Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, speaking with Forrest Gander:
“I don’t feel like I have an ethical duty. I think that if you have a poem or a work of art and you give it a duty to be something, you impose something upon it. And I think that is the beginning of all fascisms: that poetry should be this or that poetry should be that. I think that the poem itself grounds its own ethical commitment, not the person who writes that poem.”
“Since Homer, poetry has consisted in placing oneself in the place of another. If that supplanting does not exist—in other words, to say, ‘I was there’—there’s no language. There’s not poetry, there’s not civilization, there’s nothing. To use language is to put oneself in the place of another.”
“The problem isn’t to say that literature is a product of capitalism. And, of course, a book doesn’t change history, at least not in that immediate moment. Poetry doesn’t have any power. However, if all those who do write poetry were to stop writing poetry, humanity would disappear in the following five seconds. Because that would mean that all of the possibility, all of the dream of the possibility of change, were over. And no one survives five minutes without that.”
“The poet goes with his dead poems, carrying them to the sea, and waits to see if the tide rises to take those works to another shore, in hopes that another poet will take those works for that poetry to be reborn. It is the situation of today’s poetry that great poems continue to be written, but its sphere of influence, its limit, is two thousand copies. It’s incomparable with an effort of Nike. And nonetheless, in those poems all of the keys are contained of the possibilities of a different world.”
Ellipses are omitted in the above quotations. Listen to the whole conversation here, including the ridiculously lovely voices of Zurita, Gander, and translator Anna Deeny.