di Gabriele Ottaviani
Thanks to Paul Hoover for this marvellous interview.
What means the word war to you?
It reminds me of the song by the 60s group WAR: “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”
Why did you decide to write this book?
I had a story to tell about my own “home front” experiences of the Vietnam War. I had published books of poetry and was known as a poet. But I bought a word processor and began to write very quickly, fifteen pages in the first day. Five months later the book was finished. Also, I was close to people who had fought in the war. My office mate as a professor was Larry Heinemann, who later won the National Book Award for Paco’s Story.
What makes men and women human?
Love and forgiveness.
Why is peace necessary?
Without peace, the world is like the Goya painting in which the naked god of war eats a man like a baguette. War destroys, peace fulfills.
What do you think of our society?
In the U.S. we are in desperate trouble because of the election of Donald Trump. The reason is a deep-seated racism by parts of our country. Racism is the source of all woe politically.
What is the role of a poet in our society?
To awaken the mind to its better life. Politically, it is to sting and to heal.
Which is the most serious problem of our society?
The terrifying rule of the large corporations and the oligarch class. That, and of course, racism.
What is the meaning of literature?
It reflects the world as it is and also as it might have been. It has the function, as Horace said, of delighting and instructing. For the reader who suffers, it can help to cry away the pain.
Reagan said, “Mistakes were made.” Which kind of mistakes does humanity do every day and everywhere?
Acts of vengeance and greed are committed everyday that cast a shroud over the world. For instance, what the “ideal TV father,” Bill Cosby, did to young women.
What does Vietnam still represent in US society?
We thought it would bring an end to the US interfering with other countries. But that didn’t prove to be true. We thought there might be a post-colonial literature and also society. But this idea soon disappeared.
What do you think about Donald Trump and his presidency?
It threatens to destroy our society and also the rule of law as set out by the US constitution. He goes against every well-meaning instinct, and as a demagogue he is establishing the rule of untruth.