An Interview with Dave McLean conducted by Marie Lecrivain
1) When did you start writing poetry? How is it that you came to be a Welsh poet living in Sweden?
I first wrote in 1994, to impress a ridiculous girl, I wrote maybe a hundred poems in 94/95, submitted to a few magazines and was published by four of them, including Envoi, though it came in 1997. I didn’t write anymore, except ridiculous hobby-writing on a foolish Internet site in Swedish until I met my present partner. I’ve been submitting since December 2006 and been in or accepted by 141 magazines as of today the 11th November.
2) You are a prolific poet -you've been known to write between 10 to 15 poems a day. Can you share the details of you writing process?
It starts from that I spent many years studying philosophy; I wrote an MA thesis in Practical Philosophy on suicide, and an MW in Theoretical Philosophy on Sartre and the unconscious and subjectivity. I asserted basically that le vecu (lived experience but not the same as Erlebnisse in Husserl) in the Flaubert books provides a refuge for that, the unconscious as counter-finality, children’s minds as worked matter. Anyway, these are the basic starting points, these and Heidegger and finitude and resoluteness. I write a lot because I don’t do anything else except housework and looking after five stupid cats. The poems come often as reactions to other poems. (I’ve written twenty a day by the way.) I will say here that there is NO SUCH THING as writer’s block, at least in my experience. But then again I often assert there to be no such thing as panic anxiety People just follow leads.
3) Please share the details that led to the inception of your book a hunger for mourning (2007, erbacce press).
It was just a desire to get together a reasonable number of books before I die. Anne Sexton died at my age and she drank less.
4) In your book, a hunger for mourning (2007, erbacce press), you describe poetry as "an attempt at breaking though our stumbling non-identities to a genuine sense of presence and an image of the substantial that reassures us that the substance exists somewhere." What defining moment in your life as a poet caused you to arrive at this truth?
I must be honest and say that I was very impressed by Che cos’è la poesia by Derrida, the idea that the poetic impulse is basically a nostalgic one, but a nostalgia for something that has never been. There never was a unified subject. It might be a desire to capture the moment when you loved or hated, and saw a hair move, or saw a young frog hopping perversely optimistic to his certain death, and make it real forever.
A poem I wrote says it too:
i do not know
or want to
you who may read this
i cannot speak
i am a fool
i want the words
to make me real
to make me
5) In hunger, a genuine sense of presence is urged in facing, and then giving in to one's nihilistic and inevitable urge to come face to face with death in various manifestations.
From trees IV
for man is death and the word
is death, though the word "death"
is nothing to these trees
who today feed me their meaning
as my mean shall later
feed their need, their innocent
From Cadaver's Abyss
forever, the clean skeleton
just a memory, he demands to be
just a memory, a death and
me. Cadaver has forgotten us
From the aetiology of mankind
conventional sighs like
poems are indexical
(signs) of tomorrow
an open coffin
From erotic Thanatos
death is a friend,
something like that,
i've forgotten -
never could distinguish
both kinds are dangerous -
death is not loving, he is a drug
to face in the morning,
the mourning tonight
the answer to everything
he is very definitely
Why, or why not, would you agree/disagree with this statement.
The relation to death is fundamental for finite beings doomed to disappear. Anything else is the bad faith of a mayfly. The word is death’s since I may well be dead when you read this. Words can mean without me, even my words grow up to be whores. But I evidently have a huge repetition compulsion and a Thanatic drive that is very tasty. (Is one allowed to have a smiley here?)
6) Based on your poetry, would you agree/disagree, that man, instead of turning to traditional, destructive divine influences, should look within himself for a divine presence, or do you feel that there are no more gods - why/why not?
I have studied epistemology a lot, and semantics, my point expressed positivistically is that we have no concept <god> that allows us to distinguish between a god and a demon in make-up or a large ghost. I believe in nothing, in The Nothing and the void. I stare in to the listless abyss until it starts farting. Simone de Beauvior is even better than Sartre there. She truly resents the stupidity of faith. I have a physicist friend who won’t even say he’s an atheist since the word “atheist” acknowledges god by denying it.
7) Who are some of your literary influences?
These include Sexton, Plath, Dylan Thomas, Eliot, Pound, H.D., Trakl, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Verlaine, Auden, Larkin, Bukowski, Huysmans, Genet, Kathy Acker, William Burroughs, Hölderlin, Yeats, Hopkins, Berryman, Ted Hughes. Among older stuff: the romantics, Donne, and Milton. All philosophers and Szasz for content.
8) What are your feelings about publishing on the Internet vs. in print form?
More people read one on the Web, but I do like the feel of paper magazines and books
9) Are you working on any new projects?
I have book manuscripts and am testing collaboration a little.
10) Do you have any advice for the emerging literary nihilist?
To test your body to the limits with drink and drugs. To read
Sartre and Heidegger, to study gender issues. Not to listen
to what old wankers like me give you for advice. But to buy
my book and to strive to be as much yourself as possible on
general principles, as long as you bear in mind that we’re
all nothing when it comes do the crunch.
bio: David McLean was born in Wales in 1960 but has lived in Sweden since 1987. After submitting seriously since the end of 2006 he has, as of the end of October 2007, around 320 poems in or accepted by 141 magazines both online and in print. The chapbook a hunger for mourning, with 52 poems done with Erbacce Press in Liverpool, is available from Lulu at http://storeslulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=1277957. He has a MySpace page at www.myspace.com/david_mclean and a blog at http://mourningabortion.blogspot.com, where there are links to many online publications.
He studied History at Oxford, incredibly diffidently, from 1978 to 1982 and Philosophy and History of Ideas at Stockholm, incredibly thoroughly, from 1994, taking an MA in Philosophy in 1999. He has one daughter, born in 1986, who also lives in Sweden. His interests include his evil fiancée, his five cats, literature, philosophy, existentialism, subjectivity (especially his own), substance abuse, not running out of cigarettes, and music. He wants to be Baudelaire when he grows up, and/or possibly a porn star. He dislikes the environment.