Paul-Henri Campbell
Paul-Henri Campell at the Leipzig Book Fair

“Literature imparts a sense of autonomy and intimacy upon us” – Interview with Paul-Henri Campbell

Thomas Koeplin Insights, Interview Leave a Comment

We met Paul-Henri Campbell upon recommendation by his associate, the painter Aris Kalaizis. Campbell is a bilingual writer of German and English. In his essays and poetry, he often deals with modern mythologies. He has written poetry about, for instance, the Firebird Trans Am, New Yorkˈs A-Train, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, and the Concorde. We talked on an autumnally cool but sunny afternoon at a café in Frankfurt.

We talked to him about how he came to literature and what it means for him …

“Literature is unique among the arts. It has something that other arts don’t have. It pauses time – the time of those who consume literature – and gives time back to them under conditions that are those of its readers. Literature imparts a sense of autonomy and intimacy upon us. ”

… how ideas emerge …

“Ultimately, as a poet, you have no control over the many epiphanies that come together in a poem. For me, doing research is a bit like meditating. ”

… and about how people could benefit from poetry …

“In literature generally, but especially in poetry, you can experience yourself without external demands and constraints. You can experience that your imagination is enough to create a world, to create an impression, from a few lines of poetry. Readers make verse work for themselves. Literature is about exploring and discovering humanity – often your own humanity as a reader. It’s about discovering the richness of personality. Literature is an exercise in empathy because it requires changing perspectives, going along with language, and letting your imagination sound out whatever is fathomable. Sure, literature also increases your precision and expression, but those are side effects. Essentially, literature is an exercise in empathy, for it increases your ability for compassion. And, I mean, look at people who don’t read literature; they usually are hopelessly self-centered.”

Read the full interview with Paul-Henri Campbell (PDF).



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