Robert Fernandez Talks to THERMOS

By Harriet Staff

In a new post over at THERMOS, Robert Fernandez is interviewed by editor and poet Zach Savich (or rather, prompted by). Fernandez is the author of We Are Pharoah (Canarium Books 2011), and the forthcoming Pink Reef, due out from Canarium in 2013. The poet responds thoughtfully to questions of lyric, tension, grandeur, the sublime ("who's real"), and landscape.

I’m less interested in grandeur as such than in embracing language as desire, abandon, laughter. To hell with anyone who feels it is their duty to discipline excess or ambition. This is, after all, art. Why feel guilty, ashamed, or frivolous for pursuing what kindles, spurs, and gives pleasure? Furthermore, it may indeed be possible to invest in questions of vulnerability and responsibility while also attempting to engage a spirit of joy and courage. When, at sixteen, Rimbaud says of the poet “Let him die charging through those unutterable, unnameable things: other horrible workers will come; they will begin from the horizons where he has succumbed!,” the “adult” in me winces, but I also remember that a sense of innocence and serious play are vital to both one’s work and one’s world.

As to the sublime: we generally understand it as a staggering, ineffable limitlessness, correct? I admit that I feel invested in poetic language as a coming up against or an unfolding of limits. These days the sublime would seem to be more relevant in a consideration of the apparatus of global power than the awesomeness of nature. Nonetheless, that coruscating fog of integrated military, economic, institutional, and media technologies may in fact be unthinkable (it certainly can’t be met face to face). Maybe it would be interesting to reinvest in a sense of the Romantic sublime, to seek out fresh astonishment in the presence of some visually arresting primordial immensity. The problem is that we’re so accustomed to spectacle that such immensities, if not immediately placing one at risk, are only likely to elicit the tourist’s array of uninteresting clichés and inanities. Dread (or a sense of uncanniness) is arguably a more productive starting point for thinking about one’s shared finitude. . . .

Read the full piece here, and read more of Fernandez's poems in Octopus 8.

Originally Published: June 21st, 2011