@

nick_newphoto

What kind of a last name is “Ripatrazone”?

My family’s actual last name is “Ripatransone,” like the town in the Marche region of Italy. The “z” was mistakenly substituted for the “ns” when they reached America. Our lives are filled with those mistakes and misunderstandings. Sometimes it’s best to simply roll with them.

George Korolog Photo

Isn’t it hard to pen and ask yourself questions that could possibly cause you look like a pompous ass?

Yes, very hard. It is incredibly easy to be seen either way, and this only adds another layer of complexity to the equation. Freud would have a field day with this, wouldn’t he?

IMG_0412


Where did you get the idea for your book From the Belly?  

I realized that I was amassing poems about food, physical experiences like sex, disease, pregnancy, and abortion, and ekphrastic poetry about visual representations of the human body.   The word “belly” was coming up as a common semantic thread in many of these poems and also seemed to speak to the figurative registers of my obsessions.  The “belly” suggests that poetry comes from “the gut,” among other things, and I certainly strive to write “gutsy” work that provokes questions about gender, power, identity, family, etc. There are other kinds of poems in the book too, but because of my visceral need to write them, as well as intellectual, I decided this book had come From the Belly.

williasmburg

 

Who do you think you are? Poets can’t write about television!

Umm, yeah they can. That’s the beauty of poetry. Poets can write about anything.

1424405_652170918138625_1908808888_n

 

I looked at the most common words in my newest book, APOCRYPHAL. It appears that they are “want,” “body,” “wear,” “father” and “Javi.” So I talk about each here.


Want.

My work has always been about wanting—usually, it’s the want of something unnatural: to be abused, to abuse, to want something that one shouldn’t (and I don’t mean someone’s husband, I mean someone’s father, someone’s blood, someone’s death). I spend an awful lot of time in life keeping together my sanity. Sometimes I am prudish. My friends will say, for example, “But you’re Lisa. How could you hate porn?” And secretly I will think, “I love it,” but in reality, I say it’s bad, and desire is dangerous, and the world is soulless. It’s because maybe I am in some ways, and my poetry lets me explore that. 

AUTHOR PHOTO CROPPED Alexandria Peary

 

You hold graduate degrees in creative writing and composition-rhetoric: what’s that like?

I like to participate in as many different conversations about writing as possible so I can slip in and out (like simultaneously attending several interesting dinner parties in the same building).  I’m a fundamentally shy person with an extroverted sense of will. If that implies I stand in the margins for easy exit, for a quick egress, yes, that is the case. Probably, it has allowed me to do types of writing a more pinned-down person wouldn’t be able to get away with (in part because I am not fully initiated into one particular field and don’t always observe the rules and conventions). I’ve been able to research cool topics like a nineteenth-century etiquette author who snuck advice to wannabe women writers between pages on skirt lengths and silverware. Or an “autobiography” of a rejected manuscript in which the main character, a sentimental novel, recounts its treatment at the hands of an editor.

IMG_4252

Are you a natural empire builder?

“If you call perpetually failing a trait.” Sampson Starkweather said that. I think empire builder is a bit much, but I’d say I’m maybe the antithesis of that; I like to play a role of political absentmindedness then unexpectedly turn around and slay my enemy to show that I’m “in the know” about something but I don’t want to occupy it’s center. I like to watch the politics of the literary community play out but I really want nothing to do with it. I think the poetry is really what matters, and like old empires, religion was really at the core of matters but so often personal relationships manifest themselves and egos take hold in such a way where the vision gets lost. I hope to never obscure that poetry is what’s important.

d with d

Poetry is a throwback to a time when music was only a rumor; isn’t even love different than it was 20 years ago?

It’s like music composed of memories, or like if memories were chords, or remembering chords in place of people, in place of places, names instead of corpses instead of faces. Nobody worries too much because it just sounds right.

 

Full-length albums are one of the few stable footholds for the past, so the act of piracy is literally saving the dead?

I mean, steal your grandparents, steal your whole culture. I used to be a student—perhaps we all were—but, after a time, there were no more students; everyone was too magnificent for sitting in classrooms pretending to learn things. Now, everyone reads books and no one has time for war. Everyone watches movies all day, sings along, makes murals that encompass whole city blocks.

 

1148806_10151638764874794_858161281_n[1]

So how long have you been writing?

Since kindergarten. isn’t that when everyone learns how to write?

 

No, I’m sorry, I meant….you know, creative writing. Like what’s in your new book.

How do you know about my book?

 

My friend Rich told me about it. Is it any good?

That’s a strange question. Like if I told you I saw a car accident on my way here today, and then you asked me: was it any good? I wouldn’t know what you meant, you know?

IMG_6143

I don’t know how to do a self-interview so instead I asked my girlfriend, the poet Jeannette Gomes to interview me as a stand-in for myself.

JEANNETTE: Hi Russ, could you describe for me how your book came about and the emotional landscape it encompasses in your heart?

RUSS: Sure. So this book started from a little tour chapbook I was making for a weeklong tour I was going to do in 2012. I made a PDF version and posted the cover art on Facebook and got a message from James Tadd Adcox, who was at the time editor of Artifice Magazine, and a friend of mine. He asked if he could see the PDF version of the chap, and I said “sure” and sent it over, not thinking much about it. He emailed me later and told me he really loved it, and that Artifice was starting a book arm of their operation and he said, if I was interested, that he wanted to publish the chapbook along with some of my other poems as a book. The cover the book has now is actually the same cover I made for the original chap. Anyway, the book went through many, many edits and many rewrites since then. I think only a handful of the original poems are still in there, actually.

569

Does it feel weird having an imaginary tea party interview with yourself?

Yes, yes it does.

 

What type of house did you live in, architecturally?

I grew up in too many houses (houses, apartments, a camper van). Some were broken, but the first one wasn’t. It had a round turquoise pool, and rose gardens everywhere.

Oh, architecturally? Shit! Ah, the first one was a white plaster house, wood framed, residential. We kept pickles and wine in the cellar. Or maybe the pickles and wine were in our neighbours cellar? No matter.

annabelle-moseley-oberon-judgeYou are the founder and editor of String Poet, the online journal of poetry and music. What was the inspiration behind this endeavor?

I believe that the best poetry has an inherent music, no matter in what style it is written. My immersion in this wordless language was in the work of my stepfather Charles Rufino, a renowned classically trained violin maker. His studio, filled with the shaped wood of cello and violin backs, showed me that music had a birthing room, a visceral beginning. The scent of varnish, sawdust, and rosin taught me that this auditory pleasure can involve all of the senses.

As professional musicians visited us, there would often be impromptu concerts, and I came to see how the musician’s love for music paralleled my love for poetry. They often appreciated my poetry as much as I did their music. The intrinsic music of poetry spoke that same language apart from words, the soul’s under-song, understood by both musician and poet. From this recognition came the idea for String Poet, a journal where poetry, music, and art can be appreciated simultaneously.

denarashguzmanTNB

After W.S. Merwin’s “Some Last Questions”

 

What is the poem

A distillation of anything

 

What is anything

Anything is a story

photo-05

Gregory Sherl’s OkCupid Profile

 

My self-summary

I glow.

 

What I’m doing with my life

Getting my MFA in Poetry.

So what am I doing with my life? I ain’t doing shit.

photowide

Our Obsidian Tongues, huh?

Yeah. I feel like that’s a pretty melodramatic title now. But hopefully that’s just title fatigue. Is it that bad?

 

No comment. What’s it mean?

It’s a reference to the the Aztec history of the Valley of Mexico, and to the power of words to cut, whether speaking justice of injury, since knives and other weapons were made of obsidian. Its plurality refers to the multiplicity of voices that inhabit Mexico City, where I grew up, and the multiplicity of voices cannibalized and regurgitated within the collection itself.