1 – What is the story behind Incubation: a Space for Monsters? I mean, how did it come to be?
I was a zero point in the form of a girl. I was an immigrant and a hitch-hiker. This is my lightly disguised autobiography, in the form of a badly written science fiction novel.
2 – Do you think there’s anything other then body in language?
Residue, ash, skin cells. Is what the body sheds still the body? I think of the sites of shedding as syntax. The places in language that are non-verbal, that don’t promote or sabotage the forward movement of the sentence. A neutrality that is neither body nor language, you could say. Accumulations in another sense. I think of the poem (Waiting) by Yevgeny Yevtushenko – – the blue coat thrown over the chair then slipping off. Like that. In language, there are gestures, which are bodily, yes, but also part of the inorganic order. I think of the blue coat as decaying, nonetheless, over the kind of time between 1983, when I first read the poem, and now.
3 – What is a fuckable text? And is it only fuckable in a particular language?
My sexual orientation is reading and writing. This is less about fucking right now than it is about putting something in your mouth. I want something in my mouth. I cannot say more than this.
English, Punjabi, Urdu, French, Spanish.
I don’t know.
4 – Does a literary hard-on exist? If so, what are some of the works you’ve enjoyed reading lately?
I cannot say. Re: hard-on. You’ll have to ask someone capable of having one. Or who has one, I suppose. You should interview Ben Lerner, perhaps.
But I am thinking today about Melissa Buzzeo’s The Devastation. Am reading this book, and thinking about its particular work with obliteration and love in advance of visiting the refugee camps in Calais. I also want to go to Libya. “Zones of exemption,” I read today, online, at the Global Detention Project. What else should I read?
5 – Can you tell us what the act of publishing means to you?
A membrane stretched taut over a still-living heart.
6 – What have you been up to? What other projects have you got lined up?
I want to go to Libya and to France, to visit two kinds of camps. The before-camp and the after/before-camp. This is a burning desire. Why? I began a project with my mother: Memoir of a Civil War on Abandoned Stickers. She wrote [titrated] a memory on one sticker, in Hindi, and I wrote the translation on the blank sticker facing it. I accumulated three pages — a kind of bottom-up processing. A narrative built from fragments. That isn’t deflected. By the mode of narrative itself. And I want to continue this way of accumulating — the bits of — lived life. From the narratives of contemporary refugees and migrants. This is not very formed, except for the very strong call in the middle of the body to think next about European space and its co-extensive spaces; that is why the Libyan camps, in particular, feel like the place I want to be. To clarify, I am a mother of a young son, and I also look after my own mother, and I am a professor with many students — how could I possibly leave this life, that happens every day, and go? But I want to. This is my next project. I am influenced too by the scholar Andrea Spain, with whom I was going to co-teach a class on “populations” this summer. But we didn’t teach it. Now I want to live it.
I also want to write a very simple or plain account of my childhood, which will never come again. I mean, the immigrant neighborhood I grew up in — is entirely over-written by — the present. I already wrote the bottom-up version, but now I want to write something that a British readership could: read. Why? I am not sure why. It’s as if I want to write a pamphlet or a historical document of some kind. I know I could write this in five days, but — I am not alone enough — at this time in my life. 7 – Where do you live now days? Colorado. The color: red. But I want to live by the sea. That is a new desire also. California, perhaps. Or Vancouver.
8 – What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about Brasil?
Lucas de Lima pushing his chair away from the table after the Mongrel Poetiks panel at &Now, saying: “I’m just not interested.” When an organizer tried to ask him about — well, I can’t remember what. He was, in that moment, a ferocious and undiluted presence. I don’t want to exoticise the moment I am describing, but I was very moved by his refusal to engage in a calibration or re-calibration of the positions he took in his talk. His book, Wetland, published by Action Books, is tremendous, I think. I read it in the bath, thus: it is distended. I am also reading Benjamin Moser’s biography of Clarice Lispector and sometimes try to avoid social events so I can get on with reading it. She just left Recife for Rio. What else? I think of an intense variant of green — a color — that I have not seen — that is there — in Brasil — and that I cannot imagine living without having seen. I ate a fish in Porto Alegre — on a balcony — in my twenties. I was traveling with a man who was in the orchid-walnut import/export business. He went off to meet a client; I ate the aforementioned cod. With a glass of freezing cold white wine. Now I am double-guessing my memory of the cod. A fish of some kind. But, in Porto Alegre, everything was pale cream and grey and light blue. I didn’t get to the green, which could easily have been the sheen of a woman’s overcoat as she left the pharmacy with a small bottle of almond oil, her collar turned up against the rain.
BHANU KAPIL is a British-Indian emigrant to the United States. She is the author of five full-length works of poetry/prose: The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (2001), Incubation: a space for monsters (2006), humanimal [a project for future children] (2009), Schizophrene (2011), and Ban en Banlieue (2015). Since 2007, she has been incubating “Ban” through performances, talks, and collaborations in the U.S., India, and the U.K. She maintains a widely read blog on social incubation, prose experiments, and dogs: Was Jack Kerouac A Punjabi? She lives in Colorado where she teaches writing (through the monster, architecture, and memory) at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.