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Swimmers Club

The pioneers of aviation were never lonely

Friday, March 2, 2018


Who: Nadia de Vries
Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
What: Writer

What do you write? Prose? Poetry? Experimental? Or don’t you like to define what you do in that way?

I write poetry in English, and recently started writing essays in Dutch. I also write academically, but nothing worth mentioning here.

Why do you write?

It helps me lay out my thoughts in a way that allows me to share them with people I care about. Or more generally, with people that I would like to get to know better. Poetry has been the basis of many new friendships for me.

Can you tell us a bit about a few of the things that influenced you to become a person who writes things for publication?

I moved out of my mother’s house and into my first apartment in late 2011. My boyfriend at the time came to live in with me. I was very unhappy. Everything in my life was changing and it was making me sick. I loved to write poems in my early teenage years, so writing poetry was an instinctive comfort to go back to. I googled “contemporary poetry” and found the websites for Poetry Magazine, Granta, but also non-print-based things like HTMLGiant and, a bit later on, Shabby Doll House. I loved what I read there. And so I decided that I wanted to write poems again and publish them and become part of a community. I spent the entire spring of 2012 reading poetry and learning about online publishing, and carried a notebook with me everywhere I went so that I could write blubbery poems in public. I must have been an insufferable person. That boyfriend eventually broke up with me, but the poetry remained.

Can you tell us a little bit about your most recently published book? It’s style and what influenced it, etc?

Dark Hour is written from the perspective of someone who is forced to live in total darkness. This can be metaphysical darkness or otherwise. The poems are about finding means of survival during challenging times, whether this is by material things such as food, flowers, and pills, or by less tangible things such as humour, sexuality, and language. I wrote the book over the past three years while I was learning to develop my own voice as a writer. I’m grateful to have the book be an object in the world now. It’s become a thing for other people.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a second collection of poems, dedicated to my mother. It is about working-class life, genetic illness, and chickens. I think chickens are an easy species for women like me to feel existentially connected to. Perhaps this is true for more women than I previously realized. It’s the same with cows, but Ariana Reines has already written about that. In any case, the title of the book is White Meat. Close Distance, a Los Angeles-based press run by Lara Schoorl (an incredible poet, art historian, and dear friend), is publishing a pre-selection from the book this spring.

Swimmers Club has a focus on the state of independent culture at the moment (anything from independent presses, record labels, even coffee shops, etc). What are your opinions on the current state of it?

I think it’s thriving as much as it can, considering the current economic circumstances in pretty much all artistic disciplines. There doesn’t seem to be much money to go around. Still, people are coming together and making things. People always will. But it’s sad that institutional access holds such a large stake in what art is allowed to materially exist. If you don’t know how to sell yourself, as an artist, you’re left with very little.

What influence, if any, does the city in which you live have on your work?

Both all of it and none at all. Amsterdam is my creative home, it’s always been, and I feel safe here. It’s the city where I learned most of what I know about art and human relationships and day-to-day existence. At the same time, there is the internet. People and things I care about live and exist all over the world. I can access them virtually whenever I want to, and they can access me, which makes the entire notion of a home base less vital than the way it was before, I think. I wasn’t alive in the pre-internet age, so I cannot be sure.

So tell us more about your book launch. It sounds like a really cool venue, an old cinema in Amsterdam? You didn’t really read in the dark did you?

I did! It was very pleasant actually. There were no visual distractions, just a room filled with kind people in comfortable seats. After the readings we had a dance party in the cinema space and a friend who couldn’t attend sent me a massive bouquet of flowers. It was the most beautiful night of my life so far.

The book launch took place at Cinema of the Dam’d, an underground cinema in a former squat building in Amsterdam. It’s an amazing place, run by the most lovely people. They screen forgotten or otherwise under-appreciated films three nights a week, and admission is always free. Often, they invite guest curators such as artists, activists, and/or academics to choose and introduce a film. It’s a gathering place, really. I volunteer at the bar every weekend and it’s always a pleasure. You should visit sometime when you’re in Amsterdam, I think you’d really love it.

You’re off to AWP soon. Will that be your first time there? Are you hoping to try and arrange some readings when you’re out there?

It will be my third time. I’m excited to meet many of my American writer friends again, most of whom I can only see together in one room during AWP. I don’t care about the conference aspect of it though, most of the panels are excruciating. Anyway, Liz Bowen very kindly invited me to join the Metatron reading on Saturday March 10. I’m looking forward to that.

Finally, can you swim?

Not yet, but I’m learning to.

Nadia de Vries’s book Dark Hour is available to buy from:

Image credit: Lola Noir

Municipal Pool

Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.