Categotry Archives: Interviews

Interviews with artists, writers and other creative people


Interview with Poet Joey Nicoletti

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Interview with poet Joey Nicoletti

1. How did poetry enter your life?

All of my poetic roads lead to Langston Hughes. I discovered his poem “Theme for English B” in the 5th grade, and it was love at first read. Then I went on a field trip to the Walt Whitman House, where I heard someone read “I Hear America Singing” and “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.” I wrote my first poem about a week later, which felt as if I had found a new galaxy. To this day, Langston and Walt are my on-the-page/tech and spiritual support system: my go to poets and my first poetry mentors.

2. Along with writing poetry, you also teach it. How do you make time for your own work with all the demands of teaching?

One of the greatest demands of teaching is reading and responding to student work, which is also one of its greatest joys. For me, to engage in student work is to delve into the idea of audience: in the writing classes I teach, the students and I are in a community, where in addition to sharing poems, we are sharing space and time so that we all learn what is working in a poem and why, and how our own work might be better made, so that others outside of our community, as well as ourselves might connect with the ideas that they are presenting for others’ consideration with cogency and resonance. Thus, by being paid to respond to student work, I am writing, and the comments I write inform my own work, not only because am I reading, but also, like Frasier Crane, I’m listening. By working diligently to hear to what someone is attempting or seems to be telling me, I practice my reading skills, which is to say that I am also enhancing the ability to listen to my own work; my own ideas more objectively, which helps me in my own work, as well as the students who I am beyond fortunate to work with. Thus, making time to write is not a problem, as I am reading before I write student comments, which often comes before my own work. If I have learned or hope to impress anything to the people I work with, it is that there is no writing well without reading extremely well, eclectically, every day, and much more often than one writes. As Walt Whitman posited, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences.” I am part of the audience more frequently than I am someone who is presenting to an audience or courting their attention. To paraphrase Anne Sexton, reading poetry is my hands, face, mind, and heart.

3. Favorite quote(s) regarding poets and poetry?

I have many, but my favorite comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “Poetry: the best words in the best order.” This is the DNA of all that I endeavor to do in shaping and presenting my ideas for an audience of poetry aficionados or those who would be.

4. Who are some of your favorite poets?

Wow. That’s like asking me my favorite musician/musical group, meal, wine, New York Yankees or Seattle Seahawks player. Nevertheless, since 12 is my lucky number, here is a list of 10 more of my favorite poets, in addition to Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman, in no particular order: Claudia Emerson, Thomas Lux, Linda Hogan, Tomas Transtromer, Lucille Clifton, Naomi Shihab Nye, Louise Gluck, Stanley Kunitz, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Philip Levine.

5. Along with being a fan of poetry, you are also a big fan of sports. Is this evident in your work?

The short answer is, yes. The longer answer is, absolutely, hells to the yeah! I was raised on a steady diet of pasta and Yankee baseball. MLB baseball and NFL/American football are second and third languages of sorts that I am fluent in, not only because of my own interest, but also because watching these sports was the primary means in which my family and I communicated, especially in my formative years. The poems and essays of both, Cannoli Gangster and Reverse Graffiti reflect this, as sports figures gave my family and I ways of seeing people—especially those of Italian descent something to root for; that America was, as I say in an essay about Joe DiMaggio in Reverse Graffiti. To them, as it is for many immigrants from other countries, America was place where my siblings and I had a chance to make the most of our talents in ways that my parents couldn’t. Like Walt, they also heard America singing, never more sonorously than when members of the Yankees—especially those with Italian bloodlines—excelled: a montage of an Italian American Dream realized. Pro sports have and continue to inform and inspire my life in ways that surprise me, which is the paragon of reasons why I blog about it weekly. .

7. A lot of poets could use advice. What is your best?

Never stop reading, and be consistently and equally persistent in perfecting your poetry as you would be in publishing it. Stephen King posits, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” The chances of magazine editors rejecting work is always present, especially (and most often) when starting to submit work for publication. Don’t let rejection dampen your passion or halt your efforts. Be persistent. Read, read, read, read and read some more. And then write and revise. Persist.

5. Favorite literary movie(s), if any?

I have three. Although my first movie is not a literary one in the sense of being about poetry with a capital P, I would be remiss not to mention Apocalypse Now. It’s an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, and Francis Ford Coppola’s direction—his singular knack for combining imagery and music is a poetic feast for me, which begins with using The Doors’ classic song “The End” as helicopters are bombing a village—and that’s before the audience hears any dialogue! The rest of the film has memorable one-liners (I.E., “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”), speeches, narration, and images that accrue with all of the pleasures and technical virtuosity that is characteristic of a considerable amount of my favorite poems, and I am grateful for all of the people that brought the movie into the world. A close second is The Wizard of Oz, which is also an adaptation, and similarly amalgamates music, dialogue, and imagery effectively. The third is Dead Poet’s Society. I miss Robin Williams for this reason alone, but my unofficial middle names are Carpe Diem: his performance inspired me to consider teaching as way to make a life, at least much as making a living, if not more so.

6. Where did you grow up and how do you think that affected your writing?

I was born in Astoria, Queens, New York City, “the city,” and raised on Long Island. My father worked as a NYC Bus Driver for 40 years, which was wonderful, because he had routes all of over the city: Sugar Hill, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Midtown and Boogie Down, among other neighborhoods. I used to go into work with him whenever possible. It was not unusual for him to have 70 hour work-weeks, so not only did going to work with him give us the chance to hang, I got to see and learn the city in a unique way. I liken seeing the East Village from the windows of my father’s bus to Dorothy opening her bedroom door and seeing Emerald City in vibrant color in The Wizard of Oz. I suppose this is one reason why my father is in many of my poems, as well as the city itself. If children learn what they live, as the saying goes, then New York was a faculty of skyscrapers, shadows, and streets, where I formed my first impressions of the world, and poetry was all around me in a singularly dynamic and adroit way. This informs many of the poems of Reverse Graffiti, so it would be fair to say that it is a book that is rife with New York.

7. How did you choose the titles for the two volumes of poetry that are published?

I think that it’s more accurate to say that they chose themselves. In the case of Cannoli Gangster, it was a phrase that popped out in a conversation that I had with my spouse about a poem that I was working on, and we both nodded. In the case of Reverse Graffiti, I saw a peace sign thumbed into the grime of the back window of a parked car. It was a typical mid-November day in Buffalo, overcast, with the smell and promise of new snow in the air. The image struck me as a metaphor for the poems of the book: to make art, to find beauty in the grime of the world around me, as well as my mind, heart, soul’s and windows of my family’s and my personal history: Reverse Graffiti.

8. Do you think social network websites are more of a distraction from creating or rather a good way to market yourself?

This is another great question. I think they are terrific, because as long as a poet has access to a phone, laptop, tablet, and the like, social network sites give writers a chance to reach a wide or specific audience type in ways that poets could have only dreamed of. Imagining poets as ubiquitous and prolific as Walt Whitman or Langston Hughes tweeting today makes me smile from ear to ear, because they understood that to connect with human beings was the essence of all audience-oriented writing genres, and especially poetry, where efficiency with language is a unique characteristic and challenge of the genre. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge said: “best words, best order,” whether it’s 140 characters or less in the Twitterverse or likes on Facebook, The Gram, Tumblr, or any other public-access area of cyberspace.

9. Okay, you’re going to be on an island alone for a lengthy amount of time. Besides writing tools and necessities such as food, what three items are you bringing with you?

First, in the (perhaps absurd) hopes that there will be power outlets, I will bring my laptop with me, so that I can keep up with my loved ones, watch films, videos, read poems, stories, essays, reviews, articles and be apprised of the latest developments with my Yankees and Seahawks. Second, I will bring a bag that is filled with Duracell batteries of books, including The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, Marissa Acocella Marchetto’s Graphic Memoir Cancer Vixen, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, issue 8 of the first volume of The Avengers, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Third, a flashlight, so that I can read them at night.

10. Outside of poetry and being a sports fan, what other activities do you enjoy?

I love, love, comic books, books about comics, graphic novels, and most things super-hero: reading them, collecting them, you name it. Comics are one of the major entries in my book of passions. Listening to music also is a joy, as is seeing live shows/concerts, and there is nothing like hanging with my family and/or friends with succulent food and marvelous spirits, either at my family’s digs or at someone else’s. I am also passionate about animals and traveling. I enjoy going to places I have never been before and getting new perspectives on the world, almost as much as I love my dogs and cat.

11. The muse seems to have vanished. A blank page has become intimidating. What do you do to conjure the muse in such difficult times or do you just take a break?

Read, love, sleep, eat, drink, laugh, read, and persist. I find that this also works well for many non-writing situations.

12. Aside from the textbook(s) you use to teach your students, any books you’d recommend that deal with writing poetry?

Although I have yet to use them exclusively in a classroom, I recommend Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town along and Kenneth Koch’s Making Your Own Dreams. These books are as opulent with joy as they are with sagacity and intrigue, which appeals to both, the novice or established poet. To put it another way, these are two wonderful books by two unique and essential contemporary American poets who were also gifted teachers of verse.

13. Do you have any favorite creative websites you frequent? If so, please share.

I adore Not only is the site rife with poems and stories of the poets who have written them, there are some terrific resources for teaching poetry, which I found especially useful when I started out as a student, as well as an instructor of poetry writing.

14. If you could change one thing about the world of poetry as it is today, what would it be?

One of my greatest hopes for today’s poetry world is the same as those that I have for the future: let more independent presses come into the world and propagate. The more of them we have, the greater the opportunities will be for all of the wonderful poets who have yet to publish a book, which will encourage creativity and learning, which I submit is always, always a worthwhile endeavor, not to mention a great way to spend a day or evening, just as it has been in doing this interview with you. Salute!

*A huge thanks to Joey Nicoletti for agreeing and taking the time to do this interview. Please check out his work and collections of poetry.


Interview with Artist Richard Babusci

Categories: Interviews, Tags: , , ,

A Requiem (web) (1)

A Requiem


Interview with Artist Richard Babusci

1. How did you get started as an artist?

Like I’m sure most people would answer – I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember. I’d say it became more of a thing for me in high school, though. I had this little journal type book that I would draw in, paint in – I’d even glue photos into it. That was my first focused art endeavor. It got me to love watercolor. It’s so easy to work with and so portable. I travelled a lot once I got out of school, and I got a new blank book for every trip. I’d just fill them with spontaneous art and photos.

2. What kinds of things inspire you to create your pieces?

Generally speaking, I’m inspired by life, nature, ideas that whizz through my head throughout the course of the day. Painting is my way of processing it all, I guess. It’s a kind of meditation for me – it’s my outlet. My most recent pieces have been focused on the concept of identity. I wonder about the different roles we play in different aspects of our lives and how they all blend to form who we are. So I paint these really loose figural forms that are fractured and intertwined with a fluid landscape. I guess the idea is to tie the two together – make them inextricable from each other.

3. Many artists are often displeased with their own work. Do you or did you ever experience this and how did you or do you deal with it?

There was an aspiring artist and journalist named Dan Eldon who unfortunately died way too young. Posthumously, his family published his personal journals. One of the lines in there says something like “What’s the difference between being lost and being on an adventure? With an adventure, the journey IS the destination.” It’s kind of that way with my art. The only time I’ve been disappointed with what I’ve made is when I’ve been too attached to some prescribed outcome. With my process, the piece really needs to grow at its own pace and in its own direction. The real joy is seeing where it goes.

4. Three other artists you admire?

Wasily Kandinsky, Katsushika Hokusai, Mark Rothko

5. You have a family. How do you make the time to create your art and also keep up with family needs?

I have a studio in my home, which helps. It’s actually been a joy to see my kids take an interest in art. They work in the studio with me sometimes. My oldest likes to write and illustrate her own books. My youngest recently painted a picture of my car, and it was on fire for some reason. Thankfully I wasn’t in it.

6. A friend of mine once expressed that she thinks artists (and poets) are snobbish. How do you respond to such an opinion?

It’s a generalization. What makes a person snobbish, anyway?

7. Did you receive formal education in art or are you mostly self-taught? And what is your opinion on either?

I have a BFA, and I’m glad I got it. I learned a lot. Critiques are important, and you get a lot of that in art school. It thickens your skin. It teaches you to kind of own your work and be accountable to it and really push it. It didn’t teach me how to succeed as an artist though, and I didn’t know what kind of artist I wanted to be until much later. There are plenty of artists out there who are self taught and doing great, so there are obviously many paths.

8. With the internet comes more possibility for exposure but also a high chance of getting lost among the millions. How do you market yourself successfully?

That’s a great question, and I am not sure I have the answer myself yet. I think it depends on what your goals are as an artist. For instance, if your goal is to secure an exhibit in a gallery, it’s not a good idea to publish that art beforehand. Some galleries won’t want to exhibit art that’s been seen already. I have a few projects I’m working on that no one has seen, or will see until it is in a gallery. For me, the internet has been a great tool for connecting with other artists and art lovers. I’ve grown my mailing list and expanded my reach. It has not helped me sell much though. The way I sell paintings is by engaging with potential collectors, whether at an opening, or during a visit to my studio. I love to talk art, and I’m not shy about pulling up my online portfolio for interested people to peruse. The last 10 sales I’ve made have come from studio visits.

9. Many stigmatize artists as “crazy”. Why do you think that is and do you think there’s any truth to it?

Like all generalizations, I think it comes from a lack of understanding. We all have our peculiarities and idiosyncrasies and strange ideas about the world and how we fit in it. Some people are more open with those things than others.

10. How would you encourage a budding/amateur artist or someone who wants to begin creating art?

Get inspired. Visit galleries and museums. Try new things. Take a class to improve your skills and grow. Get to know what kind of artist you want to be, and start making art. Once you’ve taken that step, consider where you want to go with it. Do you want an exhibit? Do you want to make a career out of it? If you can hone in on a very specific goal and what your measure of success will be, then you can start to form a strategy for getting there.

11. In your opinion, what are two or three most important things about art?

Art connects us in a way that transcends language, or time or geography. Also, it has no edge. Like space, its parameters are constantly expanding.

12. Favorite art quote(s)?

I’ll give you two: Gauguin describing fauvism to another artist – “How do you see these trees? They are yellow. So, put in yellow; this shadow, rather blue, paint it with pure ultramarine; these red leaves? Put in vermillion.”
Rene Magritte “This is not a pipe.”
Both of these quotes stand out to me because they remind me that art is not about replication. That’s not the point. The point is to make something new. There really aren’t any rules beyond that.

13. You can change one thing about the art world today. What is it?

I wish it was easier to make a living as an artist without selling your work. Does it have to be a product with a price?

14. Only three colors are allowed as your palette for the next year. What colors would you choose?

Mars black, opaque white and cadmium red.

15. Favorite music (if any) to listen to while you create?

It varies a lot. Most often I guess it’s either classical or some kind of ambient contemporary music. Hector Zazou is one of my favorites.

16. Creative slumps. Assuming you’ve experienced them, how did you get over them?

Take a break. Take my mind off of it and just don’t do anything for a while, then come back to it when I’m ready. My work seems to come in waves. I’ll have a period of really effortless productivity and then I’ll have a bit of an intermission.

17. A favorite famous artwork?

“Death and Life” by Gustav Klimt.

18. What is one memory from your life that you cherish or that was defining for you as an artist?

In 2010, I had a solo show at a gallery in Charlotte. I sold 10 paintings on opening night. It was the culmination of years of hard work for me and really very validating.

19. Any artistic websites or books you recommend?

Saatchi online is a great place to discover new art and to sell art.
Art in America (magazine)

20. What is the one thing you’d like to be remembered for most in reference to your creative life?

I don’t know. I hope that my art, in some way or another, can one day inspire another person to create. I’d love that.

Moving On

Moving On


A huge thanks to Richard for agreeing to do this interview. You can view more of his amazing work at:

The Bonds

The Bonds

Seeing Everything

Seeing Everything

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