Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Writing University conducts is a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the International Writing Program's fall residency. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

Today we are talking with Kinga Tóth, a poet, translator, illustrator, songwriter and performer from Hungary. 

1. Do you have a plan or project in mind for your time at the residency?

Yes, I am planning to work on two projects parallel, one is Moonlight faces, a short story book-novel, which deals with different illnesses - and definitions, actually it is about the changed functions and characteristic of the body and the psyche "thanks to" the various diagnoses. I am researching the communication, the language of the "illness", want to describe and analyse these changed functions and how these can cope with the society. I have been working on this project since 2010, write in Hungarian, German and English (with native speaker lectors, who repair my errors) and also with visual and sound materials, hospital documentations, interviews, X-rays and so on. Some video and sound works are ready, also 2 small performances, but I would love to go on. Another project is the WALLWRITING, which will now focus on Iowa. I will research and work with the materials on the walls, the communication, the "skin", so the first layer of the body of this city, write with all I find and also compose sound materials.

2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?

By me it is a complex thing, I need to work on different formats at the same time, because I am doing visual poetry, sound and also videos, I use my time differently. The most important is the building of the textbody, so it is up to the concept, which part I need to finish. All my projects are "bodies", entities, they have visual, sound and written text parts, and also a live performance. Once I need to work on the "leg" and create the sound, once on the "head" and write more text materials, or even the "stomach" and draw contours. I am an early bird and prefer the complete silence (which is a bit funny, since I am doing quite a lot harsh noise stuff) but my concetration level is the best in the mornings I guess, my brain activity falls slowly with the sun, however the evenings are perfect for a performance.

3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?

I always need a good BATMAN by my side. It is probably a bit of a desillusion, but my brain can not stomach a constant attack of fine literature and science, it needs a chill (however I do think that BATMAN is pure poetry!!) Roland Bathes is always in my bag because I can really identify my way of thinking about the "text" with his ideas - if we talk about "high level" stuff. I love reading in different languages (also writing), these years I read mostly in Hungarian (btw. great young literature in this crazy country!!) and German (also great conceptual writing there) and I pretty much need to catch up my English. For research I read a lot nowadays about Santa Maria and Santa Elisabeth of Thüringen, I have been working on this project for four years now, and also about the Monstreaus in the language (like illness or another language in the "original" etc.), where I found great writers, e.g. Boris Groys or Rasmus Overthun or Nádasdy Ádám -- so just like by producing, I need different inputs to survive:)

4. What is one thing the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and your work?

I would love to share and show, what texts means to me, that it is a living entity with sound, movement, text and visual parts, an exciting organism and huge fun!

5. Tell us a bit about where you are from -- what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?

I'm a Hungarian, coming from a small and colourful, a bit of crazy little country, lived also five years in Budapest and worked in the literature and art fields, and also as a pedagoge. Budapest is a wonderful "heart" of Hungary, full of great cultural events, but I would prefer to talk about my little village Nyőgér, where my roots are. I'm from West-Hungary, not so far from the Austrian borders, a place of the great thermal bathes and hills, fresh air and wineyards. Of course it is not only the idyll there, I will bring my comics "Village 0-24" which we created with Gergely Normal, visual and sound artist, about the other side of village life, you can see some materials here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/91348/i-dont-wanna-1-2 and here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/91317/-582211e31b082
and if you are interested, what kind of sounds are coming up from the depth of the village, here some more: https://tothkina.bandcamp.com/album/village-0-24


Thank you so much, Kinga!

Check the IWP website for events that will include Kinga Tóth throughout the residency.