Poetry News

Vi Khi Nao Interviews Diana Arterian at 3:AM

By Harriet Staff
Image of the poet Diana Arterian.

At 3:AM, fiction writer and poet Vi Khi Nao interviews Diana Arterian about the ways she uses writing and translation to push back against the violence ignited by the 45th administration. Nao asks, "To borrow words from your translated work of Afghan poet Nadia Anjuman, are you content in this chaos? In our era of Black Lives Matter, high obesity rates, our perverse prison system, our culture of misogyny?" Let's start with Arterian's response there: 

DA: I appreciate your taking the time to read my translations—Anjuman’s work feels so urgent now, more than ever. I think she was pushing toward the absurd in that poem, trying to conjure a feeling that is impossible considering her, or her speaker’s, situation. I think that as a white, cis-gender, heterosexual woman with a good deal of education who lives in a city, there is a dangerous potential for my contentment during our current chaotic moment. The violence of the 45th administration, escalating Islamophobia, the explicit embracing of white supremacy—these all seem to have been a source of activation rather than complacency for those who have otherwise indeed remained content, including myself. Personally, this often feels like a delirium, however, and I do periodically have to “step away”, so to speak, for a day or two in order to steel myself and return to the fray of protests, phone calls, news reading, etc.

VKN: How do you step away, Diana? And, what kind of space does your soul occupy when you do so?

DA: In large part it involves merely scanning the headlines, or avoiding them altogether. I realise my ability to do so underscores a luxury many do not have. I am trying, daily, to locate nourishing practices that are more than merely “stepping away”, but it is a difficult task. Like for so many others, these days are defined by survival rather than healing for me. So the space my soul occupies is one that feels like panting off at the side of a marathon, before trudging forward again.

Read more at 3:AM.

Originally Published: December 8th, 2017