The Oslo Lecture
    Oslo Poesifestival
Institusjonen Fritt Ord
Friday, 7 November 2008
Oslo Harbour   When things go badly in practice, one turns to theory, and also the best theory ends up by producing selfcensorship. In poetry, things can’t go but badly. As I wrote many years ago, the poet feels poetry like an amputee feels the ‘phantom limb’.
In Words of Discord, the notebook from which I’ll read a number of fragments, there aren’t ‘convincing’ assertions. On the other hand, no poet can answer the questions of another poet.

I wouldn’t like to reduce myself to merely one thing. But in this case I should say that I am a poet, one who will not completely test himself if not within poetry, the only inconsolable activity, not in need of correspondence and which cannot ask for any kind of orientation. One who will pass by way of the diverse consistency of an essay with the perplexity of a foreigner, convinced of lying since he finds himself having to judge, to sustain, and prefers this rather than that and who in his doubt is more greedy.
Shadows mirrored in other shadows, without the greater breath, or words come from waking and already tired. Too much light, too many declarations, which in a world settle discord and which will not find peace. [1993]

One hears people say: ‘It’s a perfect work’. After all, this is an oxymoron, and is the source of many mishaps, one of which being devotion. The perfect work is nothing other than the fulfilment of an institution, the success of a lengthy literary evangelization and the consequent persuasiveness of the canon. It demands a shared idolatry, whereas it is our physiological conviction that presumed perfection is something similar to an asymptomatic illness. If one really has to, then one writes. But defectively. [2006]

The contemporary arts have an origin of a contractual kind: the avant-garde and the academy are united by an implicit pact, and given — as we know — that the controller always ends up by prevailing over the transgressor, the will to transgress will have to be acknowledged as a simulation of a ‘crime’. Avant-garde and academy are ingenuously complementary terms, and yet one prefers to place the former within cultural adolescence, an age through which one is still not accepted in brothels. In this way, the academy is idealized and becomes the gift of adult life. Consider that in the second Act one remembers nothing of the first. Rather, it is completely inconsequential: who made his debut by studying Anton Webern or György Sándor Ligeti, dies leaving an uncompleted decisive essay on the alcoholic songs of the Trolls. [1998]

To interpret is merely to answer. And in order to answer, it’s not necessary to have understood: it will suffice to give back what the work has done to us. The answer, understood as apódosis, as restitution, comes afterwards although it doesn’t arrive late (to think of it in different terms, it would be the equivalent of saying that within the complementary nature of the concave and convex one had the ‘lateness’ of one of the two). [1998]
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