I got an email from Aaron approximately two weeks ago; his submission for his poem "Depression" blew my mind. I could see myself with him in that room, struggling. I could feel my feelings growing from the words I was reading. Aaron is a "out-of-time" type of spirit, one of those whose soul seems to have the particular ability to change your perception of what surrounds you in an instant and so make yourself see clearly through their eyes. (Find a couple of his poems in the journal, here)
Tell me a little bit about your early life and South Africa: any influence on your work today? Do you miss your homeland? How would you describe your personality? Has it changed since childhood?
I grew up in a strange little town, and I remember being quite happy there but I left as a teenager to move to Cape Town and since then, I can't spend more than a few days in my hometown without losing my mind. I also grew up with only women, a mother, grandmother and two aunts. My father lived in Germany, my grandfather was gone and my uncle was lost to the streets, still is. No siblings and no cousins during my childhood but it was a happy childhood, mostly due to those great childhood friendships we have, without those friendships I believe it would have been a much lonelier upbringing.
South Africa is at its most beautiful when it lives in harmony with its nature while its at its worst when it lives in the past. I wouldn't want to raise a family there in all honesty but I do want to die there as strange as that seems. It isn't safe but it teaches you the truth, it shows you the best and worst things that people can do in this life and gives you the complete choice of choosing which side of humanity you'd like to be apart of. So I'd say South Africa affects the way I think and therefore the way I write, but I don't have a sense of nationalism to that place.
I'm an extrovert, and as a child that worked quite well, especially as the only child, with all the attention. In contrast, now I don't particularly enjoy being around people that much, give me a dog or a cat and I'm content. Perhaps my extroverted-ness was shunned out of me during childhood, you know being too talkative, too energetic, too aggressive especially at a convent school, led to me being pretty much the opposite of who I was as a kid. I'm still an extrovert according to the tests, and its true I don't struggle at all when having to speak to people, it's just I prefer not to.
How would you describe your aesthetic in a few words? What drives you to create?
Originally I tried, to be a classical poet so to speak, I followed the rigid sonnet structures and tried to allow my poems to have vivid coherence, I think that's where everyone starts, learning and mimicing the classics. My style developed from my personal interests I'd say; I listen to an abnormal amount of music the biggest of which being Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails & Tim Hecker there is an honesty in the writing style of the two, and also a bleakness in the later which I seemed to gravitate towards I see Thom Yorke and Trent Reznor being bigger influences than say Pablo Neruda or Rumi, I also love nature as I said before, so my poems naturally use imagery from things I've seenbut above all else its just years of devoting myself to writing every day, it brings an intimacy & a clarity between what you're doing and how you write. Now I write in a very specific way, and I can't even remember the basic sonnet rhyme schemes haha, I do have my own structures and limitations I impose on a poem though, but they are my own and I believe it will remain that way.
Your first submitted poem was "Depression" which is very powerful and intimate, it can appear as a reflection in a mirror for many of us who struggle, it hits so close to home, we are with you in that house: how would you portray your daily life? What are your main daily struggles? How long have you been writing?
My main struggle is leaving my apartment, there is a heightened level of discomfort and self awareness when you're moving through the city, I'm currently studying, so getting out of bed and into life is the daily mental sparring match I have with myself which admittedly I often lose, I'd happily remain inside, only leaving when I have those moments of excitement or feel the need to spend time with a friend. So I'd say my daily life is fairly simple, now that I live away from home, I'm able to do those bare essentials, when I have a class I skate and catch a train, and right back home after. On weekends I'm at home writing or studying, When I do go out I prefer the night, so some nights I'd go out and skate or take my friends dog for a walk, I imagine that is my extroverted-self gasping for outside air. I have noticed that its when I find myself doing things that don't interest me that my mind begins to devour me, so I try to avoid those situations. Remembering to eat, is also a struggle.
I started writing poetry when I was 15 but at that time, it wasn't really poetry just scribbles to keep my mind busy.
Tell me about The Kalopsia Collection? When did it start? How? Why "Kalopsia"?
The Kalopsia Collection started when I was confronted by a publishing deal after one of my poems made it into a shortlist/anthology, at that point I was 19 and there was seemingly years and years of poems that had piled up, so it sort of made sense to do something with them. But with this excess of poems I thought it would be easier to try and create a world and choose the poems that belonged to that world. In comes the word "Kalopsia", which I stumbled across and its meaning, "the state of mind where things appear more beautiful than they really are". And that word, that meaning belonged to most of my opinions, on people, on life and on the world. This idea that the world is so beautiful, that the future is so bright, when in all actuality, we've destroyed/ing every notion of that.
And my mind is always pointing out the worst of things people tend to worship, so I thought I'd create this collection around this word, where I would write about this dystopian world that was devoid of Kalopsia; to show or at least imply that we are all currently living in a state of Kalopsia. In turn I also ended up confronting all of my own delusions, and that all spiraled into what is the Kalopsia Collection. Also while I was creating this dystopian world I tried to use art, as a manner of inspiration and once I got the publishing deal completed I used the advance given to me to commission these artists, whose art had helped me shape my collection and gave me a clearer editing process. Now 4 years later I have this completed collection with 33 amazing different artists but no publishing company haha, that's life I suppose.
Do you consider writing as your therapy? If you do, how so?
Writing definitely allows me to survive, I spend most of my time in my apartment writing, some nights I'll go skating or out with university friends but I only do that so that I can find things to write about, it brings me purpose, a temporary purpose and it fulfills my desire to do something on those days when you don't feel like existing at all.
I read your poems as I'd read someone's diary, someone who understands. Do you have one? Where/when are you usually more inspired and productive? Do you think about your poetry as a potential healing material for others? Is it one of your intentions?
I do not have a diary, however certain poems do remind me of specific moments in my life so I'd say its a mixture of both, a filling in of the grey. I do write with the intention of releasing poems now, why I do that I'm not too sure, I think with creating in any form, it is to show that we all experience and suffer together, and there is a comfort in that. Also I hope my poems create moments of reflection, on love, on the things worth caring for and just understanding that it's okay to just be lost.
What do you think is your purpose in life?
If I were to allow myself to believe that I have a purpose, it would definitely be to write and not drown in everything else. If I manage to leave my writing behind I'd definitely want people to think that writing was my purpose.
If you got the chance to say something to people among us who are slowly giving up on themselves, on hope, what would you say to them?
I'd say that I'm sorry that the world has failed them, that the human mind is so cruel, there's no one way to say it, but in feeling like nothing is worth it anymore, you realize quite quickly what you do care about and what you are. The things that are keeping you going, the person/s, the music, the objects and small moments and while the noise is always unrelenting, I'd say that the best thing to do, is to downsize, just focus on what makes you, not want to give up. Forget the rest, if you're willing to say goodbye to everything then it really shouldn't matter what that "everything" is doing and being. Just little by little live for what you want to live for, and slowly build from there. It will be a much clearer, quieter relief, than that hovering action which will silence all those little things, that are worth living for.
Last question: if you had to pick a book related to mental health (essay, fiction, volume of poetry), which one(s) would be the one(s)?
Xu Lizhi, was a poet whose work truly devastated me but brought comfort too. Please go find what little poems he left and enjoy the beauty of them all.
You can find a couple of poems written by Aaron in the journal here
Artwork by St-Pam You can find her on Instagram (here), Tumblr (here) and Etsy (here). She also has a website.