Adolfo Aranjuez: I Want To Know What Love Is

Adolfo Aranjuez spoke with us, ahead of his appearance at Late Night Lit: I Want to Know What Love Is, about poetry, creativity and, well, love. 

You’re reading at our Late Night Lit event I Want To Know What Love Is—considering it’s such a cliche, do you think there are still interesting ways to write poetry about love? What does it take?
On the one hand, I believe that clichés are clichés because of the timelessness and universality of the themes/truths they’re underpinned by. In the case of love, I think—for millennia—we’ve dreamed and described and been daunted by the same fascinations surrounding courtship, romance, heartbreak, passion. On the other hand, I think we’re at a really interesting time in history when we’re conceiving of love in innovative, unconventional ways—polyamory, online dating, conscious uncoupling, etc. I wrote in a recent issue of The Lifted Brow that the late Kat Muscat taught me about a different kind of love, one ‘distinct from that born of blood or reaped from romance’. Then, in the forthcoming issue of Screen Education, writing on the film adaptation of The Little Prince, I touched on the Ancient Greeks’ six notions of love (including philia, deep affection between friends/comrades; storge, love between parents and children; and agape, love for all humanity). Writing about (or from, or with) love always takes bravery and shrewdness, but I believe literature today could gain even more from confronting these ‘other loves’.

What drives your creative work?
I’m naturally obsessive and think a lot—I always have been—so a lot of my writing and editing is an attempt to make sense of the world. I try to capture events and unpack them; I try to examine people’s motivations, dreams and fears; I try to memorialise things and reconcile life’s transitory nature with the power of some particularly arresting moments.

Tell us about the project you’re currently working on (or the last one you finished)?
I’m best known for my work as an editor, and my main project for now—as it has been for the past few years—is Metro magazine. I strongly believe in the power of screen representation to validate and empower those who are otherwise-marginalised, and in Metro I’ve published pieces on Aboriginal recognition, race representation, gender issues, queer identity, mental health, etc. A really great example of this is Metro’s recent queer edition (issue #186), with the film adaptation of Holding the Man as the centerpiece.
Beyond this, I’m undertaking editorial-consultant work for Ascension magazine, which touts itself as Australia’s first Indigenous and ethnic women’s lifestyle publication.
In terms of writing, I have a year-long contract as a columnist for Right Now, tackling issues to do with identity politics in the arts and media. I’m also endeavouring to publish more poetry.
Lastly—apologies that this is so long and unwieldy!—I am choreographing and performing a hip-hop dance routine for a musician-friend’s music video.

What are your favourite poets/poetry collections?
I absolutely adore Auden. I must love him that much because, when I first got published as a poet (in Voiceworks!), the editor told me she thought my poetry’s rhythmic quality was very Auden-esque (a hugely flattering comment, of course!). I also love Adrienne Rich—her words have such a brave, raw quality.

Tell us about your dream project; what do you most want to write?
I’d love to write a longform essay, or even a book, on the intersection between language, perception and identity—not necessarily in a Foucauldian/Derridean analytical way, but something that homes in on the personal. I’m really interested in the way language fundamentally changes the way we see the world: concepts underpin what we can perceive, and different forms of expression and comprehension lead to various engagements with reality. The essay/book would probably intersperse recollections of events and conversations, and more theoretical explorations. Very vague, I know, but this idea is always in the back of my mind. One day.

What has been your highlight event from the last few years of the festival?
I’ve always enjoyed the Amazing Babes events, as the speakers are always super eloquent and engaging. I also appreciate the immense significance of making visible and giving voice to these inspiring, intelligent women.

Adolfo Aranjuez is editor of Metro and subeditor of Screen Education. Previously, he was deputy editor of Voiceworks, editor of Award Winning Australian Writing and editor at Melbourne Books. Adolfo has worked with Express Media, Scribe, Meanjin, the Emerging Writers’ and National Young Writers’ festivals, the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council, and Victorian councils and schools. He has written for The Lifted Brow, The Manila Review and Going Down Swinging, among others, and his novella Amadeo was published by Garratt in 2014. He is one of the Melbourne Writers Festival’s 30 Under 30.

You can see Adolfo reading his heart out, tonight at Late Night Lit: I Want to Know What Love Is. Free and at 1000 Pound Bend, 9pm.