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BIG NIGHT poet Filip Marinovich on politics, poetics, and being a 'Wolfman Librarian'

Poet Filip Marinovich, who headlines tonight's Just Buffalo BIG NIGHT event along with Buffalo-based poet Nava Fader, is an exuberant, outsized voice in the transatlantic, poet-as-witness and occasional visionary tradition.

The 37 year-old New York City-based poet with family roots in Belgrade--formerly the capital city of Yugoslavia, now Serbia-- is the author of two much-praised collections of effusive, witty, linguistically-agile and politically engaged work, “Zero Readership” (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008)--which dealt directly with his travels to Belgrade and through the Balkans for three summersafter the wars of the 90's--and “And If You Don't Go Crazy I'll Meet You Here Tomorrow” (Ugly Ducking Presse, 2011), which documented global and personal crises and loves spanning the decade from 2000 to 2010, including a weeklong meditation retreat in upstate New York, in Marinovich's cosmically maximalist style.

More recently, he has garnered considerable attention as one of the principal poetic voices associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, serving in the high-visibility role as librarian for The People's Library in the encampment at Zuccotti Park in the autumn of 2011.

Marinovich describes his forthcoming book "Wolfman Librarian" (some of which he will read from tonight) as "an epic mythography of lovers in New York City after the financial crash and during the rise of Occupy Wall Street Revolution, as well as inquiring into what [Walter] Benjamin means by 'Jetztzeit' or 'Nowtime'."

"How do the dead feel about their names being used to wage permanent war?" he elaborates. "The voices of the dead need to be heard and included in any true Democracy, along with the voices of the living, most of the time I can't tell the difference, that's how fast time feels."

In a recent interview posted on the Poetry Society of America website, Marinovich discussed the inextricably of his politics from his poetics in terms that give the reader a sense of his world-view and his influences:

It is impossible to write a-politically. If you don't directly address politics in your work, this is a conservative ideology. If you do directly undress politics in your work, you at least have a chance of being awake while you are meditating on what your politics are and what politics is. What is politics I would like to know. It is the life of the polis, the Multiverse, all the voices, being channelled through you, and you responding to them, in dialog with them, one with them, and contradicting them.

We can either choose to examine politics in our poetry, or politics will define us on its own terms, often prison terms, stolen presidential terms, or term limits dissolved with money. "I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man's."—William Blake.

As for the physical process of writing, he is noting less than beatific in his approach:

When I write politics which is all I am ever really writing I go out into the street and listen and bring my pocket pad. And three pens. I go somewhere dangerous that needs to be documented before it disappears or becomes assimilated into state narratives and I open myself to visions. The key thing is to breathe to remember. I need to breathe from the belly to blow a long line and engender a thorough thought process through which I can discover things, poetry being discovery, not recapitulation of what I already know, although I know I only know I know nothing, really I know nothing. How one comes to know is always a question.

A poet writes history, ISTORIN, to use Charles Olson's translation from Herodotus: "Istorin in him appears to mean 'finding out for oneself,' instead of depending on hearsay." A poet writes the findings out in a simultaneously packed and empty spontaneously improvised field of action. Urgency comes from finding out what's going on in a Benjaminian "moment of danger," which threatens to disappear the moment mouth is opened or pen is set to paper. Hence the need for spontaneity. If you don't get what's happening down in the poem, the state will force-feed you the toxic simulacrab of what's happening in its sweet soft shell. There is not one of us without food poisoning. There is not one of us without medicine: awareness, conversation, action.

Joining Marinovich and Nava Fader, whose chapbooks include "Stonesoup,", "The Plath Poems," "The Rilke Poems," and the full-length collection “All the Jawing Jackdaw” (BlazeVox Books, 2009), are the Buffalo-based rock and post-psychedelia band The Cellars.  As is the popular tradition at BIG NIGHT events, BlazeVox Books publisher and Culinary Institute of America trained chef Geoffrey Gatza will supply an ample spread of his gourmet food creations.  The  festivities begin at 8 p.m. at the Western New York Book Arts Center, 468 Washington St. (near Mohawk St.).   Admission is $5, $4 for students, Just Buffalo members, and members of Just Buffalo's affiliate organizations.

--R.D. Pohl

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