1. In all of your work, there are a lot of “kanter” (edges) and “brott” (breakage, also crime). What do these words mean to you?
The breakage: to live one’s own death. Edges: to hang over one’s own abyss from the edge, the corner: to live one’s whole existence; live your own life, your own death – to not be so focused on killing others that one forgets to live. To think about each other’s lives and only the death of the most necessary other. The pastoral with its black edges and heart.
2. What led you to write about an angel in The Angelgreen Sacrament?
I have always wondered about these sheer creatures with their wings on their slender bodies – where do they come from, how do they survive the winter? I rarely see them in the summer, sometimes it happens, then with a more intense green body and with more clearly drawn wings. It is more towards autumn and early winter that I see them fluttering around the lamp or slowly moving by the window or over the wall. An early winter, one came and sat on my hand. It was my company for several days, and I called it the angel; I call them angels, some say maidens (“jungfruar”). There is such a sheen and tenderness around them and they radiate this almost invisible soul in their almost invisible body which towards the winter becomes drier and drier to eventually disappear or lie down to die. It is the ultimate living thing for me to talk to. A figure that expands what we might associate with the living, someone I can identify with and who takes me out into the spaces from where I sit on the chair in the kitchen with the darkness outside the window.
There are different inspirations for Angelgreen; the angel is one of them, another is a long pistachio green prom dress I wore when I was 16, 17 years old. Another touchstone is an unusually vivid and clear dream I had several years ago; a densely populated city and a small door. And inside it, twelve steps up to a ledge with niches on each side. But I would leave the text on the ledge. And then there are the deep childhood memories that are intertwined, including a puppet show that I have strong memories of, and I can mention the movie Whispers and Shouts, which came out when I was 12-13 years old.
When I was little I went to Sunday school in the church and I was confirmed. I remember, I had a discussion with my confirmation priest about hell, which I could not accept, and I played “the hopeless case” in an outdoor game with different parts from The Bible. I was not raised Christian. Neither father nor mother were practicing believers. Possibly my grandmother and absolutely grandmother’s mother. I’m not a Christian and I do not believe in any church. I have studied religion and if there are religious orientations I sympathize with and immerse myself in, then it is nature religions from different parts of the world.
Some religious concepts that I use in Angelgreen, such as sacraments and cows and, in my way, Satan, are a way, an attempt to make those concepts mine and give them new meaning. Perhaps I have also given the angels a new form or succeeded in broadening their forms.
3. In Aase Berg’s review of The Angelgreen Sacrament, she talks about how you were a dancer and choreographer, and argues that this is an important influence on your work.
4. Can you talk about the ways that your writing is choreographic? Your last 3-4 books have felt very maximalist and narrative, as compared to the very sparse earlier books. How has your writing changed over the past 30 years?
Questions three and four are related for me and the only way for me to answer the questions is to take it from the beginning, from my second birthday, but still make it as concise as I can.
“I stand on a stage behind the puppet theater’s 3 walls, I’m two years old and the potential meaning of life opens in a revelation to me. The pain from an inner white burning fire. A pain taken from the dead, the living, the dying. A pain in the space of creation, the movement of skin and fuzz in kisses toward water. I am two years old and the only bodily world that opens up for me is a limitation of the body to reach the body, the other is the love of virgin bodies where the power outside one’s own body has not grown together in the annihilation of the bodies ….. Every word, every movement, every breath is to establish myself as dead and in myself alive. It is the fortification of the movement; every position, every form, every body must in every moment die and be reborn in an infinite orgasm of life. The erotic reality where everything is involved and unprotected and innocent as long as the boundaries are not drawn and the world loves” (from Oskulder 2001).
In addition to the development of language, which allowed me to express myself and my feeling for life: Dad’s illness and cancer when I was three and a half years old. I also started kindergarden when I was two years old, which at that time was considered early. And I joined a private dance and theater school which performed different plays in front of an audience. Later at the age of seven I started in something called “Our Theater” in Stockholm, where I was a member of various theater groups and improvised and played in various plays until I was eighteen years when everyone has to quit at Vår Teater. During this period, when I was ten years old, I also got to participate in a play at Dramaten in Stockholm thanks to my theater director. The play is called Carl the XVI Joseph and is about Ernst Josephson, a famous Swedish artist who worked in the late 19th century and who went into “mental” illness in his later life. In my teens, I started attending the Swedish Ballet Academy and took classes in classical ballet, jazz dance and later modern dance with different techniques. At school I was also active in theater groups. Then came a strong desire and need to express myself in writing and to perform poems and also write my own plays. The primary school I went to in my first six years was also a progressive school in its teaching. We had many group assignments and final presentations often in dramatic sets before class. I also became interested in film, the image column and the torso.
With this I am trying to say that my artistic expression is a fabric that spins through all the artistic expressions I could find and could practice. But when I was twenty-twenty-five years – probably started already in my early teens – I also began to feel a strong antagonism and revulsion against a lot of different so-called cultural expressions and revulsion against the life that surrounded me. I started trying to find myself and my own expression. “Her own / is / about (/ barely) two to three miles / meters of sky / or as much as / Her hair / marks over / Her / body / seen / in backlight” (from The Breakage 1988.)
From poetry’s breathing and movement in the body, I have moved to drama. Maybe I have a longing to spread out – take on larger gestures and figures, what I carried within me and what I needed to express and the tone, the tones that wanted to be sung. To see where a spectacle could take me. But also the importance of how it is presented. During the last thirty years, I have very rarely gone to the theater and seen a performance or even a dance. (Realizing that I missed some and some I have not been able to indulge because it cost a lot of money.) Everything, almost everything, depends on the execution, the feeling, the honesty, the presence in the performance. That it is reality that is really shaped. And it is very rare that it happens. I often feel like I just want to get up and leave. It does not touch me deeply. Is not life. So what I’m trying to do is create life, and death. Give form to being. Be being.
And after my experience in drama and choreography, the creation of stage spaces and the movement in them and the movement out in the already created and those under creation stage rooms and with what I am writing in secret now maybe I will turn back to something very minimalist; one last breath, which will also be a movement. Basically, I am in search of a new language, or a desire for a paradigm shift in the view of human animals, plants, the stone universe; to conquer the language, to make it mine, to what I am. The unspeakable that is to say. We need the stories too; I need my story; with beginning and end, which closes, something circular that closes itself in its release. Angelgreen is a minimalist text if we are to use that term, written word for word, – creating their world, with several years of thought work in preparation and then how it is written; I write, intensely for a few weeks in the billowing heat. A drama demands a longer writing act from me, even though it is also written word for word. There is obviously a oscillation within me between minimalism and maximalism and I would probably say that they mix.
[Click here] for excerpts from The Angelgreen Sacrament in the latest installment of Folder Magazine
Eva Kristina Olsson (b. 1958) is the author of several books of poetry and plays, as well as a dancer, performer and filmmaker. She has published many books, including The Crime (1988), Eiderwhite (2011), the verse plays Antigone’s Face / Niobe’s Labyrinth (2013), and has had a major impact on Swedish poetry over the past three decades. This excerpt is the first few pages of her critically acclaimed book The Angelgreen Sacrament (2017), which Aase Berg called “torturously beautiful … the best poetry collection of the year” in Dagens Nyheter.
Born in Lund, Sweden, Johannes Göransson now lives in South Bend, Indiana, where he teaches at the University of Notre Dame. He’s the author of eight books, including POETRY AGAINST ALL, The Sugar Book and Transgressive Circulations: Essays on Translation, and the translator of several poets, including Aase Berg, Ann Jäderlund, Helena Boberg and Kim Yideum.