Getting to Know David Giannini and his new book, THE FUTURE ONLY RATTLES WHEN YOU PICK IT UP
When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover you wanted to write poems?
Looking back through decades, it seems that I was always aware of poetry and involved with it. Before I understood the Italian dialect spoken in my grandparents’ house where I lived, I heard it as a music of words, sounds before sense. Around third grade, there were all the Dr. Seuss books with their rhyming verses, and I wrote a little poem about snow that I showed to my in-school music teacher, who set it to music. My parents lost this to the wind over the years. I still remember the first two lines:
When the snow sits on the ground
you can’t hear it, but it makes a sound.
Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
I am very disciplined and usually rise by 4 a.m. each day and write for two or three hours, and then I write on / off throughout the day, every day, so I have a strong sense that I never stop dipping into the well or ocean, or else it’s the water rising up to be available. Poetry is daily, even momentary, and one hopes to write something that may last. I write ‘all over the house’, but mainly in my ‘writing room’, my office at home in the Berkshires. The most difficult question to answer for me these days while we have despair with a proto-fascist President is “Are you playing or working?” I find a seamlessness between the two. It also seems, more and more, that any wisdom steeps in laughter, and that, as George Oppen wrote, In age / The maxims / Expose themselves. I have been writing poetry for more than 50 years.
Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
I’ve always liked what Mallarmé once said to his friend, the painter, Degas, “Poetry isn’t made with ideas. It is made with words.” I find most often that some loose string of words is rattling in my head, sometimes a phrase or a set of sounds or images, even misheard words that compel me to type, these days directly into my journal or draft folder in my computer. I also jot words and phrases on any handy scrap of paper or napkin, anything. There is nothing unusual about my initial process.
Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Henri Michaux, and Laura Riding, top any early or initial list; but really “influence is in the air.” All and everything is influential and always has been. Cid Corman and Ted Enslin were friends of ‘influence’ for years.
Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was is a project book?
The title came organically from the last line of the prosepoem featured here. People tell me that title has more than passing significance for them, that it somehow resonates aphoristically. If the poetry in the book isn’t about our ‘condition’ as human beings, then what else? The book is sensuous and metaphysical, sometimes comical and whimsical, and lyrical. Its assembling was an intuitive process—to make a book and not merely a smattering of poems. The book is comprised of three sections: initial poems, then a suite of poems dedicated to my wife, and finally the vertical prosepoems, ‘vertical’ in part because they maintain margins more associated with poems than prose, so that any reader will feel quickly pulled to the next prose line, and because I sustain a certain sonorous effect in each. There are overlapping themes throughout the book, questionings of what is real or meant by ‘real’, resonances from one section to the next and the next and back again. It coheres, that’s the point, as one work.
Read an excerpt from his book here: