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INTERVIEW                                      spanish original | four poems

Dolors Miquel: photo by Amanda S.Dolors Miquel:

The poet who shouts about women and truck-drivers...

by Amanda Schoenberg

translated from the Spanish by Amanda Schoenberg


AS: In both of the other interviews (see Interview with six Catalan poets) it suddenly struck me that there were no women present. We discussed the apparent lack of women in Catalan poetry, but didn’t come to any conclusions. Basically, the question I would like to ask you is where are the women?
DM: Well, there are women. It’s just that poetry is very closed to them, so I’ve noticed.

AS: Maybe, as Eduard Escoffet says, in five years the most famous Catalan poets will be women. He seems to think that the lack of women is only a question of circumstances.
It just depends on the generation. Women who are now between twenty and thirty are regarded as equal by men of their age, but the men of my generation - ten years older or ten years younger - continue with this machismo, although I don’t think they do it intentionally. For example, when the magazine Cave Canis died, it did so practically without any women having collaborated, although we’re still going strong, right? I talked to the man responsible for this at Cave Canis - about the lack of women - and he told me that he was glad I offered this reflection, but I don’t know. . . in the closed vanguard circles it is a masculine domain. In the poetry of "experience," maybe women fit in more easily; however in what we would call experimental poetry, women have not been considered poetically.

AS: Here in Catalunya or in general?
I went to a women writers conference in the Canary Islands. There were women complaining there also, but, for example, I don’t know about the female poetry situation in France, I’m not sure whether they have equal status or not, but the complaints were there. I think that in literature, "love" has always been a theme that portrays man as being "in love" with a woman. Or a woman is seen crying because the man abandoned her. That is, poetically speaking, it has been very stereotypical. It is difficult to enter this area, because there are other non-literary schemas involved. That is, when I myself want to talk about love, I am always afraid of being an imbecile. Yes, because I can only stay within the tearful terrain, which is what women have systematically done: cry.

AS: And if you find yourself in some other terrain?
I'm in uncertain territory, because it is like their language, their behavior. . . I don’t know if I’m explaining this well.

AS: This response makes me wonder, should we be like men, should we use their established language, etc.?
Well, trying to be like a man is stupid, because you can’t; we would have to have been born with balls and nature marks you. But shit, of course, find a language in which you can express yourself, because it's all a masculine tradition, as well as a masculine point of view, with some exceptions.

AS: Do you think that things are changing?
I think there is a difference between prose and poetry. In poetry things are not really changing. There are some exceptions, but if we look at the female poets of this century, we have women like Maria Antonia Oliver, the woman of the "Escola Mallorquina" [Mallorcan School], who was sometimes named in passing among the "important men." And of the rest of the women . . . there is the wife of Carles Riba, but she’s "the wife of Carles Riba." This smells bad. There is another woman, Rosa Leveroni, who lived in Cadaqués, and was also known by her relationship to these writers. Maybe the key is in relating oneself to "them"?
       And then there is a very curious case, that of the 70s generation. There was a woman named Maria Mercè Marçal, who had her detractors, but for me was the woman - no, human being - who was the most interesting, poetically speaking, of her generation. Interesting for her use of language, for the techniques of song that she incorporated, for her themes, for the force of her discourse . . . there was a book in homage to her only after her death. I don’t know, it seems strange, I think - is it possible that there have been female narrators, novelists, and there haven’t been any female poets? I think that it's like the last room in a castle, closed off, and they let you in for a drink, but. . .

AS: After your drink, you have to leave?
And get back to your chores! I don’t know, with the crowd I move in, I don’t think of them as being machistas, yet unconsciously they tend to follow that trend. But, with younger women I see more equality. With Francesc, and Eduard Escoffet, there are more mixed recitals. . .

Dolors Miquel: photo Amanda SAS: Eduard says that he can never manage to get forty or fifty per cent of women in his recitals, that there are women who write, but they don’t go out to readings as much.
I don’t know, but there are women. Of course, that’s that circle, but there are others, where there are more women . . . women who have different poetic stories.

AS: Would you say that these women share any particular style?
Yes, more this poetry of experience, looking at one’s life, making conclusions, putting images to them. I’ve always complained about this. The first time I was called to recite - and I went because I had such an urge to yell - I remember being told, "Come, because you’re the only woman, and if you don’t, they’ll say we’re machista." Maybe it was a joke, but it was still said. I don’t want to say that there are no women poets, there are tons - in Catalunya you pick up your foot and out come at least twenty poets. But you don't see many in the vanguard.

AS: Can you talk a little about your own poetry? How did you begin the truck-driver haiku poems?
I wrote El llibre dels homes [The Book of Men] first, in which I complained about men; it is a response to a 15th century book complaining about women [El llibre dels dones (The Book of Women) by Jaume Roig]. The haikus which came about were like offering a vision without resolving it. Poetry normally resolves. A haiku is like going through life, seeing images and those images tell you what they want, and if they don’t want to tell you anything, they don’t. It was this idea I had, a very typical one - a road and a truck-driver. I don’t know why, because a truck-driver is strong.

AS: Is this truck-driver a man?
It is me, and it isn’t. Sometimes you look at them [the haikus] and they are so simple that you say: this is nothing. But when you are writing them, you feel really great, then when you stop writing and you look at them. . . there is something else in them.

AS: Do you have other books apart from these two?
I have one called Esgarips [Screams]; the poems are like screams, yells. And then I have another called Sonets de la mala llet [Bad Mood Sonnets], but for me the "mala llet" ran out in 1993, and I don’t know when it’ll return. Also, something that Víctor Nik has right now, Gitana Rock, that he’s illustrating. I will publish the haikus this year, and the rest I’m not sure when.

AS: Do you recite much?
No, a normal amount. I’m not a professional. I like to recite with Enric Casassas and all of that circle because it's all very vital - there is an energy, a poetic craziness. This is what I like, and there are moments that I have incredible urges to speak, to communicate, and other moments when I have no desire at all. Víctor gets a little angry . . . I’m a little bit of a lunatic, and when it comes, it comes. If not, I can’t do it. The other day I had to drink six beers just to recite.

AS: Do you think that female Catalan poets have more in common with male Catalan poets or women poets in other countries?
I think about half and half. What interests me in Catalan literature is medieval literature, and from my generation, Enric’s poetry. From this century, Ferrater and Vinyoli interest me. But a lot of what I like is foreign. Yes, literature has nationality, but it's really what you like. Nationality doesn’t matter, whether it's Chinese or what have you. What is important is that you understand it, that it's translated well and that you like it.

AS: What are your influences? What are your personal likes and dislikes in poetry?
I take a little from everybody, I don’t stick with one thing. What I don’t like is the poetry of "experience" that I mentioned. I also avoid "diseño" poetry. This type of poetry takes from vanguard techniques, uses very modern words, certain pre-determined images, new things, but it's all very superficial.

AS: How would you describe your own poetry?
I think what it has is vitality and musicality.


Click here to hear Dolors Miquel read a sampling of her poetry in her native Catalan.

© 1999 The Barcelona Review                                 

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navigation:                                       barcelona review #14   mid-august to mid-october 1999
-Fiction The Waffle Code - Steve Aylett
William the Killer - Kristin Kenway
Perfect - Marcy Dermansky
Against the Door - Margarita Saona
-Poetry Special Round-table Discussion with Six Catalan Poets
Interview: Dolors Miquel
Poems in English:
Antoni Clapés | Enric Casassas
Visual Poetry:
Xavier Canals

Ernesto Mestre

-Quiz Vladimir Nabokov
-Regular Features Book Reviews
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