rob mclennan: What do you see the current role of the writer being in the larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Nyla Matuk: I think the poet functions the way Freudian psychoanalysis once functioned. Freud has now been out of favour a long time, but his work filled something in the culture (whether you buy into, or not, the theory of Freud’s 3 drives) that we have now lost and that possibly poetry can or is, or always was, offering us. That is, a way out of capitalism’s endless myth of progress, of means-end rationality, of assumptions of “more,” or continued growth, or more nefariously, the recent ‘positive thinking’ movements that see those with cancer, for example, as either winners or losers of a battle. I am trying to say, I guess, that a form of subconscious, intimate noticing is offered up, with poetry. The larger culture, it seems to me, is concerned now with the image, the instant response, the sardonic tweet, the sound or news bite, the status update and its attendant narcissistic after-effects. Maybe poetry, by asking us to listen to language again, carefully, uncovers something buried? There is a generosity to both writing it and reading it—the time required. The attentiveness and the mindfulness. That is valuable too, always has been. There is something else that appeals to me, and I think it is also a role of poets—I believe Erin Mouré once called writing poetry “a way of being alone,” and it is very much that in a world of large conventions, movements, and communal thinking. Not that those things aren’t valuable too.
- Nyla Matuk, in interview with rob mclennan as part of his 12 or 20 interview series. You can read the whole thing, including a great bit about how poetry is "sophisticated baby talk", here.
Her first book, Sumptuary Laws, just came out from Signal Editions. Maybe you should buy it?