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“I was preoccupied with the topics so the poems started to write themselves”

Interview with Swedish poet Helena Boberg

Swedish poet Helena Boberg’s book-length poem Sense Violence has been widely praised for both the depth of the writing and its confrontation of topics such as misogyny, injustice, sexism, and violence.
The book has been dubbed “a call to action for a feminine collective” to challenge the masculine will to power, and Ms Boberg said the collection almost wrote itself as she was so preoccupied with its inherent themes.
“I started writing without an agenda, but since I was preoccupied with these topics, they started to write themselves. I collected examples from media, experiences from friends, an internet community, popular songs and poetry,” she said, speaking ahead of her appearance at the 6th EU-China International Literary Festival.
As a creative she is an advocate of “intersectionality”, coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in 1989, an analytical framework for understanding how aspects of a person’s social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege.
“I think intersectionality is a good feminist alignment,” Ms Boberg said.
As a poet she is referred to as a sometime member of the Surrealist Group, which heralds a dreamlike quality in aspects of her work.
“Poetic explorations of the surroundings as well as typical topics of discussions, from dream-building to poetry and theory, were equally exciting and formative for me at a young age, it was a welcome shot of freedom to be in a context with an air of an ever-expanding universe. You will find more traces of dreams in my poetry, inner worlds and intricate imagery, than realism,” she said.
Ms Boberg also draws from psychoanalytic discourses for her work.
“I use dream material and fantasies in my writings, I analyze emotions, relations and language itself. Language and which elements are linked together, as well as how, is revealing and also productive.”
Following on from the success of Sense Violence, her next publication Red Melancholia will be out in 2022, “a collection of poetry where the cells and images mutate,” she said.
Speaking about the new collection, she said: “The tumors sparkle like stars as the speaker of the poem struggles to maintain contact with the world and with the body.”
Active in the poets’ community, Ms Boberg is involved with the feminist-literary project Shaerat, a literary network between women poets in Sweden and the Middle East and the Maghreb region, for translating, meeting and discussing poetry and life.
“Being a part of it has put me in contact with a lot of interesting and valuable poetry that never would have reached me in other ways, since most of it was not translated at all before. Not to speak of the poets and persons behind the poetry,” she said.
When aspiring writers seek her counsel on how to bring their own work to a publishable form, “the best advice is to read your own work and rewrite,” she said.
“Let time pass, pick it up, read and start over again. It is also good to read a lot of different kinds of literature, and let others in to read and give feedback on your work.”
At the 6th EU-China International Literary Festival Helena Boberg will join Maltese poet Simone Inguanez and Chinese poet Dai Weina to discuss their writing lives and ‘Linguistic Richness: Poets on the Page’.