writer on writers: Andre Bagoo

You have a new book coming out, Trick Vessels. Can you tell us a little about it?

A trick vessel is a type of mechanical puzzle. It is an impossible object; a magical trick that seems to do something it should not; that should not, logically, be possible. I was fascinated by this idea and how it is a metaphor for so many processes: for art, for the imagination, for love, for memory; for history; for politics and for power. I hope the book deals with these things and that readers find many secrets.

Why do you write?

I started writing—like most people—as a teenager. Most people start writing as teenagers in order to express themselves. I didn’t. It may seem strange to say this, but the reason I started writing poetry was out of a desire to rebel. As a male teenager, who attended an all-boys Roman Catholic School, I felt writing poetry would be regarded as radical, especially given current cultural norms which isolate males from the production and study of literature. Literature, in the Trinidad lad culture, is now seen as something girls do. I started writing as an act of provocation. I continued writing because I had already started. And I continue to write because it feels right, though I could not say with certainty why. Who can? For sure though, I cannot stop. I will not.

Who are your literary influences? 

It is really impossible for a poet to consciously trace literary influences, because it is really the outsider who will best be able to trace causal relationships. That said, I would imagine that I tend to be influenced by whomever I am reading and that is always changing. I do have some poets I always return to: William Carlos Williams; Allen Ginsberg; Vahni Capildeo; Mark Doty; Walt Whitman; WS Merwin; Benjamin Paloff; Jennifer Rahim; WS Graham; Olive Senior; Kei Miller; Samuel Beckett; Martin Carter; Pasolini; Neruda; Rimbaud; Walcott; Poe; Longfellow; Baudelaire; the poetry of Borges; Tomas Salamun and so many more I cannot list. Prose also inspires images: Earl Lovelace; VS Naipaul; Patrick Chamoiseau. Increasingly, I am keen to explore how poetry can respond to and become a basis for other media (painting, photography, installations) and music.

What is the poet’s role in society?

The poet has no role. The poet is an outsider and is nothing. Yet, the poet is everything. The poet is a vessel that channels and speaks to those whom the living cannot hope to speak to. The poet lives to service this contradiction, in the full glare of a silent audience.

What do you dream for tomorrow?

I dream for a tomorrow. I dream. Tomorrow, too, dreams. Tomorrow will tell me more.

What else would you like to tell us?

I am grateful to Shearsman—and editor Tony Frazer—for publishing my book. If you haven’t encountered Shearsman before, I urge you to check out their website. I would also like to thank all the people who have supported me and supported the production of this book in so many ways. Thank you, TOTO, for this opportunity. Now when are we meeting for drinks?

•••

 was born and lives in Trinidad. A journalist, he writes for Newsday and has published poems and book reviews in journals like the Boston ReviewCaribbean Review of Books and St Petersburg Review. His first book of poems, Trick Vessels, is published by Shearsman Books. Check out his blog,  Pleasure.

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