Interviews on “poetry & refugees” – 4 – Marie Silkeberg
Lyrikline Blog (LB): Topics like conflict, flight and refuge found their way into your poetry and poetry film making during the last years. Why’s that? Was there a crucial experience or encounter that made you work on these topics?
Marie Silkeberg (MS): I belong to a generation who have lived more than half of our lives in the 20th century. When I look back, I usually describe my books as divided according to this break in time. The end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century brought with them enormous changes in the world and in the cultural field. For a long period I couldn’t write at all. The aesthetics from the former century in this new world seemed so worn out. So I started to turn outwards, using listening, as a method, to understand and grasp the sound of the world. The first poems I wrote consisted of very few words, and searched for changes and shifts in the language. Haroun Farockis film Bilder der Welt und Inschrift des Krieges meant a lot to me while writing this book. His way of relating European history to the Algerian for instance, as well as his way of interpreting photos from the past in the light of the present, and his way of combining elements to create new meaning. The method of listening, to write the sound of the world I continued. I got the change to travel a lot, and took it. The fact of my grandfather being a Russian immigrant in Sweden, and his parents Greek immigrants in Odessa became a trace, a quest, an enigma, especially after the death of my father, and I felt I had to embrace this nomadic inheritance.
During my work with poetry films I met Ghayath Almadhoun, Palestinian-Syrian poet, with whom I’ve been working with poetry and poetry films for six years. He has told and showed me a lot, sometimes hard and unwanted knowledge, about the situation of being an immigrant in Sweden today. Equally important, if not more, has the position of following the Syrian revolution and then war from this distant point, to enter and share it, and to understand a little of the condition of being an immigrant, what is cut off in this anonymous label.
LB: What impact on society or politics can a poem have? Do oppressive regimes have to fear poetry?
MS: Oppressive regimes, and so called democratic. Yes. All regimes know how to protect themselves against the force of poetry.
LB: As far as your experience goes, do exiled writers have the chance to become a part of the literary scene of their host countries? How is the relation to the writers of their host country?
MS: I see how difficult it is. Exiled writers are often isolated, and live and write far away from the literary scene of their host countries. It is a shame.
LB: How can the “literary infrastructure” of the host country or individual writers support exiled writers?
MS: If artists are free, they are also free to connect to who ever they want. Support is maybe a misleading word, to live in this world of refugees, you have a lot to learn and get to know by meeting the writers in your country.
The literary infrastructure, above the individual, – of course – could arrange readings, discussions etc. and include exiled writers. Any literary event that did not ask itself the question at least, of the presence or absence of the exiled writers in their countries, is somehow giving a false picture of the literary field.
LB: How is the issue of refugees perceived in Sweden?
MS: I would have answered these questions differently some years ago. With the increasing racism in Sweden and Europe so many things have changed, and I’m not sure really if I can measure the consequences in life and thinking and writing. Being born into the Scandinavian dream of, and struggle for, the good society, an equal society, you feel that you are living in a schizophrenic image and reality.
Read and listen to Marie Silkeberg’s poetry on lyrikline.