q)What is your name?
a) I am called Robert Markland Smith. Today is the birthday of my father, Markland Joseph Smith. He died on December 10, 1989, on the same day as Ceucescu, the dictator of Rumania. My dad was fiercely anti-communist, so he had the dubious satisfaction of seeing the Berlin wall crumble just before his death. He wasn’t exactly a nazi – let’s just say he was a tad prejudiced.
q)Where do you live and work?a)I work out of my home as a freelance translator. This is also where I do my creative writing and drawing, when I do draw. My common-law wife and our two daughters share (with some tension) a four room apartment in a high-rise. It is located in NDG, a middle-class neighbourhood in Montreal. Where we live, it is rather poor, but our home is surrounded by wealthy neighbourhoods. Our apartment is on the sixth floor of this building, and from the balcony, in the summer, we watch the sun set. I imagine incredible scenarios in the clouds. My wife and I love to sit there and discuss everything under the sun.
q)What is your creative process like?
q)What is your favorite medium?
q)What is your current favorite subject?
a)Lately, I have written some poems in French about my family, including the cat. His name is Mikey, and he is overweight, just like Bonnie and me. These poems were very simple. They were never meant to be published. So they are very sincere, straightforward.I also love lately to correspond with artists by email. I can get really zany, when there is some kind of repartee going on.
q)How long does it take for you to finish a piece?
a) Usually, if I am writing short stories or poetry, less than one day. I can whip off a story in maybe three or four hours. But afterwards, I can rewrite a story four times over a period of many years. If I am doing a pencil or pen drawing, allow me a maximum of three hours. I will do a series of drawings at leisure in a period of three hours, max, and then I lose interest.
q)What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
a) Strangely enough, my biggest accomplishment so far has been raising my two daughters, Isabelle and Cordelia. Sometimes my wife was absent, and I was a single dad for months, if not years on end. At the same time, it was a bloody miracle that we survived financially. Sometimes, I had to ask my friends for a handout, just to feed the kids.
q)Are there any contemporary artists that you love?
a)I have an ongoing, enduring, painful, annoying, lovely, beautiful, romantic friendship over the years with an artist from Catanzaro called Claudio Parentela. I could easily list famous authors, like Franz Kafka, Salvador Dali, e.e. cummings, Thelonious Monk. I pray to these dead people at times for inspiration. However, they are public domain. They don’t belong to me in particular. I would rather say I extremely value the friendship I have with some artist friends of mine: Brentley Frazer, in Melbourne Australia; Jayne Fenton Keane, in Tallai Australia; Kathy Gormley, another poet from NDG, Montreal; Ann Diamond, who is currently in Greece; Dan Sloate, who taught me technical translation (he is another brilliant poet); there is my cousin, jazz musician Jean Beaudet, who won’t talk to me of late; Dave Gelfand, a bass player who is a really nice guy and has his head screwed on right – and I could go on and on. Many talented friends of mine have passed away, like Peter Brawley, actor, poet, novelist, visual artist, but just because they died, they are still around and are still my friends. At the same time, if you asked these people about me, they would tell you I drive them crazy.
q)Can we buy your art anywhere?
a)People do tell me they bought a copy of one of my books in a used bookstore. I am not a best-selling writer.
q)Anything that people should know about that we don’t??
a) OK so you want to know my dirty little secrets, do you? I say the rosary about three times a day. I believe at times that God is a female. I am attracted to men at times. I have spent a lot of time in hospitals, especially in the past couple of years. How many times did I come close to dying, with tubes stuck in my nose, tubes coming out of my arms, plugged into computer monitors, and contemplating, “This the end. I may as well say an act of contrition.” I do have some regrets, like doing LSD for many years, drinking alcoholically for as many years, and sleeping around with people I didn’t really respect. Women are generally more sensitive and compassionate than men, so God must be a Goddess.
q)What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
q)What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
a)In this respect, I don’t separate my translation work from the writing or the drawing. I guess sheer desperation kept me self-propelled in the days when I was an amateur. Revisors would cover my translations with red ink; my heart would sink every time. It takes courage to learn a profession. Oh sure, you get through university, but you don’t learn anything in university classes. In the working world, if you don’t cut it, you don’t get paid. So you learn to proofread yourself, revise and reread. And almost inevitably, five years down the line, whatever you are doing now will seem trivial and ridiculous.
q)How do you describe your work to those who are unfamiliar with it?
a)I have a unique vocation. I have been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic. At first, I started writing and looking for inspiration. I experimented with LSD, hoping to find enlightenment. Then I decided to go crazy to find ideas. Well, I don’t really regret that decision, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. Next thing you know, I was tied up in a straightjacked in a psych ward and was getting arrested by the police every few days. Take it from there. I am basically a nice Catholic boy, who read The Imitation of Christ when I was nine years old. At the same time, I was a smart-aleck street kid. I was born in 1948, when the times were pretty fascist. I had my own rage against the system. When I was in college, I heard about issues like the war in Vietnam. I guess that is my background. Hey, why don’t you read my books and see for yourself?
q)What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
a)I took a writing workshop with Ann Diamond a few years ago. I completed a bachelor’s degree in French literature in 1969, attended evening courses for about ten years, and then did full-time graduate studies in linguistics and translation at the Université de Montréal. One curse (sic) which taught me a lot was called Senior Composition and Rhetoric. I guess the benefit of going to university is not so much the courses themselves, but hanging with some intellectual people. People with ideas. People who aren’t just Joe Lunch Box. You meet interesting people, and it opens your mind.
a)Well, I have become pretty addicted to my computer. That and vaseline.
a)In retrospect, it seems to me that the artists I love were also schizophrenics. I fell in love with Bosch. I saw some of his work at the Prado. It speaks to me. I also liked Goya. He is very political. A Trotskyite once pointed out to me that the work “Saturn Devouring his Children” might well be about Napoleon. I remember being awestruck when I saw “Los Horrores de la Guerra,” about some Spanish patriots being executed by French soldiers during the Napoleonic wars. I guess comparable to that would be the film “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” by Stanley Kubrick. I read the Bible often as a grown-up. My mother used to read me the Bible when I was a youngster. I just find today that it is so extremely politically incorrect. I wonder why Dali did all those Catholic paintings in the fifties? Was he sincere? No doubt about it, “Corpus Hypercubus” is a powerful work, but is it sincere? And speaking about war and the atrocities of war, consider “Guernica” by Picasso.
a)I don’t really know. It is like breathing. It just comes naturally.
a)You can send me a letter at apt. 610, 5455 Terrebonne Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H4A 3R5. My home number is (514) 484-9563. Check out my web site at http://www.geocities.com/nietzchesmother/
You might want to send me an email too at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, do send me an email; I get lonely in this godforsaken frozen country up North.