Tuesday, September 1, 2020

NILAVRONILL TALKING WITH MARIAN EIKELHOF


NILAVRONILL TALKING WITH
POET OF THE MONTH

MARIAN EIKELHOF
SEPTEMBER 2020



NILAVRONILL: Why do literature and poetry in particular interest you so much? Please give us some idea about your own perception of literature or poetry in general.

MARIAN EIKELHOF: The difference between everyday reading and literature is that the latter can broaden and deepen our vision of reality around us. By reading the perspective of great writers, we avoid becoming narrow-minded and biased. We allow writers to have an influence on our education in addition to our parents and teachers at school. By this we gain insight into other worlds and cultures, yet at the same time we can recognize ourselves in the grief and happiness of people who grew up in a different situation, sometimes very far away from us. A good book is like a friend who frees you from your loneliness and at the same time gives you a new perspective on your future. Instead of being condemned to follow fixed patterns, we are given other ideas and dreams that allow us to break free from the socio-economic context in which we grow up and from its restrictions.


NILAVRONILL: How do you relate your own self existence with your literary life in one hand, and the time around you, in the other.

MARIAN EIKELHOF: we live in a time when materialism and appearance success seem more important than respecting inner values. The way in which the victims of Covid 19 are reported shows there is an erosion of our emotional life. We show death in statistics, so that death is an abstract fact and doesn’t really touch us.  The idea that the lives of elderly and physically vulnerable people may be sacrificed for the common good is systematically indoctrinated through the media. As a poet, I feel responsible for dismantling this ongoing process of alienation and making it a priority to develop emotional intelligence and empathy instead of only fulfilling one’s needs and nourishing the ego.  Humanity continues to function at a lower energy level, trapped in the illusions of greed and power, when we are not able to share with each other and be solidary with all living species.



NILAVRONILL: Do you believe creative souls flourish more in turmoil than in peace?


MARIAN EIKELHOF: Usually psychological struggle and turmoil can inspire me to write poetry and feel relieved by analysing the source of my suffering by looking at things with a helicopter view. When, however, my brother Theo Eikelhof recently died after a short, uneven struggle, I was barely able to put the pain into words. For my friends of the poetry festival in Havana, Cuba, I wrote the following poem (translated from Spanish):

(foto: Theo Eikelhof)

Theo, my beloved brother,
this is a short poem as the pain is still to0 deep and intense to translate into words.
You told me you weren't afraid of dying and I know death doesn't always say goodbye in a respectful way, but you so strong, so calm…
I thought she'd never attack you and it would not be me, but you who would be left behind.


The knowledge of having to miss my brother's protection, love and intelligent perspective on things cuts deeper than a knife into my soul and initially created an immense spiritual void in which writing gave me no comfort at all. My brother was honoured as Student of the Year at Tilburg University shortly after his death and received the title “register valuator”. When I think about him being proudly present at my graduations whereas I couldn't attend this milestone in his life, I am profoundly sad. My sister Els Eikelhof and I lately discussed how we fell into a great existential gap giving us a tremendous sense of powerlessness and how we need to redefine our future without our older brother. People sometimes ask me whether I am over my brother's death. However, to miss such an empathetic, charismatic and loving personality, a wonderful husband, father of his two children, son, brother and uncle is not something I'm ever going to get over. My father and mother, sister Els and brother Robert have been shipwrecked and need to find out how we can put the puzzle of our lives back together. Part of this grieving process can be shared through poems and stories, but the actual tears flow in the shadow of silence and stay invisible for the public.



NILAVRONILL: Do you think in this age of information and technology the dimensions of literature have been largely extended beyond our preconceived ideas about literature in general?

MARIAN EIKELHOF: I'm afraid the modern reader consumes words in a fleeting and superficial way. We are confronted with an overload of information that makes us less and less able to concentrate. For a lot of people, it has become an impossible challenge to read a book written, for instance, by DH Lawrence or Iris Murdoch, to name a few great English writers. The information technology is at a high level, however, instead of illuminating our minds, we are getting more and more distracted by the number of stimuli associated with the computer age. Because books are becoming less and less appreciated, it is almost unfeasible for a writer to make money, unless he writes a bestseller tailored to the reader's needs. We know that great artists don’t care about fashionable, contemporary standards and are able to write independently of the public opinion. In this sense, I think we should abolish money and honestly share the wealth that the earth offers. If we do not have to worry about fulfilling our basic needs, we can really develop a higher level of solidarity and self-development. This will benefit literature as the market mechanism has a destructive influence on its quality.  



NILAVRONILL: Now, in this changing scenario we would like to know from your own life experiences as a poet, writer and a creative soul: How do you respond to this present time?

MARIAN EIKELHOF: I think a true artist is able to detach himself from the time in which he lives to show that not everything is what it looks like and processes are going on that remain hidden from the eyes of the masses. It is precisely the ability not to lose yourself in drama and to be able to escape the delusion of the day, which gives your work a timelessness that is magical and transcends the centuries.

A special feature of this age is that we have more tools to connect with each other, but the loneliness of many people is distressing, the emotional poverty is at a peak and depression has become a worldwide pandemic. When we just look at the number of children in the world who are sexually exploited, starved or abandoned, there is no reason to speak of progress in the evolution of humanity. At the same time, I am happy to rise to the challenge of working with like-minded people to break the crisis and not be afraid to stick out my neck in order to defend humanity. The Indians had the motto " it is a great day to die " when they went to war and with these wise words in mind what could possibly overcome me.


NILAVRONILL: Do you believe that all writers are by and large the product of their nationality? And is this an incentive for or an obstacle against becoming a truly international writer?

MARIAN EIKELHOF: As a daughter of a mother who spent four years in a Japanese concentration camp I am well aware of the atrocities of war and as a woman I can identify with all women in the world who experienced a form of abuse at some point in their lives. Yet to pretend knowing what hunger truly is and how it feels to be tortured and unnoticed as an anonymous refugee would show a lack of respect toward people undergoing this faith in countries at war or on the edge of economic collapse. I don’t find it belief worthy when a poet claims to be international, recites a sentimental poem about the terrible faith of a victim of war in another country and after doing so enjoys a good meal in peaceful surroundings making selfies of him/herself in the company of other well known writers. I find this attitude elitist. My brother Theo Eikelhof once told me not to brag about your success as it if hurtful for the millions of people who will never find themselves appreciated and who own nothing to be proud of but their dignity. In stead of this I try to help humanity in the peace process by describing the white supremacist way of thinking and dismantle it. Once I recited my poem “trash” referring to the selfishness of people using lines as ‘’let them refugees become mud in the sea before they come and kill me”. A woman in the audience became very mad with me and out of sight from the others she murmured in my ears that she found me poem disgusting. The way my poem annoyed her was to me a sign of success as this is the true sense of poetry; not offering a romantic and moralizing perspective, but arising the consciousness of people even if this means irritating them like a mosquito.


NILAVRONILL: Now, if we try to understand the tradition and modernism, do you think literature can play a pivotal role in it?  If so, how? Again, how can an individual writer relate himself or herself to the tradition and to modernism?

MARIAN EIKELHOF: Godfried Bomans, a great Dutch writer of short stories, once referred to the behaviour of people who did not want to get on the plane and continued to go by train for religious reasons; God would consider it a sin to fly.” As if God is an old grumper failing to be on top of things", Bomans joked. Traditional values provide us with a frame of reference to consider reality, but when we cannot deviate from this and remain captive of established patterns and styles, we do not bring about innovation. A great modernist novelist, Virginia Woolf, managed to break free from the yoke of the patriarchal society in which she grew up. She made a precise psychoanalysis of the psychological effects of patriarchy, which undermines where women are truly capable of.  She has exerted an incredible influence on feminism and thus played a crucial role in the struggle for women for equal rights. Integrating into society in this way and taking it to a higher level of consciousness is genius.


NILAVRONILL: Do you think literary criticism has much to do with the development of a poet and the true understanding of his or her poetry?

MARIAN EIKELHOF: For a poet, receiving criticism is a great compliment because both positive and negative feedback helps him to develop and improve his style. It strikes me that people regularly comment on a poem with words like 'super' and 'bravo', whereas as a poet you are fed by constructive criticism instead of blind admiration. To notice that the reader has really spent time reading your poetry is an incredibly beautiful experience. In those moments, a sense of belonging arises that transcends time and space. We don’t need to flatter our ego as we already dissolved this being it a blockade in search of the inner truth. To find the reader can identify with the emotions described in our metaphors awakes the magical knowledge that we are all one and sharing our feelings connects us.



NILAVRONILL: Do you think society as a whole is the key factor in shaping you up as a poet, or your poetry altogether?

MARIAN EIKELHOF: I grew up in a society that values a new lamppost more than a work of art. Fortunately, a new movement is emerging that is looking for deeper values than materialism. At the same time, as a poet, it is almost impossible to make your money from writing. In practice, this means that I have to devote almost all my time to my profession and writing or reading poems is often a nocturnal activity. I love my job and find it very satisfying to help people, but it saddens me that I barely have time to organize my poems and write books. I hope that the high level of exploitation of the worker in our society will soon come to an end. The capitalist's greatest theft is that of our time. Those who just have to work in order survive don't have time to explore deeper values and critically assess contemporary norms. It serves the system quite well when we stay unconscious of what is really going on and how we are indoctrinated by the media. Demanding time back for ourselves is crucial in increasing our resilience. 



NILAVRONILL: We would like to know the factors and the peoples who have influenced you immensely in the growing phase of your literary life.

MARIAN EIKELHOF: My mother, Lilly Eikelhof, has had a great influence on my literary life as from an early age she inspired me to study English and read books. By the age of 12, I had read almost every book that could be found in the local village library.  As a young psychology student, however, I didn't have a dream of becoming a poet. I wanted to start a family like so many. However, when the partner I had at that time turned out to be a racist who joked about hitting immigrants with his car and use them as topping on his sandwich, I noticed I was essentially different. My need to get married and have children was not as urgent as the desire to create a just world in which all people get equal treatment. Later it was the deputy ambassador of the Cuban Embassy in The Hague who advised me to share my poetry with the public. Without him, I would never have come up with the idea of visiting poetry festivals. I met fantastic writers, poets and activists for peace all over the world and a positive spiral arose giving my life an incredible turn.



NILAVRONILL: How would you evaluate your contemporaries and what are your aspirations for or expectation from the younger generation?

MARIAN EIKELHOF: I am impressed by the speed of understanding of young people. An eight-year-old child often speaks several languages and moves like a virtuous on the computer. In addition to this high level of intelligence and speed of reasoning, however, there is a growing number of young people having social emotional problems forming an endangered group in society. The level of exploitation in capitalism is so high that many parents must work or become addicted or depressed as a result of being unemployed. Many young people cannot cope with this type of affective neglect together with the pressures of contemporary society and flee into drug and alcohol abuse, vandalism and other self-destructive patterns. That worries me. As a psychologist I can only help a few of these youngsters, but as a poet I can reach out for the world and try to stand up for the millions. My poem ‘sold’, for instance talks about a young girl having to marry and old man to sensitize readers for this kind of horrific exploitation of children.


NILAVRONILL: Humanity has suffered immensely in the past and is still suffering around the world. We all know it well. But are you hopeful about our future?

MARIAN EIKELHOF: I would rather describe myself as a realist than an optimist. I do not believe that a group of poets and musicians who sing and talk about peace are changing the situation in which the world now finds itself. We will have to reflect on ourselves very honestly and critically to achieve a real improvement. The bad guy and power-hungry dictator is not someone outside of ourselves just because we can observe worse characters than our own. We grew up in a system that separates us, makes us competitors from each other and in which, necessarily, part of humanity is thrown into a dustbin. From childhood on we have been indoctrinated with an individualistic way of thinking.  To create a better, more social system, it is not enough just to complain about the abuses outside of us. We will have to be modest, sincere about our vulnerabilities and dare to denounce our dysfunctional ways of dealing with each other. Only then can we ensure that one-sided egoism is not transferred to the new generation.



NILAVRONILL: What role can literature in general play to bring a better day for every human being?

MARIAN EIKELHOF: Words do not require identity cards, cannot be quarantined and have direct access to our hearts and minds. Words that are arranged in such a way they arise critical consciousness are pearls in the fight against the destruction of life on earth. Books are in fact stronger weapons than bombs and grenades, because wisdom can never be denied. Literature has thereby the status of immortality.


MARIAN EIKELHOF is a poet who works in her daily life as a psychologist. Her work inspires her to write about the emotional aspects of life. Not only she describes feelings of love, intimacy and desire, but also she reflects about states of profound sadness and feelings of emptiness. On the whole she criticizes dehumanisation and an ongoing process of alienation in human relationships. Marian’s poetry book “ a zero hour contract with life” has been translated from Dutch into English and Turkish. For children who are being bullied, she wrote the book “Lekker Boeiend!” (“I am not impressed!”) and together with her sister Els Eikelhof she has written the manual “Feel yourself Okay” for teachers guiding children with a disability. Her poems have been published by several prestigious magazines and Marian is a peace activist defending humanity by attending poetry festivals in Europe and Latin America. 

2 comments :

  1. Dear Marian Eikelhof. Greetings from India. A very insightful, inspiring and touching interaction with the OPA Editor Nilavro Nill Shoovro! My heartfelt condolences on your bereavement. These words of yours really touched me:
    "Part of this grieving process can be shared through poems and stories, but the actual tears flow in the shadow of silence and stay invisible for the public." This is so true! Wish you strength and courage to bear your irreparable loss! I am very impressed and inspired by your clarity in your views on literature! Heartiest congratulations! Warm regards.

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  2. Thank you so very much, dear Padmaya Paddy, for your heartfelt comment.I admire you deeply as the prestigious editor and poet you are, immensely important in the field of human rights and above all a wonderful person. The grief about my brother makes my wish to meet you in person even stronger, so as to share a smile and a tear in the best company I could wish. Greetings from the Netherlands! Warm regards.

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