We spoke to Radoslav Rochallyi about the writing process behind his latest book, PUNCH- a collection of experimental poetry.
When did you first start writing?
I have always written. I wrote my first poem when I was 10.
Did you get any knockbacks?
Oh my god, hundreds. I don’t even count them.
Can you tell us a bit about the Punch?
It is an experimental collection of poetry, based on words and mathematical equations. I used my poems written during the year and combined them with equations that I liked and understood. Of course, it did not always work perfectly. At times, the equation was more dominant, and sometimes the other way around.
You are a Slovak author living in the Czech Republic. Why is PUNCH in English only?
PUNCH can’t be published in Slovak for the Slovak market. It’s such a small book market that my experimental poetry would appeal to maybe 20-30 readers. Most of my books from the last few years are only in English. The last fiction I wrote in Slovak was the short story Mythra Invictus. After a state-funded institution refused to support it in translation (I had a German publisher), I realized that I no longer wanted to write in Slovak. It doesn’t make sense if you’re not an academic, or you’re not writing a detective story, a red library, or you’re not an “important member.” That`s my opinion.
I got your book a week ago. When I opened it, I said to myself “what kind of s… is that?” But when I read it, it was an experience. Your poetry is so different that it’s beautiful. You write poetry in mathematical equations. How did you find out?
I’ve always had a relationship with math. I have always loved everything abstractly. I simply combined the two things I loved. The idea of how to do it came up on my own; I didn’t have to invent it.
How long did it take you to write all the mathematical equations in the book?
I wrote the book in a year. Most of the poetry is in mathematical equations, you’re right. But I also used chemical formulas, notes, and elements of visual poetry. My collection of poetry PUNCH differs significantly from the strict mathematical form I used, for example, in the collection of poetry Golden Divine (Fi (φ) -number 1,618034).
Are you a believer? Because in PUNCH, in my opinion, there are strong theistic fragments directly claiming the truths of life.
If atheists were right, saying that life as such, and therefore human life, does not make sense. That it is a kind of accidental mistake of nature. Then such a life would have no value. And as such, you would not deserve any protection. After all, how could something that makes no sense have any value? It couldn’t. On the other hand, I do not claim the concept of truth to the concept of faith. I like pragmatism, I vulgarize its form a bit, but I love the idea that what is useful is true. Isn’t that a wonderful definition of true? And it is also useful. But I’m aware that even if I think so, that doesn’t mean I’m right.
On the question of truth, I am a great believer in skepticism. It is a very ingenious concept of access to everything that is considered true. I do not believe that one can know unquestionable truth and possess any knowledge in its entirety, and I put this idea strongly in several places in the book. Skepticism allows us to express doubts about any moral or legal dogma. Beware; I am not saying that the question of truth or faith does not make sense. This is an important issue and we need to work with it. However, any truth should not deprive us of the right to doubt. I have no doubt is not a question of facts, but of faith, which may or may not is supported by facts. More than the word truth, I like the word probable. He does not have the postulate of infallibility in himself. And this postulate, as you will admit, does not yet belong to man. The PUNCH is full of probability and does not have to announce anything true.
There is a lot of love and little happiness in your book. I’m wrong? What do love and happiness mean to you?
First of all, I would not combine these two things at all. It is not necessary. For me, love is the greatest and most powerful manifestation of faith. Happiness is a by-product of other important activities in life, which are also important and at the same time, I find meaning in them. If I were to define love, I would describe it in a completely different way than the definitions that classify and categorize. In my definition, love would be a conscious experience of a state of voluntary commitment, conscious care, and shared intimacy (it is therefore relatively permanent), which one feels towards another being, regardless of its reality or unreality, recognizability or unknowability. For me, therefore, love is a positive decision of faith in another being personified by acting through decision and emotion. It is a permanently selfless, positively perceived giving of good to another being.
Do you think it would be possible for your mathematical poetry to become an audiobook?
Honestly, I can’t imagine it.
You often work with mathematics in your work. Not just in PUNCH, but in each of your poetic book. What does mathematics mean to you?
I believe in what Max Tegmark believes, who, in my opinion, correctly wrote that all structures that exist mathematically also exist physically. This means that all that exists are mathematical objects. Or in other words, and simply Parmenides’ words – anything that is possible is possible. It has the potential to exist. I also believe that everything in this universe is mathematically given and therefore given in advance. Consistency is not so logically possible, mathematically, and since I think mathematics is true, I am convinced that chance cannot be able to affect anything. There are an algorithm and patterns in everything. I have come to believe that human freedom lies in unconditional emotions because what is conditioned is conditioned. And I think the main unconditional emotion is love. I would emphasize this “unconditional” twice. The fact that I don’t believe in coincidences does not mean that professing an active approach to life is antagonism, which contradicts my deterministic statement. We all have a free choice between non-free options.
Tell us what inspires you to write?
It’s hard to say. Nothing special. I write because I have to write.
What book are you planning for 2021?
I do not want to limit myself to any categorizations, I am what I am and I write as I think. I don’t do market research; I’m not looking for trendy things, waves, and sexy topics. None, I’m not planning a book. My work is not about my plans. I write because I have to write. I have a few books in progress, but time will show which I will complete and which I will not.