Interview in El Coloquio de los Perros

Published here in Spanish.

  • ECP: So far you have lived in cities as different as Murcia, Barcelona and Paris. In that sense, how has each of them influenced your writing? Have you noticed differences in the way of managing culture and, specifically, poetry?

 

  • GALA HERNÁNDEZ: Murcia is a well of memory, it’s my childhood, my adolescence and in that sense it weighs, infinitely, of course, but from a certain nostalgia of something that no longer is, that I no longer am. I don’t feel particularly Murcian, nor do I return there very often, although on the other hand, paradoxically, it is something that determines my identity, like every hometown, a place of growth and formation. But I feel a little uprooted. Barcelona has been a crucial city in my development as an adult poet: there I began to read much more poetry – and more consciously and constantly – to write, to meet other young people who also wrote. To look at things differently too. My poetic awakening happened in Barcelona. In Paris I still feel like a newcomer, almost a tourist. I would have to live here longer to be able to name Paris better. In any case, the city per se is not a particularly relevant motif in my texts. As for the second question, France is a country where culture traditionally has a very different weight in public management than in Spain. In that sense, we have a lot to envy from the French; in others we do not, and perhaps not for long. The misfortune of Murcia – I am convinced – is the Popular Party, which has been in power since I was born, 24 years! I do not think I need to explain how much the PP cares about culture, art, cinema or poetry.

 

  • ECP: However, this transition has been marked by cinema, your main passion. Did you ever think that you would get to publish your poems in digital media and in publishing houses? How have you lived all that exposure process?

 

  • GH: I’m not sure that cinema is my main passion. Many times I think that poetry fills me more, although it’s absurd to try to establish hierarchies. In any case, the main difference is that I want to devote myself to cinema professionally, whereas poetry is something that comes out of necessity and from which I expect nothing. For that reason, everything that has come to me through poetry has been pleasant and unexpected surprises. Of course, I feel very grateful for everything, but it has been a path that has opened up in a very natural way in front of me, I feel that somehow I have hardly had to fight for it. Publishing a poem on the internet doesn’t cost “anything”, whereas in cinema everything is infinitely more expensive and slower. As for the exhibition, I don’t worry too much, I try to have my poems exposed, not me.

 

  • ECP: In the interview you did in El Diario in 2015 you commented that you write the scripts of the stories you want to tell. How do you differentiate between the two processes? Do you use the ideas that arise in the poems for your short films and vice versa?

 

  • GH: No, for me they are completely different processes, even though they are both very intimate. I have to say that I haven’t written a script for a long time, practically for the same time as I’ve been writing poetry. I don’t know when it will happen again. I suppose there’s something symptomatic about that overlap in time. I suspect that poetry came to replace a standardized film fiction writing – in which I was trained at university, which to some extent was imposed on me – that did not satisfy me at all. I feel that lately I’ve been having difficulties with narrative, both in literature and in film. Hence my growing interest in experimental film; and poetry, I think, is a form twinned with experimental film in many ways. It’s a subject that obsesses me quite a lot: what creative mechanics both forms conjure up, in what processes they meet and coincide. I think about it a lot because there must be something essential in them that directly challenges my own psychic apparatus, my own nature.

 

  • ECP: Your poems are full of references to the gaze (iris, eyelid, retina, etc.), to the capacity of the poetic subject to concretize an image. To what extent do you think cinema has influenced your writing?

 

  • GH: Yes, these references exist, I think, under an influence, rather than directly from cinema – that too – from my interest in film theory, in film studies. In the intellectual and theoretical production of cinema, the act of looking, the different forms of looking – of seeing, not seeing, being seen, being seen by the image – are central. I suppose that’s where this way of thinking about the world and the rhetoric that crystallizes it, related to the eye and vision, comes from. On the other hand, I tend to think a lot about images. It’s true that my poems are very visual, and I deduce that this is due to audiovisual practice. But I am also increasingly interested in language and words as the first and last matter of poetry. So I try not to let the visual logic of cinema contaminate my writing. I think it would impoverish it.

 

  • ECP: Furthermore, there are also references to the duality of human existence, to the mask, and to all that multitude of perspectives that shape the poetic subject. Is the poem the search for identity, for limits, if they exist?

 

  • GH: The poem is a search, always without an object. It’s a question, never an affirmation, as I believe any valuable creation is. And the final finding, paradoxically, is also the poem, which is never reached consciously. I always feel that the poem underlies, that it is already there, that it precedes us – “like the wound”- and I only rescue it, bring it out into the open. I do not believe that this search necessarily corresponds to that of one’s own identity; sometimes it is an attempt at understanding (the other) or at recognition (of the other towards me and vice versa), not an introspective gesture, but one that is turned outwards, towards the world. The world interests me more than myself. But yes, you’re right that the “I” is central to my poetic quest. I suppose it’s “another” me, different from the one I know, which I sometimes get bored of. The poetic “I” surprises me. I think of Ada Salas, a poet I admire, when she says that, in the poem, the living “I” is starkly confronted with the “I” that writes.

 

  • ECP: Not in vain, Unai Velasco comments in the prologue of Amnesia of the Birds that your poetic voice revolves around the “overflow” and its treatment from a poetry of the body that links to poets like Blanca Andreu.

 

  • GH: I find it very difficult to analyse my poems objectively, to integrate them into a tradition or a particular aesthetic trend. It’s true that Blanca Andreu is a poet that I’ve read with enthusiasm, and has surely had a degree of influence on the configuration of my poetic voice. Unai rightly pointed out that I tend to overflow, that I don’t practice restraint – it can be seen in the frequent dilation of my poems – but this is something that is changing little by little and I don’t know if it has anything to do with the notion that I have yet to reach total maturity in my poetic voice. I like this idea: still having a long way to go, through which I can surprise myself, go through stages and different voices, to multiply myself. The overflow and centrality of the body may be due to my youth, to an age when everything is in a state of potency and is lived with great urgency and intensity, and when one tends to give much importance to physical sensations, to explore the limits of one’s own body. But I’m already starting to leave that vital moment and I think that is reflected in the last things I’ve written.

 

  • ECP: Within this “overflow”, in turn, although it is true that the poems are projected towards the future, do you think there is a certain nostalgia in this attempt to overcome the past, the experiences lived?

 

  • GH: I don’t know if I understand the question, I don’t know if the poems project into the future. I think that the past is never overcome. We drag it with us and that is something positive as long as it doesn’t produce excessive pain. But the poem, I think, does not arise from either the past nor the future, it arises from another time and another space; deep, unknown and silent.

 

  • ECP: On the other hand, your poetry combines a certain acceleration, rapture, in the abundance of images, with the balance, richness and density of language. How do you approach the writing of your poems? Do you correct them exhaustively or do you finish them shortly after they are written?

 

  • GH: I’ve learned and I’m still learning, little by little, how to do a thorough job of correcting poems. When I started writing I corrected little or nothing, I was in a hurry to finish the poem, I wanted to finish it quickly so that I could look at it as a reader, not as an author, and be perplexed. I’m always puzzled when I read my poems, they make me uneasy, and it’s a part of the process that I enjoy very much too – that final puzzlement. I knew that wasn’t a fruitful approach, but I couldn’t help it. I guess because of what I’ve already mentioned, because of that urgency that comes with youth. With time I have managed to get used to reviewing and polishing them much more, with much more attention on language, more concreteness in the choice of each word, of each silence. I still have a lot of work to do in this regard.

 

  • ECP: As a consequence of this intimate and elevated treatment, through language, of the everyday, to what extent do you think your poems can be hermetic or cryptic for readers?

 

  • GH: I don’t think the poem has to be understood. At least not in the usual sense in which we understand, for example, the narrative of a more or less conventional novel. There is no such thing as hermeticism in poetry, in the sense that poetic language has to be polysemic, open, porous and unstable (or not to be at all).

 

  • ECP: In the recital you cited Alejandra Pizarnik, one of the poets who has been most influential in the last decade, as one of your main influences as well. Which other authors have fascinated you or have made you discover some element of poetry that you have ended up making your own?

 

  • GH: Pizarnik was important because, like for many, also for me she opened the doors of a new perception of language and of the world at the beginning. I was (almost) a child and it impacted me. I read women in particular, I suppose, because of a political gesture and because I feel a greater sense of harmony and proximity to female sensibility – a sensibility that I have also found in male poets. But I do not like lists of reference authors, I think they are useless. So I will only mention a good friend who is only twenty-one years old and whom I consider a great poet, Rodrigo García Marina. The external influence also comes from enriching exchanges with friends of my generation, like Rodrigo.

 

  • ECP: In your poems, your influences (“There will always be a boot”, by Idea Vilariño), or in some of your audiovisual essays (Through the Looking Glass, a journey through female self-portrait in film) you also analyse and vindicate the female body. Would you frame this work within feminism? Where does it reside, or how is it possible to solve this gender inequality?

 

  • GH: I am a feminist. My poetry is feminist insofar as it comes from a female voice that wants to speak, to tell itself and the world through a female subjectivity, but I don’t write to claim anything. I am not interested in militancy through the poetic text, in social, activist poetry. I think one militates, above all, through the form of the poem, not the substance. You can write a poem with a feminist message – I don’t think that’s bad – but if you do it from the inherited, dominant rhetoric and lexicon, which in some way also shapes the patriarchal system we live in, you’re not breaking or subverting anything. It is useless. I’m thinking of Albert Serra when he said that for him Ken Loach is far right because he’s conventional in form: it’s one of his boutades, but I agree with that logic. As for the second question, it’s too complex to answer here and settle the issue in two sentences. I will say that one of the issues that obsesses me lately is the inclusion of men in the feminist struggle, that they also feel challenged by it. Many times I have the impression, when I talk to men, that they feel it is something that does not concern them, that it is our business. They position themselves on the sidelines or not, as if the patriarchy did not oppress them as well. Or as if equality for all were not desirable, not only for us, but for the general welfare.

 

  • ECP: Finally, I would like to ask you about the influence that the cultural legacy of your parents, Patricio Hernández, a very active cultural manager in Cartagena, and Lola López Mondéjar, a nationally recognized psychoanalyst and writer, has had on your education.

 

  • GH: Growing up in a house full of books, in which intellectual reflection and critical thinking are stimulated, is a huge privilege for any child. I don’t know if I would have had access to much of the cultural production I’ve been consuming since I was a child if I didn’t have parents like mine. So I feel very grateful for that. I admire them very much. They are two lighthouses that often illuminate me in the darkness.