Objects of interest: Greta Bellamacina
‘I have always been interested in looking for ways to feel closer to the world through language.’ The poet, actor, model and filmmaker Greta Bellamacina on the process of writing poetry and the power of language.
‘A poem needs to contain enough broken tragedy and love… I am always battling between the two things when I write.’
From an acting debut in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to being nominated for the Young Poet Laureate of London, most creatives can only dream of what Greta Bellamacina has achieved since she burst onto the arts scene in 2005. ‘I never thought I would be able to walk into any bookstore around America and pick up one of my books,’ she says. ‘In my early twenties I travelled around the Delta with my friend from Mississippi reimagining the Beat poets and the blues, and now you can buy my book in a Mississippi bookstore. It still feels like a dream.’
Indeed, the poet, actor, filmmaker and star of COS’s AW20 campaign has made a name for herself thanks to her ability to bring characters, feelings and emotions to life – for film-lovers and poetry-fans alike. For Greta, the written word has the power to bring people together. ‘I would describe myself as someone who looks to language for truth’, she observes. ‘I have always been interested in looking for ways to feel closer to the world through language. I think poetry is one of the remaining art forms that holds your hand like a loved one when the world turns upside down and you have nowhere else left to go.’
Here, fresh from the release of her fiction feature film Hurt By Paradise, Greta shares the things that inspire her creativity, from the chant-like verses of Allen Ginsberg and melancholic melodies of Nick Cave, to the best place for writing poetry (and getting a pint).
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
‘When I am working on a film, I am always looking more on the character’s motivations and intentions rather than just on the plot. Modelling is similar in that way; you take on the character the photographer is trying to convey. With poetry, the editing process is just as important as the writing process. For a poem to live, it needs to contain enough broken tragedy and love for us all to understand it. I am always battling between the two things when I write. You just want the person reading it to know you feel their pain and to remember the magic within the mundane. A poem is a lifeline and a worded atom of heart beats.’
‘For years, I used to always carry a black Moleskine notebook with me. But recently I find it easier to write from my laptop. I have a continuous PDF of poems forming which I like to work into. I think it can be more creative, in a way, to have the poem in multiple drafts on a screen. You have a sort of diary tracking of your whole process. Saying that, I always seem to write poems in the backs of novels when I travel. I like writing on the go too. Words form when you are on the move, things seem to formulate in motion.’
THE WRITING SPACE
‘I like to write in public places, pubs, cafes, bars… It feels healing to write among other people because so much of writing is a solitary act. There is something quite painfully freeing about writing awkward heartfelt truths in public. Like when I used to write a diary. There is just a bit of naturalism that sometimes slips in when you are among life. My favourite place to write is The Troubadour in Earl’s Court. I edited my last book there; it’s got a real vibe about the place. It just lets you to be left with your thoughts, it strips away all the surface very quickly. Some places can do that.’
‘I find inspiration everywhere: the radio, a stranger, a turn in the weather. Recently I’ve found a lot of inspiration from The Old Brompton Cemetery at the end of my road. The graveyards in the cities are the last public places where nature is left to grow wild. This one is filled with wildflowers, ancient trees and tropical birds, it feels very alive. There is something so profound about being in a place that is made from the poetry of strangers. It’s sort of a library of time and heartache.
‘There are a lot of poets I look up to, Alice Oswald, Ted Hughes, Anne Sexton – but I always come back to Allen Ginsberg. I am also very sensitive to the mood of music, so when I write I like to listen to things that take me to a more melancholic and reflective headspace. I listen to a lot of Nick Cave when I write, especially his new work. His music is like poetry. I tend to write on the days that feel grey and windy and a bit lonely. I like those the best to write. But I try and write regularly and do it like an office job. Sometimes you need to be militant when you write, or it will remain faraway in your head.’
‘When I perform as a poet, I almost always dress up. Clothing can be a way to tell a story and let people into your world.’
‘I’ve always looked to fashion to explore certain characters and emotions that I am trying to convey. Sometimes it can be a total escape from reality but most of the time I like to wear clothes that ground me and create a turn in mood. When I perform as a poet I almost always dress up – I feel more comfortable being on stage in an outfit that is more elaborate and surreal than things I usually wear. Clothing can be a way to tell a story and let people into your world.’
THE FINAL WORD
‘Don’t be afraid to take a risk with your heart. I love the lyrics from Rowland S Howard: “Nothing is sacred and nothing is true, unless I am here with you.” I think that is a little bit like creating. It can be hard to find a way into it, but there is nothing better than just starting and learning as you go along. The greatest excuse is not starting. Everything else is a plus.’
Greta Bellamacina (@gretabellamacina) wears the AW20 collection for COS. Photography by Jack Davison. Styling by Clare Richardson.
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