Judith Mok is an international classical singer and a poet who has published numerous collections of her work in both English and Dutch. A new body of her poetry entitled Gods of Babel was released recently. So impressed was New Obsessive's Gary Farrelly with the content of Gods of Babel that he issued the following endorsement: God's of Babel is the best collection of poetry ever produced within 1000 kilometers of my current location by a female poet. His location at the time of speaking these words was Dublin, Ireland.
Gary Farrelly meets Judith Mok in The Grand Hotel Neustern's roof top cocktail bar. They are meeting as Judith prepares for a performance at The Irish Jewish Museum on December 18th. Judith is in Neustern to make a flight connection to Dublin after a stunningly successful North American tour. As they commence the interview Farrelly is drinking Red wine. Judith is drinking a tea that promotes health and sensuality of the body and mind. Their surroundings are very chic- think: foreign spies discretely mingling, beauty board/ gold leaf combination, international clocks, menthol cigarettes and beige carpet with red stripes.
Gary Farrelly: I loved Gods of Babel which surprised me because I think most female poets are terrible. I am aware this is a stark generalization but it has been my experience. Do you agree with me?
Judith Mok: No. I think men make bad poetry too.
GF: Do most poets make bad poetry?
GF: I did not fall in love with Judith Mok until I read Gods of Babel. In the beginning I found you terrifying and couldn't get past that. Are you terrifying?
JM: Not at all. Nine out of ten people think I am though.
GF: Why do you think that is?
GF: I identify the main themes pervading the poems as: sex, art and memory. Am I missing anything?
JM: Music is very important to my writing too.
GF: Which poem is the most successful in the collection?
JM: 'Beethoven in New York' [read poem below interview] or 'Blood (le sang des autres)'. Beethoven in New York came from hearing Beethoven played on a steel lid drum in the subway in New York. I struck by the distance the work had traveled since he created it. And I started imagining him in New York. The poem was composed to a hip hop rhythm. 'Blood' on the other hand is very European: Spanish, French, English and nature.
GF: You are a poet and classical singer. Do you have have any other occupations, Does Judith Mok wear any other hats?
JM: I am also a call girl [Judith is joking]. I wear a chefs hat. I love to cook.
GF: Who are your heroes?
JM: I am not really hero person.
GF: That is not the impression I get when I read your work.
JM: You mean Collette and Louis Bourgeois? They are heroes. So is Rembrandt.
GF: You live in Ireland. You are a Dutch jew with Russian and Spanish ancestory. Where is home?
JM: Art is my home.
GF: Your father Maurits Mok was an important Dutch poet. You are married to the writer Michael O'Loughlin and your Daughter Sara is a writer currently on scholarship in New York. Is your family harmonious with so many writers.
JM: It is harmonious in it's entanglement and endless contradictions. It is a challenging and chaotic harmony.
GF: Is poetry and art in your DNA?
JM: Must be.
GF: Do you believe in God:
JM: Absolutely not!
GF: Are you an intellectual?
JM: Yes. In the real sense, not the academic sense.
GF: Are you political?
GF: Where do you position yourself on the political spectrum?
GF: Can you define your world view in just a few words please?
Admiration for superb charlatanism.
Taste for absurd refinement.
JM: It's perfect.
GF: Will you ever have a concert in Neustern?
JM: Definately. In one of Neustern's perfectly restored Neopolitain theatres. An 800 seater with gold leaf and blue seats with yellow suns on the ceiling. Yellow and blue together are very special colours.
GF: Will you read from Gods of Babel in you upcoming performance at the Irish Jewish Museum?
JM: Yes. The poems are inspired by the Sephardic songs that I will be performing.
GF: What question do I need to ask you?
JM: You should ask me why I write in English?
GF: Why do you write in English?
JM: It suits what I'm trying to say. Things about melodiousness, madness and strange sensuality. I write in a very continental English. It is not at all American or British or Australian. I would describe it as an assimilated English.
Gods of Babel is published published by Salmon Poetry [buy on line]. Judith Mok will read her poetry and perform Sephardic songs on Sunday 18th 2011 at the Irish Jewish Museum - The event starts at 19.00pm sharp.
Gary Farrelly, Neustern.