What do you create?
I write poems: individual poems; poem sequences; series of poems gathered together by theme or form. I started writing (very bad) poems when I was 16 and persisted in the delusion that I could write well until I actually began to write well. I’d say my first really fine poem didn’t come until I was about 26 years old. The next one might have come when I was 30. There were very few successes and a lot of failures. I remember writing a sonnet everyday for several years and getting about three decent poems out of that. Regardless of the high-rate of failure, writing poems was a lot of fun. I kept at it, not really thinking about what I was doing, just doing it. Later, as I got better, I started to mindfully consider an aesthetic, a point of view—those things that distinguish a craftsperson from an artist. It’s hard work, but it remains a lot of fun. I’m currently “at work” on a poem I began in mid-August. I’ve carried it through umpteen versions to its conclusion, but I can’t stop editing it. Occasionally, a poem will announce its arrival immediately, with very little alteration from the first draft. Such poems are usually inspired. Unfortunately, they are rare.
I am also a visual artist, mainly an assemblage artist who builds through collage and erasure. I prefer to work with found objects. Much of what I do as a visual artist is mirrored in how I compose poems, too. That, I suppose, is another story.
Why do you create?
I love making things. I can’t imagine myself not making things.
Why I create is a huge question and if I were to answer it fully, I’d probably need five or six pages. Poet Dorianne Laux once told me most writers as kids didn’t get enough attention or felt they weren’t heard: so much of their creative life is a way to preserve the child they can’t leave behind. Mary Ruefle, another poet, told me there are two kinds of artists: those whose parents encouraged them to carry on the cultural traditions of their families and those who were outcasts that didn’t fit in. I’m definitely the latter. I turned to poetry quite naturally, as an extension of the music I was playing on the piano, and because I was so in love with reading that I needed to try writing literature myself. Reading, writing, assembling collages, playing solo music—those are all solitary pursuits. You can identify with a community of other artists like yourself—read at open mics, attend art openings, play music with others—but the creative act necessitates concentration and, by extension, solitude.
What do you consume?
I am a movie slut. I will watch anything in the big theatres, or on the smaller screens. I watch Netflix on my iPad at home. I don’t love everything I see equally, and I’m pretty particular about my tastes, but I enjoy CONSUMING movies, just taking them in, along with Youtube postings of my favorite scenes from British, German, Finnish, and Brazilian soaps.
I love music, am a huge fan of Fleetwood Mac. I’m an acoustic jazz and classical music nut as well. I could listen to Rachmanninov’s “Symphonic Dances” all day. Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite” gets me every time—no matter how well or badly it is played. I like consuming more obscure things, too: one of my favorite jazz recordings is an obscure Mal Waldron release from 1969 called Free at Last. Sun Ra, love Sun Ra and his insistence on hailing from Saturn. Space IS the place for that glorious nut job.
I’m an avid, hungry reader. I love reading poetry, am committed to the new poetry being written today. But my first reading pleasures came from encyclopedias and novels. I still love to read both of those genres, too.
Food—I’m a foot nut. Give me a good steak or a fresh lobster right from the ocean. Give me ceviche. Fish steeped in citrus: heaven!
But, largely, I am not much of a high-end consumer. I held onto my last car for thirteen glorious years; I live in the same house I bought a dozen years back; I’m not a clothes horse or purveyor of expensive toys. Most of my discretionary expenses involve buying art on the installment plan, shopping for used books, and frequenting garage sales and flea markets in the summer.
A book of my poems came out in March 2014 through Tiger Bark Press. Called The Burning Door, it has received flattering reviews at these places:
I have also been able to speak at length about some of my unusual compositional practices unique to this book, practices that involve formal and experimental creative triggers:
Tony’s books can be found at: