One is a CROWD – Jaap Blonk

Literature as a European mother tongue: In our series “One is a CROWD”, we introduce you to authors from all over Europe who will be involved in the CROWD omnibus reading tour, taking place from May to July 2016, featuring 100 authors who will be travelling through 15 European countries. We asked them questions about text production, reception and mediation. In case you were wondering what a literary activist from Arnhem looks like, meet Jaap Blonk!

Who are you as a poet/writer/author/artist?

The further away I get from my own country, the more I tend to get listened to.

What kind of literary tradition, authors or concepts have you found inspirational for your work?

In the field of literature, I got the most inspiration from two sources:

  1. Poets who are mostly considered not among the easiest to read. To name a few: Wallace Stevens, Paul Celan, Lucebert, René Char, César Vallejo.
  2. Philosophers as widely different as Ernst Bloch, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Alain Badiou.

Please name several contemporary authors who you think are most significant – in any possible sense – and why?

I can’t really judge the significance of contemporary authors in a general sense, I have to answer this question in a more personal sense. So it’ll be authors I have personally experienced or even collaborated with, like Michael Lentz, Amanda Stewart, Tomomi Adachi, Kenneth Goldsmith, Christian Bök, Derek Beaulieu, Ulf Stolterfoht, Oswald Egger, Trevor Wishart, Tonnus Oosterhoff.

What do you think about the current state of the relationship between the author and the reader? Is there a mentionable shift in that relationship through New media as in terms of being alienated on the one hand or being enlivened on the other hand?

Again, I have no means to give a reliable estimate of the amount of shift. Sure, nowadays on public transport I see many more people looking at their smartphones than at either e-readers or books. Still, I hope there’s a positive effect on literature as well because of the much greater ease the internet provides of finding out about interesting stuff to read.

There have always been interactions and disputes between the discourses of poetry and politics. Do you see possibilities of emancipatory strategies concerning contemporary interactions between poetic and political discourses and agendas? How can/should/do these literary strategies look like?

I think direct political statements cannot be literature. The emancipatory and even revolutionary content has to be a matter of the structure of the work. A long time ago I wrote a paper at the University of Amsterdam criticising the tradition of anarchist writers for their clinging to an hierarchical way of thinking, along the lines of strict traditional logic where yes and no are mutually exclusive. We should allow anarchism into our thinking and into the structure of writing, as many modern poets have shown to be possible.

In my own work, starting out a long time ago from the twofold roots of Dadaism and Free Jazz and since incorporating influences from John Cage and Fluxus as well as from what you could call experimental mathematics, I am trying to stay true to this attitude.

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