Jan Švankmajer’s description of his own creative process, 1985
What is your own personal definition of poetry?
For me the concept of poetry coincides with imagination. And the potency of imagination for me is also an evaluative criterion for poetry, whatever its medium of expression is: i.e. a pen, a brush or touch. It is a particular kind of calamity, which we are able to send down from time to time, in moments of inspiration, onto reality, so that reality, covered now in fallen ashes, or alluvia, can temporarily become fertile again, or in other words, bearable.
Can you identify the components of a poetic expression?
The basis of my creativity is an inner model, which is formed both unconsciously and consciously. The impulse that is coming from the external world (from reality) is processed in the unconscious furnace of my inner laboratory, an area to which I have no access. Inspiration then is the doorbell which announces to me that the inner model is ready to be picked up. On several occasions during the process the semi-finished product briefly appears in my conscious mind, to be impregnated with new impulses given by reality, only to submerge again below the surface, into the unconscious, for further treatment. Until the moment of the doorbell ringing, I am not in control of this process.
Photographs Tereza Stehlikova – from Dimension of Dialogue exhibition, Prague, 2013