hatto fischer | on the art & the artists of self destruction

17 06 2009

Katerina Anghelaki Rooke

Poetry Dispatch No. 288 | June 17, 2009


The Art & The Artists of Self Destruction, #5
An Introduction to the poet, Katerina Anghelaki Rooke

Athens 4.6.2009

Dear Norb,

That is an important even though sad and tragic topic: artists and self destruction.

Remember Pavese who killed himself after he realized he could no longer write?
Something similar happened to Hemingway. Do you know about the fate of Ingeborg Bachman?

Sylvia Plath’s tragic has recently been followed by her son. Of interest here was a letter by a daughter who until 40 wishes to commit as well suicide since her mother did it like Sylvia as if destruction is inherent and has the power to be itself inherited. Naturally in all of this we could widen the scanning of our pages for clues where poets go astray.

I walk out into the fields
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaNo matter whether snow, rain or sun
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaSadness descends like ravens
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaWhen time passes by
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaWithout life causing a ripple
And everything appears in vain.

The topic is not only self evident but most elusive. For how many creative self’s are destroyed in the process of not making it under the terms set by such creativity?

I see it even in my daughter who has a passion for painting but is reluctant to try and to earn her living with it. She does not wish to compromise art for the sake of money.

Modigliani was one who did not compromise, but went down with drugs and alcohol and anger at not having sold one painting to that rich couple sitting at the table to dine in all luxury while he looked on starved for simple expressions of life like being out with a woman and yet not able to do otherwise but staying on course with all his honesty.

Interestingly enough destruction begins with turning strengths into weaknesses and not in making one’s weakness into a strength to rely on.

Maybe your readers don’t agree because they feel this getting to the very nerves they wish to run away from. Often these destructive tendencies are buried in the silence mistaken so often with loneliness.

We know different qualities of despair. Vincent Van Gogh painted it. Heart rendering.

In music such tunes which go astray is in reality a beauty sensed but not captured by the composition.

Another kind of self destruction is described by Goethe in Faust. Since then many more have gone to sell something which cannot be sold: their souls.

I like the poetry tree. [see t.k. splake, Poetry Dispatch #284 ] Something similar was created in Berlin during this year’s ‘printemps des poetes’.

I wish you well and hopefully you continue to amaze us with your enormous zeal to make poetry become known.

And as to your secretary or the woman beside you in one of those photos, it seems you do not have to starve in terms of beauty.
Take care, good man. (Thanks again for keeping poetry in tune. I liked also that you recently reminded us about Brendan Kennelly with his poem ‘her laugh’.)


PS. Another matter is addressed by Katerina Anghelaki Rooke: we use language without knowing it: language as the matter we cannot touch, smell, see or taste but we do hear it whether we laugh or cry, but fore mostly we do listen once engulfed by our own silence. As to Katerina Anghelaki Rooke [below]…She is a most amazing poetess with a very simple and natural philosophy but with a booming voice and a strong, equally intelligent will that gives her the grace that she does not seek attention but can wait for people to invite her in.

Matter Alone
(I Ili Moni)

I take hold of an object and change its place.
I don’t know why, maybe something bothers me.
Seconds later
The cloth, the paper
Produces a whisper, a cry
As matter changes position.
Does this imperceptible noise
Express discomfort
Or relief for this new relation
Of the inanimate world with infinity?
Or maybe the object misses
Its place of origin?
A tiny movement,
A glance, a spark of light
And an inner self springs up:
Look how it moves freely
In an abstract now.
Something like a lover’s murmur
Is heard then
Or like a hungry dog crying…
“That is how matter behaves when it is alone” I say
before I am snatched by another silence,
my own.

Katerina Anghelaki Rooke

[Editor’s Note: A forthcoming Poetry Dispatch will feature more of Katerina Anghelaki Rooke’s poetry. A most amazing poet.]

Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke was born in Athens, Greece. She studied foreign languages and literature at the universities of Athens, Nice (France) and Geneva (Switzerland), where she was graduated in 1962. She has received Ford Foundation Grants (1972 and 1975), was invited to the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, and was a Fulbright Visiting Lecturer in the United States (1980-1981), during which time she lectured on Modern Greek Poetry and Nikos Kazantzakis at Harvard. She has subsequently lectured on other dimensions of modern poetry and given public reading of her poetry in English and in Greek in the United States, Mexico, and Europe. She won the 1985 Greek National Poetry Award for the Greek version of Beings and Things on Their Own.