Friday, October 5, 2007

A poet’s contribution to the development of an innovative society

I believe that our next opportunity lies in the efficient connection of all who search and create - from artists, scientists, experts, all thoes who constantly search and discove new. The manifestation of networks on this kind of foundations opens the pligon for the understanding of new dimensions and creates the pools of creativity for innovative ideas.

I'm publishing the interview with one of this kind of people - Iztok Osojnik is Slovenian poet and publicist and a lot more...Here is his view on the role of a poet and poetic language in today's world, poet's contribution to the development of innovative society and his advices on what economy has got to learn from poetry.

1) Who is Iztok?
A self-made, creative spirit, who likes to do many things, exploring new paths and horizons.

2) What does it mean to be a poet at this day and age?
Someone who, drawing on the last resources offered by language, brings into being something yet unknown, gives shape to reality flowing from the future into the present, into what is. You have to understand that being a poet is not a special vocation, but a state of mind, a level of personal culture, knowledge and inner realisation. Any person who rises above received knowledge and actively reaches out for the unknown, for the surplus, is a creative being, or as the Greeks would say, poietai – poets.

3) What is the role of poetic language in today's society?
I would say it is vital, since it supplies us with what we could call the existence of the world. Somewhat similarly as the electric dynamo creates an electromagnetic field. Invisibly, from behind. Without poets – and I mean poets, not versifiers – the world as being would not exist. Here lies the key dimension of (poetic) language, it enables precisely that.

4) Language too changes over time. Are these changes a consequence or a generator of change, are linguists historians or visionaries?
We live in a world which is a historical product of man. Language is the original plane upon which the novelty of the world is being realised. Linguists are experts studying language as it already exists; they are in that sense historians. Those making language, the visionaries, they create visions in the constant flow of time, they are poets and have a living knowledge of language, they live language actively. Again, I stress, a poet is someone with a fair measure of talent and not a vocational forger of rhymes.

5) What can a poet contribute to developing an innovative society?
Poets are those who keep the burning flame of creativity alive, which is a fundamental condition of every innovative society. In relation to creativity, innovation is what technology is in relation to knowledge. Innovation applies new knowledge, which is generated by pure creativity as a fundamental possibility. A society which nurtures and sustains creativity is the only society which can be innovative. Innovation can of course be imported from elsewhere, but a society that imports innovation cannot be original, nor can it be very interesting or competitive on the world market. It will always be a step behind.

6) Can the Slovenian language contribute to such innovation of space, and how?
The Slovenian language is one of the successful languages of the world. By becoming an official language of the EU, it has consolidated its status. It is a success story it its own right. It asserts its own view of the world, and moreover, it creates a space for it. Such a space is not a given. Its existence derives from language, in this case Slovenian, and is thereby made distinct from other spaces generated by other languages. Innovation of space is first and foremost its existence. The fact that it has a right to exist: in its difference and uniqueness. If German was spoken here, as was at one point the imagined scenario of a certain man with only one testicle and a short-cropped moustache, this space would today be something quite different. Also its economic setup would be something else, and certainly the people working within this economy would be entirely different. Similarly, if we spoke Latin or Italian here, as was held to be an option by some circles in Slovenia at the beginning of WWII, this space would not be here. All its differences are bound up with its capacity to be original. This space, in other words, is a fundamental innovation, from which grow all other innovations.

7) Does the dual form of the Slovene language have a role in this?
Absolutely. The consciousness of a duo, a couple, or two things, is an important shift in differentiating one from the many. The dual form is, for example, the language of love. It would be quite absurd for two lovers to say to each other : “we”, as in more than two, love each other. The dual form is also the language of dialogue, when the two of us say something to each other, from eye to eye as it were. It is quite clear that the “we” here is the two of us, who are directly involved, saying this and that. That we are close to each other. The closeness is concrete. The “we” in this case (midva) means you and I, and is the most intimate of social conversations. It is in the dual form that we speak to god, with those close to us, even our enemies. »The two of us«, midva, is a form of direct address. Me speaking to you as my other. The other thus becomes closer, communication is clear and direct. On the other hand, we as the plural form, mi, expresses generality. In the plural we, there is no directness of communication. Instead, the speaker hides behind the collective general “we”, which can be deceptive, since there is no precise way of knowing who exactly is involved. The minute we say, midva, there is no elusive third party that would remain hidden in the act of speaking.

8) What has economy got to learn from poetry?
A number of things. True, poets do not understand added value in the same way that economists do. For poets the key components of added value are to do with the wellbeing of human beings in their social totality. There is no poetic creativity without investment into human potential, knowledge and originality. Every innovation is the result of many factors and a complexity of background, which is in itself a product of a rich and highly evolved social environment. It is important for a person to have truly experienced, for instance, a first-class musical performance. He or she will not only be led to experience the richness of this wonderful world of creativity, but will also be inspired to apply this experience to their own field of work, and enable them to try things anew. It is no coincidence that the leading managers surround themselves by works of art of highest quality. And this, you can be sure, is not merely for reasons of profit making investment into art. If that were the case, they would not be keeping these precious objects on the walls of their offices or houses, but would be selling them on. And neither would they be financing art. A contact with a top-notch artist is a source of powerful inspiration for anybody, a touch of reality on the other side of the quotidian. True work of art has a special characteristic in that each new appreciation opens up a new horizon. That is where the power of poetry lies. With every new reading you are lead a step further into the unknown reality of this miracle of world's existence. This contact is not merely on the level of information exchange, but it is a living contact, which touches the heart, one's living centre. It is like a seed taking root in the heart, offering new thoughts and images. It guides you, gives you a moment to enjoy silence, to think things through, to conduct a quiet inner dialogue, it helps you to make a decision, to listen to yourself. It alerts you to the depth of ever new realisations, etc. Of course it is far from easy to discover a top-notch artist in the midst of an anonymous crowd. We are familiar with those from yesterday, who have proven their worth. But it is only with the ones living today, who are invisible, that we can forge a living contact. For one to recognise them, you have to be able to listen to them. You have to ultimately make your own decision, because you never know when you will be led astray by someone else's advice, no matter how well-intended. The most successful of businessmen have indeed always been surrounded by the best artists. They knew very well this was a matter of a long and important investment. Into themselves.

9) So is there a place for a poet in the developmental and strategic team of a given company? And if so, what kind of a role can he or she be given?
I would certainly say yes. A poet in the sense in which I have described him/her, as someone who is attentive to the dimension of a creative process which brings out what has not yet been, and brings into existence what now is. The dimension of language is fore grounded here, since language, as I have said, points to this event of coming into being, emerging, and becoming. Certain degree of knowledge and skill are required to attain free, uninhibited thinking, to be looking at things in a new way and then giving them shape in new language. Isn't innovation precisely that? Something new, something done differently? In the same way that engineers and technicians are able to transform scientific knowledge into practical and useful equipment, so poets too can be a source of ever-new ideas and visions, enabling specialists in the company's developmental and strategic team to understand and realise innovative interventions into the processes of creating added value.

Questions by Violeta Bulc, in English translated by Ana Jelnikar, september 2007.

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