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Sandra D’Urso Interviews Fiona Hile

1 February 2018

SD: What scripts were you working on?

FH: Just Home and Away, which was a serial young person’s show.

SD: That’s seems like such a different mode of writing. Is it?

FH: Yeah, but I guess it’s just that three act dramatic form, like every now and again some educated person who was also a script writer would want to weave some Hamlet motif into it. The characters would be studying Hamlet in class in the show and that would turn into some dramatic plot twist. I guess I learnt bits of stuff from that, and obviously writing dialogue’s an awesome way to learn about musicality and structure.

SD: So, did your work writing dialogue for TV inform how you approached the rhythm and structure of your poetry?

FH: In a way, because writing for me was always like being allowed to say things you’re not usually allowed to say. Often in fiction writing there’s a thing of arbitrary obstacles or prohibitions you place on yourself, and I would always have to remind myself, ‘Oh no, it’s ok. You’re allowed to say stuff that’s not true. And in poetry it was even more intensely mining voices and feelings that I’d never been able to find a place for in fiction. But obviously you would know this from theatre, making stuff up, thinking that all you’re doing is uncovering it, but really, you’re inventing it, inventing a voice. Sometimes, when I read about male writers feeling caught in the glare of literary tradition I feel quite gleeful. I mean, I assume there are some male poets who don’t feel stuck in that way.

SD: Do you read Julia Kristeva’s work?

FH: I have in the past, because the thesis started off being about genre in general, and so she came up early on. If you give me a verbal queue I’ll remember.

SD: Her theory of abjection.

FH: That’s right. That feeds into the question of genre, with Derrida too, doesn’t it? In that there’s a focus on the principle of contamination.

SD: Yeah, and of mother’s milk, taboo, the principle of revulsion delineating a boundary, beyond which an infant comes out to the world, via speech.

FH: I read and wrote a little bit on Kittler, about the mother’s voice, the breathless O of poetry that is the child’s first introduction. So, when you say, ‘When did you start writing poetry?’ it’s like, ‘When I heard my mother’s voice.’ And Kristeva does all that. What does she apply it to? The semiotic.

SD: That’s right. I think the first time I encountered her in my twenties I was a completely inept reader.

FH: Well it takes a lot of time to work through and it’s just ongoing, isn’t it, to try and get your head around it? I think that’s what ended up saving me was having to get my head around Badiou. That helped me get my head around everything in the sense that I was navigating all that stuff about Kristeva and Derrida, you don’t know what they have to do with each other. But somehow, reading Badiou got me to see them all as though they were in a database or something.

It seems much more understandable in my head … maybe it was the introduction of hierarchies in Badiou? So, it was like, okay, there were punctuations in the history of philosophy, important ones, instead of just an endless kind of babble. Do you know what I mean? So then once you accept that, as real, or that it really happened, and actually those people get their ideas from a tradition that comes from somewhere, and then they do little bits of things to them, but they’re not wildly different to what the original idea was. I guess Badiou taught me to be less respectful in a way as well, which is hard because as a writer or a loving person you want to think that everything everyone does is just awesome, and you’ve got your favourites or whatever, and so like Irigarary I know people who are really …

SD: In love with her?

FH: Yeah, and … you feel mean when you’re looking at bits of things and are going, ‘I don’t know if that’s …’ but on the other hand I think it, sorry, I’m raving insensibly. But I think Badiou does both; that’s what I like about him. Reading him teaches you to be really critical, but it also enables you to sustain a lot of different ideas as well. It’s like a real position of stability where you can actually read all that stuff, and I just never had that before; it was fraught, like what you were saying before when you said it took you a while to get your head around Kristeva. And maybe for everyone it’s through that ongoing exposure to those ideas that eventually you can just open a book and see where it situates itself.

SD: Yeah, but I feel like that takes years, actually.

FH: Yeah. Like 20 years or something.

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