also brings some kind of hope to this.
TS: So could you say something about how you went about writing your poem?
JP:  I’m very happy that this has been a community project. As I writer – and I think lots of artists do this – I always work on my own. But this project has been amazing because it’s something that we have shared, and we have influenced each other. We are referring to one another’s projects in our own work. It’s not an exhibition of people coming from different places, or rather, even though we are coming from different places, we work towards our art together. So what I did was listening at first, thinking about what the other artists were saying [during group critiques] and by the end I had lots of notes, and there were particular sentences that we were all saying, sentences that I really like. I chose the ones that were meaningful and were meant to be there, to be written. And at the same time I combined this with the idea of Paradise 2, and formal notions of metre and rhythm, of course. For me it’s been a challenge, I’ve never written a poem in English before! I also re-read Milton’s Paradise Regained and Dante’s Paradise. And I tried to put everything together and tried to make sense of it! And this is the result!
TS: It’s a really exciting poem.
JP: Also it’s a sonnet, because the sonnet was considered the perfect form in Italy and throughout the history of poetry. And what I’ve done, instead of following the metre, I’ve used the number 7, each line is seven words long, and I’ve divided the 14 lines of the sonnet form into two sevens. I’ve had this obsession with the number seven because it’s behind the idea of Paradise. So there are three poems of fourteen lines, because three is the Holy Trinity, another notion of perfection.
TS: I also really like how you have a lot of Brightonian elements in the poem.
JP: I really like this city, I think it’s very arty, and people come here with lots of dreams. But then I think we all realise, that it’s a bit like the Pavillion. We put together lots of fake things that don’t match together, and people come and go.
TS: It’s a very transitory place. And were there any more recent influences on your text, because in a lot of ways it’s not a very traditional poem?
JP: I didn’t want to write a traditional poem, because traditional forms can make you think in a traditional way, and I wanted to tackle the idea of reproduction in a more contemporaneous sense. It’s a bit playful, it’s not a serious poem, and I don’t want it to be. There’s other stuff which I write which is maybe more serious. In some ways it is serious, because I’ve put together everyone else’s ideas, but at the same it’s not very dense and very…
TS: I think it has a lightness of touch, it’s very readable, and I think humour is underestimated in general as a critical trope. And it’s interesting that Tila’s work for example uses a lot of humour, I think nearly everyone’s does.
JP: And there are lots of references in the poem. The blue unicorn refers to Sylvio Rodriguez’ song –
TS: He’s the Cuban guy, right?
JP: – yeah, he talks about ideals, “the blue unicorn that I’ve lost”, and it talks about imagination and originality. We are always searching for originality, but maybe there’s nothing new under the sun, just different forms. And the recession had be in there as well [laughs]!
TS: I was gonna ask you about your use of prefixes, because you say for example, “In re cession times time goes backwards”. Why have you detached the prefixes in that way?
JP: Well, the original word means something and then there is this play with the ‘re’: we are redoing, reproducing, resampling, and I’ve played with that. Also, there’s Hopscotch, which is Cortazar’s book. You jump across the hopscotch squares towards Paradise. And life is like jumping across a series of hopscotch squares, sometimes jumping backwards!
TS: The visual artists have chosen to work in unfamiliar media –
JP: For me it’s the language! I was trying to find other Spanish poets who have written in English and I could only find two! It’s difficult thing to do, it’s been a challenge.
TS: But maybe there’s also something liberating about writing in, what is it, your third language?
JP: It’s liberating, because the English language is very flexible. In Spanish you can’t play with words so much. I find that English is a very flexible and dynamic language, and because it’s spoken all over the world and by lots of foreign people, it’s always changing.  It’s a very alive language.
TS: It is a patchwork language. And was it important to have phrases from different languages in there? You’ve got some Italian from Dante, some Spanish in there..
JP: I had to put some Spanish in there! Also playing with the title of the show, in my title “Para Dice”.
TS: Could you gloss that for us?
JP: You cannot say “Para Dice” in Spanish: “Para” means “for” and “dice” “she says” or “he says”. I so just tried to play, with a little bit of violence against my language, to alter the meaning and create another joke! And I put the Italian in from Dante because, I’m not gonna translate the Divine Comedy!
You can read Jessica’s poem here http://bit.ly/XApox and hear her reading it aloud alongside writers Thomas Farrington and Thomas Slingsby at Blank Gallery in Portslade on October 17th.

I sat down for an interview with the project’s Catalan poet, Jessica Pujol, in order to find out a bit more about the inspiration behind  her poem “Para Dice”.

Tom Slingsby: We started the project thinking about the idea of ‘resampling’, now we have a related title of ‘It’s All About Paradise 2’, what do those notions mean to you?

Jessica Pujol: Yeah, I think they are quite similar. To me it’s something quotidian, in particular the idea of the fight between reality and an idealised world. We can never reach paradise, but we try to reproduce it. I had a friend who said ‘God doesn’t exist, so we always end up trying to make him ourselves’. Because it’s an ideal, it will never be what we expect it to be. That’s how I understand Paradise 2.

TS: Do you think it’s a sad thing that we can never attain those ideals?

JP:  No, I think it’s a good thing. It means that we have hope. The fact that we cannot reach our ideals doesn’t mean that we have to abandon them. If art is in some way reproducing elements of a discontented, sceptical society, it is important that it also brings some kind of hope to this.

TS: So could you say something about how you went about writing your poem?

JP:  I’m very happy that this has been a community project. As I writer – and I think lots of artists do this – I always work on my own. But this project has been amazing because it’s something that we have shared, and we have influenced each other. We are referring to one another’s projects in our own work. It’s not an exhibition of people coming from different places, or rather, even though we are coming from different places, we work towards our art together. So what I did was listening at first, thinking about what the other artists were saying [during group critiques] and by the end I had lots of notes, and there were particular sentences that we were all saying, sentences that I really like. I chose the ones that were meaningful and were meant to be there, to be written. And at the same time I combined this with the idea of Paradise 2, and formal notions of metre and rhythm, of course. For me it’s been a challenge, I’ve never written a poem in English before! I also re-read Milton’s Paradise Regained and Dante’s Paradise. And I tried to put everything together and tried to make sense of it! And this is the result!

TS: It’s a really exciting poem.

JP: Also it’s a sonnet, because the sonnet was considered the perfect form in Italy and throughout the history of poetry. And what I’ve done, instead of following the metre, I’ve used the number 7, each line is seven words long, and I’ve divided the 14 lines of the sonnet form into two sevens. I’ve had this obsession with the number seven because it’s behind the idea of Paradise. So there are three poems of fourteen lines, because three is the Holy Trinity, another notion of perfection.

TS: I also really like how you have a lot of Brightonian elements in the poem.

JP: I really like this city, I think it’s very arty, and people come here with lots of dreams. But then I think we all realise, that it’s a bit like the Pavillion. We put together lots of fake things that don’t match together, and people come and go.

TS: It’s a very transitory place. And were there any more recent influences on your text, because in a lot of ways it’s not a very traditional poem?

JP: I didn’t want to write a traditional poem, because traditional forms can make you think in a traditional way, and I wanted to tackle the idea of reproduction in a more contemporaneous sense. It’s a bit playful, it’s not a serious poem, and I don’t want it to be. There’s other stuff which I write which is maybe more serious. In some ways it is serious, because I’ve put together everyone else’s ideas, but at the same it’s not very dense and very…

TS: I think it has a lightness of touch, it’s very readable, and I think humour is underestimated in general as a critical trope. And it’s interesting that Tila’s work for example uses a lot of humour, I think nearly everyone’s does.

JP: And there are lots of references in the poem. The blue unicorn refers to Sylvio Rodriguez’ song –

TS: He’s the Cuban guy, right?

JP: – yeah, he talks about ideals, “the blue unicorn that I’ve lost”, and it talks about imagination and originality. We are always searching for originality, but maybe there’s nothing new under the sun, just different forms. And the recession had be in there as well [laughs]!

TS: I was gonna ask you about your use of prefixes, because you say for example, “In re cession times time goes backwards”. Why have you detached the prefixes in that way?

JP: Well, the original word means something and then there is this play with the ‘re’: we are redoing, reproducing, resampling, and I’ve played with that. Also, there’s Hopscotch, which is Cortazar’s book. You jump across the hopscotch squares towards Paradise. And life is like jumping across a series of hopscotch squares, sometimes jumping backwards!

TS: The visual artists have chosen to work in unfamiliar media –

JP: For me it’s the language! I was trying to find other Spanish poets who have written in English and I could only find two! It’s difficult thing to do, it’s been a challenge.

TS: But maybe there’s also something liberating about writing in, what is it, your third language?

JP: It’s liberating, because the English language is very flexible. In Spanish you can’t play with words so much. I find that English is a very flexible and dynamic language, and because it’s spoken all over the world and by lots of foreign people, it’s always changing.  It’s a very alive language.

TS: It is a patchwork language. And was it important to have phrases from different languages in there? You’ve got some Italian from Dante, some Spanish in there..

JP: I had to put some Spanish in there! Also playing with the title of the show, in my title “Para Dice”.

TS: Could you gloss that for us?

JP: You cannot say “Para Dice” in Spanish: “Para” means “for” and “dice” “she says” or “he says”. I so just tried to play, with a little bit of violence against my language, to alter the meaning and create another joke! And I put the Italian in from Dante because, I’m not gonna translate the Divine Comedy!

You can read Jessica’s poem here and hear her reading it aloud alongside writers Thomas Farrington and Thomas Slingsby at Blank Gallery in Portslade on October 17th.

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