Darkness as a friend? – Breakthrough.be

If there is one poetry that dances to the beat of the present – to paraphrase Hugo Claus, it is that of the 29-year-old traditionally Dutch, but actually half-Uruguayan Maxime Garcia Diaz. She debuted with It’s hot in the hiverecently awarded the prestigious C. Buddingh’ prize for the best Dutch-language poetry debut in 2021.

Not her first prize: In 2019 she won the Dutch Poetry Slam Championship, a competition fought on stage between poets in an interplay between poetry and performance art. In the conversation I had with Garcia Diaz about her collection, she called some of the poems from it “stage poems”: written especially for her popular performances.

Darkness

She writes layered and often not immediately accessible poetry, although strong lines immediately emerge. Like this one, off On the edge of dead spacea poem that immediately touches you:

in bed at eleven at night your arms and legs folded strangely

(…)

you asked the darkness, will you hug me

the darkness tried to hug you but it didn’t work

the darkness was also made of too little…

I hear a child lying scared in bed, seeking solace in the dark. When I asked Garcia Diaz about it, she said that this “darkness” for her was also the universe and “chaos”. She had turned to Wikipedia to write the poem and once used it for a performance at an evening with philosophy students.

Internet

One need not bite the other: in her youth few birds whistled or flowers bloomed in more than one sense, she confided to me. It drove her very early into the arms of the then nascent internet. that ‘hivemind‘ from the title — the hive mind — stands for a kind of collective consciousness of all internet users. That’s newspeak for the Internet; the main theme of this collection, if the rave reviews are to be believed.

Garcia Diaz: “Many reviewers said, “She has condemned the Internet; this is a bundle that makes the problems of the Internet open for discussion.” But that’s not true. I’m from ’93, and I was on the Internet when I was seven. I feel like my life parallels the growth of the Internet. It was very important to me. Still. The Internet feels like a kind of homeland. When I was little, I was depressed, unhappy in life. Because things were so bad, my mother often kept me home from school. When she was at work, sitting me there with her computer, such a beast I played computer games on. And I also did other things on the Internet. I spent most of my childhood on the Internet.’

you wanted to fold into a skeleton you asked the darkness

do you have a skeleton for me the darkness said no 🙁

(…)

you would be stunning

but nothing around you has lungs anymore

Extreme online person

Garcia Diaz: ‘I think the Internet is perhaps the most extraordinary achievement of humanity. It’s fascinating that people who once wore loincloths have one elaborate – has done well. Something you couldn’t explain to someone from the sixteenth century: what the Internet really is. What is it that we have produced and how does it work? I am an extremely online person, for hours walking tours I’m not that interested in the forest. I am a person of inner and culture, not of nature. I especially feel at home behind a computer.”

‘Of course you can also make reservations about that.’

‘Naturally. For example, I now often feel alienated from my body, or from the immediate, tangible world around me; reality.’

‘What do you mean by being online, is it communication or looking around?’

“Right now it’s both, and especially social media. But in the end, as a human being, you are still a body. You might want to live in your brain, through technology – basically, how I communicate with you now, through a screen, is the same as being together in real life, but it’s different. Like the difference between reading a book from a screen or holding it in your hand. It is the animal, our physical reality; the body wants more. I wrote these poems mostly intuitively, it’s not because I sat down to write a collection about the Internet.’

Collective on the Internet

“And why this title?”

‘It’s from the last poem. It’s about being part of a kind of collective on the internet, a generation. The idea that you don’t have your own thoughts anymore, there are too many people online and they all think the same as me. But you can also explain it as a safe sense of kinship and collectivity… I chose that title because I thought it was an interesting and beautiful line that exudes a lot of ambivalence – the ambivalent relationship I have with the Internet.’

‘It’s hot in the sinus’, is there an idea behind the internet as a womb?’

‘Maybe… It’s really nice to be safe, to belong, to be part of a collective. But it’s also scary, especially that loss of individuality.’

From the last poem:

we claw our way into something existing

cut our usernames into quivering ground flesh

secret voice in the skeleton of the motherboard

we find a start in a blue screen

(…)

no one has imagined us

now we imagine ourselves

and we imagine each other

More freedom with poetry

“How did you start writing poems?”

‘I’ve been writing all my life, at school it was only Harry Potter-like fan fiction . But as a writer I didn’t likesuddenly

: to make a story that goes somewhere. That’s how I got into poetry, to play with language without having to do all the technical work. When I write prose, I can talk about my feelings, or things that happen, but in poetry I don’t have to make a coherent story that explains exactly that. Poetry remains a translation, it is not literal what happened, you have more freedom and a different kind of meaning emerges. The first poem came when I was seventeen, I was quite ashamed of that. It rhymed very well, and then I wrote more. They were all about my parents, they were the biggest event in my life up to that point; I was a teenager who never really went outside. It was literally that I felt or experienced something and began to explain it in images or in metaphors. Maybe that’s how budding poets go: Let me write about my depressive feelings, but I don’t want to just write ‘I’m depressed’ (imitating writing), so I write something about a tree or something. Or about a landscape orno matter what

, then I can work through those feelings with a certain distance. But also with the joy you create. That it is further away from you and at the same time turns into something new.’

mean girl theoryIn a series of poems, Garcia Diaz strikingly describes her own generation of young women: ‘girls’. She refers to several women of her generation who have distinguished themselves through a new form of feminist activism. As Audrey Wollen, an adventurous American who has had some success with her so-called ‘Sad girl theory— sad girl theory. With Garcia Diaz it will be ‘Crazy girl theory

— mean girl theory…

i saw the best girls of my generation

destroyed by grief

(…)

they soar above cities in electric corsets

they roam the long corridors of the Internet

transform to hypersex search secure connection

(…)

i see the best girls of my generation

broken and broken and invincible

because what never existed cannot be broken

Not activist, but aesthetic

‘Many reviewers rave about what they call the feminist nature of your collection. Are you such a feminist?’

‘If people characterize this book as an activist collection, I don’t really recognize myself in it. It is not a political gathering either. I have written or described what I find attractive or beautiful from an aesthetic point of view. And I happen to find feminism, or some sort of revolutionary pose, beautiful and interesting. I personally would not be able or dare to say what feminism is supposed to achieve. For me, aesthetics is a guideline, but there is much more to aesthetics; the reason you like things is more than just liking them. For example, I find the girlish beautiful, and at the moment more interesting than the boyish.’

Simulation When you talk to Garcia Diaz, you notice that English – the lingua franca of the Internet – is always just below the surface. The influence of a lifetime online? The collection contains several poems partly in English and partly in Dutch, and one entirely in English. Just with that poemA sim child has to go to school , she seems to return to her childhood of playing computer games and staying home from school from the aforementioned poem. The title refers to the computer gameThe Sims, which dates back to 1989; a’life simulation game

‘ — a game that imitates life, or rather replaces it with a virtual one. Let’s say the first predecessor to the Metaverse. Players move via screen and keyboard in a virtual world to have a social life with other virtual characters.

in play every morning a yellow bus came

waited outside the house, pushed twice

disappeared into nothingness

on the edge of the screen

The Sims

is an American game, hence the yellow bus that takes children to school. And who apparently rides out of the picture again without a school-aged Garcia Diaz. That escape comes to an end, described in the last stanza of this poem:

I’m not a digital thing, so once

after many months spring had come

and I cycled to school and my eyes hurt

by the green green bodies of the trees

Control art is present

Darkness, universe, chaos, internet, feminism: Maxime Garcia Diaz does not go too far in his theme. And I have good news: the coxswain’s art is present. We haven’t heard the last of and from this talent for a long time.

(Layout poetry copied exactly.)

Fanfiction = a new word for an old phenomenon: writing stories that expand on existing formats like Harry Potter or Star Wars.

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