Born in 1979 in Banská Bystrica, Katarina Kucbelová is considered to be one of Slovakia’s best young poets. She obtained an MA in screenwriting at the Academy of Dramatic Art, Bratislava, and works as a cultural manager. She has published two books of poetry, Duals (2003) and Sport (2006), and the long poem Little Big City (2008). In 2006 she founded – and is also director of – the prestigious Slovak literary award for fiction, Anasoft Litera. A selection of her work is included in the Arc anthology A Fine Line: New Poetry from Eastern and Central Europe (2004). She lives in Bratislava.
SJF: Your work seems to work uniquely in translation, it maintains an unusual sense of intimacy and proximity even in English. What is it you are fundamentally seeking to achieve with your poetry?
KK: I try to avoid writing with a plan. At most I try create living mental enviroment during the procces of working on certain book or poem, ask a question or find out a theme and keep it open as long as I am getting feedbacks. I am „rewriting“ type of author, but without purpose to reach definite ideal form or message.
SJF: I’m interested in your thoughts on contemporary Slovak poetry, and if you feel there is a definite Slovak poetic tradition in contemporary poetry from the past century?
KK: You can find a couple of generations, schools or groups. All of them are quite unique or specific and also individuals, which which you cannot include in these drawers. The most important point in last century literature in my country is long period of totalitarianism, which is strongly connected with denial of the speech freedom and creation freedom. That divided literature on official and unofficial, hit the basic comunication among writers and poets. This had also lot to do with censorship and selfcensorship, with writing without intention to publish. On the other hand certain part of interesting poets became controversial because of their political affinity or direct collaboration with communistic regime. Poetry also consists of trust and we realised, that social failure of poet can harm the relationship between poet and reader. There is still kind of discussion on some of writers of our recent past. All countries with experiece of lost liberty have complicated history of literature and art.
SJF: Is there a sense of poetry being an important part of the cultural life of the wider population of Slovakia? I’ve found responses to this question to be widely varied and it is of course subjective, but for example would the average Slovak have a knowledge or a desire to have a knowledge of poetry?
KK: We have more poets than readers of poetry, and I thing in this terms my country is not very exceptional and it´s not the factor which creates neccessary enviroment. Average Slovak is for me quite mystery, but I would quess, that poetry is interest of rather not very big circle of my co-citizens. For example we have no recognizable poetry award, no magazine oriented specially on poetry, poor will to publish poetry reviews in daily or weekly press and we don´t have one poetry edition in bigger publish house with good distribution, readings are not very often. On the other hand we have some interesting specialised publishouses and cca two festivals with quite big audience. All these parts builds up knowledge of poetry, but also comes out need of poetry. Poetry in my country is living its inner exil.
SJF: And what are your feelings about reading before an audience in London and visiting the city in order to share your work?
KK: I am dividing presentation of poetry and writing. For me is presentation allways something I haven´t been thinking of at all. Connection with audience is like unexpected small present. In London or elsewhere.
SJF: The parnassian ideal that really centres Poetry Parnassus reaches back to the Poetry International festival held in London in 1967 which sought to address notions of free speech, community and peace through the artform of poetry. Do you believe this tradition needs to be maintained in 2012?
KK: Poetry is out of any roles or tasks and the best we can do is just don´t spoil it and keep it as free as possible. This is the tradition that should be definitely maintaned.
SJ Fowler (1983) is the author of four poetry collections. He has had poetry commissioned by the Tate Britain and the London Sinfonietta, and has featured in over 100 poetry publications. He is poetry editor of 3am magazine, Lyrikline and the Maintenant interview series.