Thursday, April 02, 2009

Corsair Interview: Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave

Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave is a rather remarkable woman who, at various points in her life has been an accomplished public speaker, poet, biographer, student of the East and photojournalist. Her latest book, Heavenly Order, which seems tailor-made for this turbulent juncture in American history, combines her poetry with representative art, featuring the Japanese Renaissance artist Hon'ami Koetsu.

We emailed her some questions:

"The Corsair: When did you fall in love first with the East and when did the idea of pairing delicate Japanese artwork with poetry arise in you?

"Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave: I was deeply attracted to the Ten Worlds of Buddhist philosophy as I started writing Heavenly Order. When I read my publisher the first three poems I wrote for Heavenly Order, she immediately said, 'Alexandra, 17th century Japanese art, particularly that of Hon’ami Koetsu, is for you.' I am deeply grateful to the Freer Gallery of Art for giving me permission to place my words inside his exquisite paintings.

"The Corsair: We are both children of Ambassadors -- 'diplobrats' -- and I was wondering if you think that the frequency of travel in childhood had an overall effect on your personality? I find that many diplobrats I come across are more accepting and less fearful of change and (perhaps ancillary to that) often deeply attracted to the concept of a personal immortality.

"Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave: Yes, I think it is true one learns to adapt more readily to change. I also believe that the spirit lives on after death.

"The Corsair: Your great grandfather was railroad magnate and financier Henry Villard. Do you have a particular poignant memory of him?

"Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave: Unfortunately, I did not know him personally, but I vividly remember being taken to his mansion on Madison Avenue in New York when I was seven and being told, 'This is what you can achieve with courage, perseverance and hard work.'

"The Corsair: Healing Light was inspired by the tragic events of 9/11. Now, Heavenly Order: Twenty Five Meditations of Wisdom and Harmony comes about on the cusp of the economic crisis. Poetry, it seems, is your preferred method of healing. I find it interesting that your journey has evolved from photojournalism to words in the poetic form. Any comment?

"Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave: I think my poetry is a reflection of many of my life experiences, including the sixteen years I spent as a photojournalist covering many events throughout the Middle East and Africa. But if there is a single word to describe the inspiration for my words I would say it is sorrow."

Heavenly Order can be purchased here.

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