An Interview with Jon Riccio, "Speaking in Calendars"


What's the meaning of the title "Speaking in Calendars"? 

The poem began in a Midwestern firehouse at a time when birthstones intrigued me. Such lush vocabulary to choose from. Originally titled “Elegy of Months,” I chose “Speaking in Calendars” to reflect its synesthesia elements…imagine opening your mouth and all these geo-sounds tumble out…a gaggle of gemologists having happy hour in your teeth…
   
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You're on a deserted island with only one poem.  Which one is it and why? 

Did I buy the travel insurance that strands me on a different island each day? 

Right now,  I’d say Greg Wrenn’s “Revision” from his collection, Centaur. Any poem that begins “One day he’ll reach for our shelved book,/silver worn off spine” and ends “the moment blown into glass,/held and broken” is all the oceanfront shelter (wistful as it may be) I need. 

Katie Chaple’s “Pretty Little Rooms” is a close runner-up. Take a gander at what they found in Petrarch’s tomb.

Who has been influential in your development as a poet?

Wow, so many heroes and mentors…prior to graduate school, the quartet of Kalamazoo poets Traci Brimhall, Denise Miller, Susan Blackwell Ramsey, and John Rybicki. Each gave amply of their time and encouragement. Since August, the faculty I’ve worked with at the University of Arizona: Farid Matuk, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Tenney Nathanson, and Jane Miller. Their examples are daily reminders for how one lives the artist’s life.

Outside of school: Laura Kasischke, Thomas Lux, Matthew Dickman, Ginger Murchison, and Mark Doty.  Oh, now that I have the opportunity to say thank you – Ellen Lesser at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Classmates, writers I meet along the way, daily observations, classical composers (Bartok, Dvorak & Ysaye), language.

What have you learned about the craft of writing poetry?

Revision is the designated driver of your draft, so long as it comes with a really cool soundtrack. Received forms (sestina, ghazal, pantoum, etc.) are the instruments we should practice more often. Also, what my Arizona cohorts have taught me: no subject is off limits, drape the everyday in the exquisite, lyricism and rhetoric share the same playground.

Would you rather have the power of invisibility or the power of flight. Why?

Flight. The Tucson heat is murder on my car.