April 2, 2010

iScribe Interview Series - Paradoxically Elusive Nature

Name: Max Orsini
Major: English
Year of Graduation: 2011, PhD
Position: Featured writer (Spring 2010)

Your featured piece in spring’s edition, “On a Painter and Her Art,” was quite the visual piece. Do you have any experiences in the artistic field? Do you feel that written words have the same sensory effect as visual art?

I, like most people I presume, sketched quiet a bit as a kid growning up in Brooklyn and Jersey. I have always, even as a child had an nterest in the way visual art challenges the boundaries of a frame, the way that certain artists, like Picasso most notably, toy with the idea of disfiguration. I've always felt drawn to distorted faces of a certain sort, diverted vanishing lines of a kind; yet, paradoxically, my whole artsistic sensibility from childhood to the present has been governed by an overriding "idea of order," by the idea of still life and what I recently hear someone call the simple but monumental significance of plain and ordinary objects. I'm not a visual artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have a kind of underlying devotion to the power of the crystal image in poetry. I like poems, paintings and even imagistic songs that possess and elicit a kind of dark transparency, a kind of night-blue clairvoyance, a sort of Atlantic-silver light.

Music, literature, and visual art all have the incredible ability to convey one’s thoughts and ideas, while also serving as effective methods of emotional ventilation. What is your most favored form of expression and why?

Actually, along with writing poetry, one of my passions in singing and song-writing. I've been writing music for more than twelve years and even more paramount than my belief in the visual landscape of a poem is my out and out faith that a poem is a "dream song" to play with a phrase from Berryman. I feel that poems "tap" into an inante music in the subconscious, a kind of clamorous whisper that goes on under the current of our lives that resembles an inate music. I really enjoy writing music, but my poems and songs are two very distinct entities. They rush forth from a similar source, but they form two very separate streams in my life.

Do you believe that an artist’s (covering the spectrum from writers to musicians) best work comes from periods of strong emotion? Why or why not?

It's funny that you ask this question about periods of turmoil producing exciting work. I've thought a great deal about this question and though I've always met it with a kind of resistence, I have to say that Blake was right when he said that "without contraries there is no progression." For about the last year or so I've written in response to certain circumstances in my own life and these circumstances have challenged my writing. They've challenged my notion of how to live, actually. I suppose the benefit of emotional trial is intense introspection, but there comes with this the fine line of excessive introspection and a kind of loss of the outside, which, can become a detriment to the connectivity between speaker and listener in a poem or series of poems. Professor Cappello has given me sound advice regarding this matter. She's implored me to try and have a conversation with other poets in my writing, maybe not directly, but to use the personal as a means of contributing to a dialogue that other poets are having on similar pesronal concerns that are always inherently political.

What is your source of inspiration? What brings your pen to paper?

My main source of inspiration is the paradoxically elusive nature of inspiration itself to be honest. It's always fleeting and changing. Usually, given a certain slant of light, or after I've read enough beautiful poems by Mary Oliver, or James Wright, or Anne Sexton, or Wallace Stevens or Sylvia Plath or Elizabeth Bishop, or Wordsworth or Shakespeare, something will form in my mind, like an ocean of waves with rippling meanings and then I will simply have to write because the beauty and the sorrow and the irony and the lucidity are overwhelming. I think this is probably the case for most people. I'm still pretty traditional in terms of my influences. There are many fine poets writing today, but I take much of my own music, my own metrical advice from older or deceased poets.

There was a crazy thunderstorm that freakishly switched people’s minds from their bodies. As a result, college students for one day now inhabit writers’ bodies. Whose body do you inhabit? Describe your day-in-a-life situation.

Right now, Mary Oliver. For beauty, for wisdom, for dark lucidity, for faith in the convictions of the natural world, for short, clipped, quick breathed phrases, for imagery, for love, Mary Oliver.

Tell us about your educational and career plans. Do you see yourself publishing to the national audience in the near future?

At this moment, I teach senior English and Creative Writing at a local private school and am working on my PhD in English. I plan to teach at a college that values writing and art one day.

Say that you built your house from the ground up using literary pieces—what works are lining your bedroom windows? How do these affect you view?

At the foundational level of my imagined literary home, I would line the walls with a fair blend of Romantic poems and Modernist poems to please both the eye and the ear of those inhabiting.

What inspired you to submit to the Scribe? Any intention of submitting again in the future?

I believe it was a fellow Grad Student who brought the Scribe to my attention. I've enjoyed submitting my work to the last two spring issues and I hope to contribute to this great journal again in the fall.

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