Robert Walicki’s work has appeared in over 50 journals, including Pittsburgh City Paper, Fourth River,Chiron Review, and Red River Review. A Pushcart and a Best of The Net nominee, Robert has published two chapbooks: A Room Full of Trees (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014) and The Almost Sound of Snow Falling (Night Ballet Press), which was nominated to the 2016 List of Books for New York City’s Poets House. His first full-length collection, Black Angels, is now available from Pittsburgh’s Six Gallery Press.
What was the moment that made you realize that writing was more than just a hobby for you?
I think when the level of my writing grew to the point where I felt it was good enough to submit to publications.Also, when the desire to write shifted from needing to write made me realize that this was a vocation.
How great of a challenge is it for you to put together a monthly reading series with Versify?
Since Versify as a series concluded, I can say that it's been one of my most proudest achievements, that said, it's much less challenging putting together a series in a city that's bursting with literary talent as Pittsburgh is. I had two goals in this series. One, was to provide a forum for everyone. I never wanted anyone to feel marginalized in the literary community. Second, I wanted to put together readers who organically generated a synergy, whether they complimented or contrasted each other, and I like to think to that end,I was successful.
How would you say your work as a plumber has influenced your writing?
It was difficult for me to write about these experiences at first, because I couldn't wrap my head around the concept of creating a poetic language for these "common" experiences. That said, I eventually realized that this was something that I needed to be writing about. My working life has shaped who I am in more ways than even I realized at the time. It's been a challenge too, in striking the balance between the musicality of language vs the authentic working class language that needs to be present, for these poems to ring true, be earned and yet still feel like a poem.
How would you describe your performance style to someone who has never seen you read?
I've worked at this, because I'm an introvert by nature, but I'd have to say that my performances tend to be emotional. I like there to be somewhat of narrative arc to my reading I want to be fulfilling and hopefully have a little something for everybody.
What movie can you throw on any day of the week?
Oh man, it would probably be Star Wars. I'm still an overgrown kid at heart. And I still love Sci-Fi/fantasy. I love escaping into a movie adventuring into a different world.
Has healthy competition like entering in Concrete Wolf Chapbook Contest affected your approach to writing in any way?
Competitions can affect one in positive and negative ways. I approach it with a grain of salt. What I know is, that we can't look to competitions to validate our worth, as so many factors that have nothing to do with our talent, go into whether a piece is accepted or rejected. That said, I've found that preparing a piece for a competition really pushes me to polish my writing and pay attention to editing.
Of any living writers, who would your dream line-up to perform with consist of?
Wow, I would love to read with someone like Dorianne Laux , Ellen Bass,Natalie Diaz, Jan Beatty, Heather McNaugher. There are so many more, although these poets have been quiet mentors throughout much of my writing life, in so many inspiring ways.
What goes into the title of one of your books?
I struggle with titles, but when I find one, I know it when I see it. My most recent book for example, "Black Angels " came originally from a Velvet Underground song, and like the title poem, which was originally called Angel of Death. A title I believe, needs to both inform and create a sense of mystery and restraint in telling the reader what a poem is about. I like to leave that revelation up to the reader though, let them decide what it means for them.
Is Fellini's pizza a real place or an homage to the filmmaker?
It's a real place,but kind of a happy accident as well.
I've noticed a minor trend of Lego references in your work. Any particular reason for that?
Interesting. Sometimes we aren't aware of elements that tend to be fixated on or write about a lot, but I always like to include tactile, grounded elements in my poems that can act as metaphors or simple imagery that creates a strong sense of place and time.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Well, I have another full length poetry collection called "Fountain ", which was just accepted by Main St Rag Press, so I'm excited about seeing that in print in the near future!
Thanks again to Robert Walicki for agreeing to do this interview and for his awesome answers. Please do yourself a favor and check him out at the following links:
Red Bird Chapbooks: https://www.redbirdchapbooks.com/RobertWalicki