In my early 20s, I started writing poetry as a way to cope with melancholy, challenge what wasn’t working out in love, work, life in general. I submitted to a mix of college literary journals and cultural magazines and received some acceptances. They gave me the drive to carry on, although some jobs and lifestyle changes got in the way of continuity. About fifteen years later, I started to write short stories and hoped to write a novel one day. Then my late mother suffered a massive stroke in 2006 and I found myself running back and forth between New York and Pennsylvania to help with caregiving. Time constraints led me to resume writing poetry and that’s where I’ve stayed. I consider my poems short short stories. I find it challenging in a positive way to tell a story in as few words as possible. Since 2013, I’ve belonged to an online poetry community called brevitas where 50+ poets share short poems (13 lines maximum) twice a month. I haven’t missed a submission since I started. Many brevitas poems appear in my latest poetry collections.
Since we mostly communicate through social media, texts and e-mails, I think the brevity of poetry makes it an optimal medium for reaching readers with a story, inspiration, some thought-provoking ideas. It doesn’t require a considerable investment in time.
What themes recur in your writing?
Place and memory drive my writing—where I’m from, where I’ve lived, where I’ve visited, where I want to go. Other key themes are music; nature; Italy, where I worked for five years in the 90s; and relationship conflicts. Whatever’s going on in my life resonates in my poems, although the more I write, the more I’m inspired by outside influences. Lately ideas garnered from news and cultural articles have been weaved into poems. Another literary trademark is the way I inject color into visuals and descriptions.
What’s the impetus of We Became Summer, your first full-length collection?
The title came to me sometime after I published my first chapbook, Views from the Driveway, and stuck. I have ties to my hometown of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and return frequently. Maybe that makes it easier to be haunted by memories of those carefree summers as a kid, “before self-awareness replaced laughter and possession replaced play.” I’ve carried those summers with me forever. I remember names of neighborhood kids, the bike rides, swims, the dreaming. Several reviewers refer to We Became Summer as a poetic memoir, which I find accurate and flattering, but it also includes stories from now, reflections on what happened years later with some of the protagonists from early days, like family members and ex-lovers. The new collection marks both a journey and arrival.
Why did you leave Italy?
As much as living in Italy, living in another language and culture, was a realized dream, I became intrigued with New York City from regularly reading the Sunday edition of The New York Times, which was a staple at our office. The Mediterranean life was too slow for this gal with an East Coast sensibility. I wanted to eat more spicy ethnic foods and hear more live music. Milan was too gray and sleepy a city for me in the mid-90s. On February 14, I celebrate my 20th year as a New Yorker.
How does poetry fit into your lifestyle?
Living in New York City makes it hard to hide from poetry. Readings take place most nights. Many literary series have existed for years and I enjoy major support and friendships on the part of reading hosts and other poets and writers. I’m a member of poetry families in New York and Philadelphia. Poet friends are loyal; they’re quite different from rat race colleagues.
I’m working on a manuscript for another full-length collection. It revolves around a particular theme, so I can distance myself from writing solely autobiographical sketches. I want to inject some fresh perspective into my work and reach readers in new ways. Yet I strive to remain a universal poet and continue speaking to a broad mix of readers. Last April, for Poetry Month I presented poetry to middle school students, as well as university students, and I was bowled over by the positive response from all ages and persuasions.