Greta Bellamacina – Poetry & Modern Times

Vanessa da Silva Miranda

Using poetry to explore her feelings and as a weapon of activism, poet Greta Bellamacina talks about her art and how she found going through motherhood a freeing experience that connected her deeper to the people and the world around her.

Who is Greta Bellamacina – the poet, model, filmmaker, mother? How would you present yourself to the world?
A discoverer of life from  both sides of the window. Poetry has always been able to fill the void of melancholy. The melancholy of being alive. Without knowing it, I have always been interested in the possibility of discovering new worlds. I started writing poems quite young, storing words in my head. It’s kind of my sanity, I enjoy exploring different versions of myself, and I don’t like to get too comfortable.
A poet in modern times, your work is remarkable for its activism. Poems about Brexit, about the refugee crisis. Is poetry a powerful weapon against injustice?
Poetry is a democratic art form; anyone can write a poem and self-publish it. Just that in itself is powerful! Poetry is the voice of the inside reaching the outside, it’s the personal made public. I think that emotional authenticity is what is sometimes missing in politics today. I feel very fortunate to have grown up in London. But I also feel that I don’t belong to it, I feel classless and homeless in it. The poverty divide is unbelievable, we are slowly going backwards. We are taking away education for everyone, turning libraries into soulless gyms and making it basically impossible to live in the city I was born in. I write about this a lot, especially in the collaborative collection I wrote with Robert Montgomery, Points for Time in the Sky.
Who or what inspires you?
I like people who struggle for what they love and challenge their environment. I’m always drawn back to women writers like Anne Sexton, Warsen Shire, Lisa Luxx, Patti Smith, Tess Gallagher – they all bleed humanity. Robert is also a big inspiration to me; he wakes up every day with light and turns it into reality.
Poetry and films – how do you connect both worlds?
I think it’s reassuring to find truth in art, as we are told so many lies in the media. Poetry is a kind of gentle reminder of another world, which is very close to this world, but just with a little more euphoria and a little more humanity. It offers a quiet space which removes you from the mundane chaos. I think film can do the same thing.
Do you think that being a female poet is different from being a male poet? Your husband is also a poet, does it acknowledge two different views of the world?
We need both, and that’s why I edited the feminist poetry collection, Smear, earlier this year. I wanted more women to have a place to speak frankly. A few years ago, I met the writer and professor Joyce Johnson, in New York: she was the first female to publish a beat novel in the late 50’s, she was writing with Ginsberg and Kerouac, and has since written many novels. She complained a lot about how none of her book reviews were about her writing, they were just comments on her relationship with Kerouac, where as she was never mentioned in relation to his work. I think that is the main difference today, there is a sexist attitude in discussing women in relation to their partners and their personal lives rather than their actual work. Have you ever read an article about a male artist’s wife?
“Poetry is a kind of gentle reminder of another world, which is very close to this world, but just with a little more euphoria and a little more humanity. It offers a quiet space which removes you from the mundane chaos.”
Myths Not for Sale, your last movie, is very intriguing. Tells us about the concept and ideas you wanted to approach?
It’s on the eve of the millennium, the last days of 90’s London. The film is a snapshot of the lives of a young single-mother and a middle-aged aspiring actress. As the year 2000 and “Y2K fever” comes and goes with little of the expected drama, the characters remain firmly rooted in a mundane but dream-like world, set in South London.  I wanted the film to challenge the myth of beauty and fame – exposing a harsher truth of loneliness and longing. The days before the Internet when people called people up and felt a naive sense of belonging.
Your favourite poem is
Lovesong by Ted Hughes
Being a first time mother is always a tumultuous change. Did your creative side and written words help you cope with this emotional experience?
I found going through motherhood a freeing experience, because you explore a whole new array of emotions, memories, heartache. I felt much more connected with strangers, other women, my body. Your days suddenly become a new clock of time and you leave any room feeling like you belong somewhere. There are still so many taboo subjects which don’t often get spoken about until you go through the process, such as IVF, post natal depression, abortion, and so on. I found it interesting how much morality is still attached to pregnancy and motherhood, how people change when you tell them you’re a mother, it’s disconcerting.
What is your day to day life like, being a mother and an artist?
I don’t really have a regular structure; it’s more about harmonizing with what I’m making. Each day you realize that the most radical thing you can do is just be happy and stay alive, enjoying every minute.