Ingvild Lothe gave the poetry collection in 2016 Why am I so sad when I’m so cute , which has so far been published in four magazines, sold in several Nordic countries, and is now translated to both Swedish and German. The poems follow a poet’s development from girl to young woman. With an unexpected straight-forward language, raw and ironic tone, dark humor and leaning metaphors depicting wounded childhood memories, adolescence, apathy, sex, abortion, loneliness, and last: love.
Several literary critics have called your poetry feminist. Do you consider the collection feminist, and did you have a conscious feminist project with the poems?
I understand that my projects can be interpreted feministically, and they are enough too. But I did not have a conscious feminist project when I wrote, I also think that the poems were automatically shaped after how I think and move in the world. I just wanted to express myself, get some frustration, I love words, they are so weak.
The cover of the poem is an instant eye-catcher, with a butterfly pushing forward and flying out – not by a cocoon but a tampon. How did you, the publisher and the illustrator come to this particular cover? And what feedback have you received?
The illustration is drawn by my ex-fiancé, Krister Kanck. He had already made a kind of simplified sketch of the drawing to the literary magazine Kamilla. The illustration immediately appealed to me, I felt that it was consistent with the content of the poems, and the chronological story. When the script was assumed, I insisted that he should make a new, more detailed version. He would love to, and my publisher was good at the idea.
Someone has been hit by the cover, once I heard a boy boy react with “æsj”. But most people think it’s cool. I think, even if people are provoked by it, that’s fine.
To the class struggle (December 27, 2016), you said that the poet struggles with society’s demands for girls to be nice and sweet and that no one gives room for young girls. Is the poem collection a desire to create rooms for other types of young women than those we are used to meeting in literature and the media?
Literature history is full of adorable women who never make any despair. To me it’s completely remote, I’ve always been a bit wild. But over time, I’ve also learned that one must say if something is wrong, or it’s wrong, that one must take place if there is something one wants to convey, that if one reaches the hand then people like Rule after, but it’s rare a woman at the beginning of the twenties is questioning what she believes in a room full of fifty year old men. It was really what I meant with the statement in the class struggle . But I’m not so good at words.
The poet’s poetry is raw, sore and hard at the same time, struggling with apathy and livelihood, and is open about sex in ways that are not primarily seductive or sensual. Was there resistance to writing such a poet, in view of the expectations society has for young women, and the trend of our time to link the literary matter to the author?
Some of it was a little hard to write, I felt often exposed, but then I also think it is important to harm the negative sides of sexuality, to talk about it as anything but elevated and amazing and private. Because it is frankly not in our society. All sexual experiences are not good experiences, and for example, the rape statistics, I’m not alone in thinking about it.
Why am I so sad when I’m so cute has been printed in four magazines, sold in both Denmark and Sweden, and translated into German and Swedish. Do you have any idea of what is in your poems that hit readers across borders? Could it be, as several critics have also mentioned, that it is a generation description that hits terribly good?
I hope so. It was never conscious that the collection would reflect a generation, I wrote that I felt it was natural to write, and about things as part of my daily life, such as the Internet and Netflix. Perhaps it hits other young people because it reminds of their own everyday lives.
Perhaps it’s the sharp, ironic and angry tone, as much as the things that hit? The language that is more straightforward than typical lyrical, with slightly skewed and strange metaphors, like “the moon is most beautiful; God’s clipped toenails “.
It was at the author study in Bø I found that tone. There I tried many different things, and let me try to write classically and well. Now the language and tone reflects how I think and speak. And maybe it’s easier to relate to?
Virginia Woolf emphasized in a separate room from 1929 that economic freedom and a sanctuary in the form of a separate room were necessary prerequisites for women to be able to write fiction. Now, almost 90 years and a lot of important equality struggle later, do you find that women and men have the same prerequisites for writing literature?
In Norway today, I definitely believe women and men have the same prerequisites for writing literature, but there are still big differences in how to be met by critics, for example. Where young women are often put into stalls and compared, like being a kind of joint project or a “group”, young men are not treated the same way. In men, I feel that the work itself is read for what it is, while women often focus on the work being written by a woman. I hope that can end.
Are there new challenges in our time that hinder writing?
Personally, I think that the internet, smartphones and that one must always be available is the biggest obstacle when it comes to reading and writing. I have to make active choices all the time, for example, I leave my phone at least an hour before bed so I can manage to concentrate on reading a book.
To call something for feminist literature can be a two-edged sword; on the one hand, this literature is highlighted as potentially conscious or liberating; on the other hand, there is a risk that literature will lose readers or not be considered as generally relevant. What do you think about this?
I do not like to be stamped. I do not want to write books for women, I will write for people who like to read, regardless of gender, political point of view, and so on. The best part is to be read by a somewhat conservative white man in his forties and perhaps having the opportunity to influence his view?
Viewed from a feminist point of view: How do you think literature can do the most important work in the future? Where do we need change? Where does it burn?
I once had a discussion with a young male literary student. He had not read a single book written by a woman, but loved, for example, Tomas Espedal and Karl Ove Knausgård . Then I had to laugh. You do not see the same pattern in women. For the feeling that is written in a book is the same, no matter what shape the author has on the book. Therefore, I think the most important thing is to become more aware of not stamping books like literature and “women’s literature”. My dream is that books should be considered on the same basis, that it will be as natural to pick up a book written by a woman like a man, and that the gender of the author should be the last one to think about when reading a book.
And things happen now, things are changing, it turns.