On the Saturday afternoon of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, Festival Director Naomi Jaffa conducted an interew with Adélia Prado, and her translator Ellen Doré Watson.
NJ: Tell us about your writing practice if you could.
AP: I wait for it to come down. Any place, any time. There is no method. I am not in charge of this.
NJ: You seem to place great value on the ordinary. Quotidian is a word you use a great deal.
AP: Anything is allowed in the house of poetry. Anything is material. It refuses nothing. I have been criticised for being a poet of dailiness. But it is all we have: the necessities of each day, the passion.
NJ: You have said that the Big Themes are Sex, Death and God. Do you hold to that?
AP: Of course! There isn’t a day when I don’t think about them! And from them, after all, come the greatest art, religion and philosophy.
NJ: Tell us about your fascination with Steve Jobs and Saddam Hussein, two people you don’t normally come across in the world of poetry.
AP: I don’t use a computer but I was enchanted with Steve Jobs, and so moved when he died.
AP: He loved beauty.
NJ: Do Apple know you wrote about him?
NJ: And Saddam Hussein, he is so different, surely…
AP: I was distressed when he was found underground, with his crazy hair, and dragged out of that hole. No one should have that happen to them. And of course I realise that the worst of what is in Saddam is in me. I could be in his place. Everyone who commits a crime should be given a trial before being punished. Then I learnt that he wrote little poems and that nearly killed me.
NJ: How do you balance being an artist and a mother?
AP: Being a mother is the maximum of feminine potentiality. There is no hostility between the two.
NJ: Are you a better poet for being a mother?
AP: I don’t know. But I am a better human being. My priority is people and my family. I say no to more things as I get older. Time is precious!
NJ: Can you say what poetry is for? Why you write it? Why do we need it in our lives?
AP: Poetry is a definition of the real. You can open the curtain on anything in poetry, you unveil it. Metaphor is poetry, metaphor protects poetry. The more poetic something is, the more real it is. Any poetry reveals the real. For example, if I write about this glass of water in my hand, I know more about it than if I drink it. If it’s a bad poem, it’s not a poem. As I say, it’s the same with childbirth: the baby is born and you clean off the cheese and the placenta. As with poetry, if you clean it too much, you can lose the poem! Poetry will resist too much cutting, just like harming a baby.
NJ: And your mission? Do you have one?
AP: The ‘mission’ is an impersonal one. It is about why I am alive and needing to give an answer. Writing is gratuitous: you get the ego out of the way, it’s the biggest enemy of poetry. It has its own force and you don’t need to add to it; I don’t boss it around. It is like this: art is the bread of the spirit and poetry is food. If you don’t nurture yourself on the symbolic life you die malnourished. To be honest, I’d rather read a poem than talk.
The Mystical Rose: Selected Poems by Adélia Prado, is published by Bloodaxe