Interview with Leo YankevichGreg Johnson
Recently, I interviewed leading formalist poet Leo Yankevich on poetry, politics, and his new Counter-Currents title Tikkun Olam and Other Poems.
What is formalist poetry? What is the new formalist movement?
Formalist poetry is essentially metrical poetry, whether it be rhymed or unrhymed. 99.99% of English-language poetry published up until 1900 was formalist. Even the early 20th century modernists, such as Ezra Pound, were highly competent formalists who, in addition to metrical poems, wrote free verse as a revolt against the stilted poetry of the 19th century Victorians. His famous motto “make it new” applies to both free and metrical verse.
The new formalist movement is a revolt against the amorphous post-modernist free verse that has been the dominant mode of poetic expression in the aftermath of World War II. It is formalism resurrected with a contemporary voice.
Which poets have inspired or influenced you the most?
W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Roy Campbell, and Dylan Thomas.
Who do you think are the best living poets?
I’d place myself on the top of the list, of course, followed by Richard Wilbur, and Joseph S. Salemi.
Who are the best non-formalist poets?
Among the dead, Robinson Jeffers.
Among the living, I don’t know. There are millions of them. Besides, I don’t consider them poets. Rather, writers-of-prose chopped-up-into-lines.
Who are the best literary critics and historians? Have any critics influenced your work as a poet?
H. L. Mencken, T. S. Eliot, and Cleanth Brooks. I can’t say, though, that they have influenced my work.
What is the relationship of art and propaganda? Art and politics?
All art is propaganda whether its creator intends it to be or not. Most art today promotes decadence, homosexuality, and miscegenation. The art of the ancient Greeks and Romans, on the other hand, promoted health and a philosophy that aimed at perfection.
What is your view of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn?
I hold Solzhenitsyn in very high esteem as a writer, soldier, and man. His books tell the truth of the inhuman Gulag and his long poem Prussian Nights depicts the barbaric behavior of Soviet rabble soldiers, who, inspired by the anti-German propaganda of Ilya Ehrenburg, raped and murdered their way through Prussia in 1945. As a young captain in the Red Army he witnessed the barbarity first hand and was later brave enough to write about it. Here I quote 5 lines:
The little daughter’s on the mattress,
Dead. How many have been on it?
A platoon, a company perhaps?
A girl’s been turned into a woman,
A woman turned into a corpse.
One of the central themes of your new book Tikkun Olam is the destructiveness of Jewish power. How did you become aware of this issue?
As early as I can remember, I knew who was behind the Katyn Massacre: the Soviets. However, in 2001 I began looking into who these “Soviets” were ethnically, and I discovered an article written by the late Dr. William Pierce on the topic. This led me to listen to his broadcasts. Week by week he removed the shutters from my eyes. Later, the writings of the superb prose stylist and classicist Revilo Oliver improved my vision on the matter.
What do you think of the writings of Count Potocki of Montalk?
Certainly Potocki was a character akin in many ways to myself. I, too, am descended from nobles (Polish-Lithuanian) on my father’s side. My paternal grandfather’s surname was Jankiewicz (Yankevich is a transliteration). And my paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Jetkiewicz. However, although I am theoretically a count, I make no claim to the Polish throne!
My good friend Joseph S. Salemi acquired a handful of Potocki’s books for me. I must admit that I am disappointed by the quality of his poetry, which is about a tenth as good as the poetry of fellow right-winger Roy Campbell.
Potocki, however, was a brave man and a good European. Although in 1943 the London Polish community was well aware of who was responsible for the Katyn massacre (the Soviets) it was the Count who brought it to light in the English-speaking world with the publication of his Katyn Manifesto, for which he was placed under surveillance by Scotland Yard.
What impact do you hope that Tikkun Olam will have on readers?
I hope the book will help them understand what has been inflicted on Europid man in the last 100 years and where our race and civilization are headed if we do not stop the darkening tide imposed upon us by the eternal enemy. After they understand this, I hope the book, through repeated readings, will fortify their desire for victory in the struggle for our people’s preservation.
What do you think will be necessary for Europeans around the world to regain control of our destinies?
First, we need to have our own all-pervasive media that gets the message out on a daily basis. Second, we need 10 thousand academics like Kevin MacDonald, and a thousand filmmakers like Mel Gibson, and 50 poets like myself. Thirdly, our people must be ready to sacrifice themselves and to suffer career assassination.
Which European nations have the best chance of doing so? Which ones have the least chance?
It is my belief that the European nations who have been battling with bordering non-white hordes for centuries have the best chance for survival. They include Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Germany, Switzerland, and Austria are capable of regaining their destinies. Alas, I cannot say the same for the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, and the Scandinavian countries. I foresee within the next 50 years, waves of whites moving into Eastern Europe to escape the ghettoes of London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Oslo, and Stockholm.
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Interesting interview, although the glaring omission of the names of the two greatest living Poets of the Right (Formalist Juleigh Howard-Hobson and Vers Libre Poet Xenia Sunic) is strange. I noticed that Howard-Hobson even wrote an advance blurb for his book–she is graceful as well as multi-talented.
Leo Yankevich is presumably referring to William Pierce’s “The Katyn Massacre” at the following URL: http://www.natvan.com/free-speech/fs985b.html
This was just awesome! I’ve really liked the stuff from Yankevich that CC has put up recently, and I’m not someone who will like a literary figure just because I agree with their politics–for example, I don’t care for much of Pound, especially Cantos.
The parallel between the growth of nonformalist poetry and the decay of western civilization is intriguing. Both have proceeded roughly apace. What really caught me about Yankevich was his use of traditional verse forms. Robert Frost said “I’d sooner write free verse as play tennis with the net down.”
I would hope that Yankevich might mellow his outlook somewhat in the future by drawing inspiration from more moderate thinkers than Oliver and Pierce. They were in peculiar social positions that somewhat distorted their perception on certain issues, while in some sense heightening them in contrast to the masses, but they were nevertheless extremist.
Fascinating interview. It sounds like a great collection. What a chilling five lines from Solzhenitsyn. I’m realizing now that when I read Yankevich’s lead poem here a couple of weeks ago (Tikkun Olam), I completely misread it. As the poem struck me as celebrating the murder of the Czar, I thought it had to be written by a Jew or anti-White and was posted here as an example of anti-White malevolence in the world of contemporary poetry. That’s what I get for reading fast. It’s great to have a poet of this caliber on our side.
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