Friday artist, Todd Cirillo
What is your career and your current job title? I work in the helping profession.
Describe in a sentence or two your art. I write poems about love, concrete, broken hearts and last calls.
How long have you been working in this discipline? At 15, I began writing teenage angst poems on my back porch awaiting a Midwestern summer storm when my girlfriend and I were not enjoying one another. I became serious about poetry as craft when I was 18.
Why do you do it? I believe in poetry. I believe that a good poem can be the clearest means to express a moment or an emotion, often in the fewest words. Also, the poems can give themselves to you if you listen closely in the right corners during happy hour. Theft is a poet’s friend.
What do you hope to accomplish? To return poetry to everyday people and to win over and win back some readers/writers who believe poetry is strictly academic or high intellectual property. I wish to make poetry accessible. I hold the opinion that if you have to explain your poem to an audience or reader, then you have not served the poem. I want my poetry to be read in bowling alleys, street corners and on construction sites. It has already been read in our local taverns many, many times, so I am making some headway. I would like to get people to dig poetry who would never consider buying a book of poetry.
Do you create your art with an exact message you want the viewer to receive? The closest I may come to a message in my poems would be that I write about common themes, observations and awkwardly funny situations/moments in the world that many people find themselves in and understand. Whether they are laughing, crying, punching a tree or driving 1,200 miles for no reason at all. I leave spiritual and political poems/statements to preachers, politicians and actors. It is not my job to push a particular message onto the reader, it is my job to give the reader a good time with poetry.
Where do you want to be with your art, in terms of part-time versus full-time status, art positions and where are your works seen? The art lives with me constantly, it is allowed to take over whenever it feels the need. Regarding part- versus full-time status, as with most poets I will assume full-time status when my lotto numbers come in or the roulette table feels generous. Until then, I will continue on the road I am on.
What kind of special training did you take? I read as much as possible and attend other poet’s readings and open mics. It is important to understand the history of poetry and what has come before. I have also been very fortunate in having many other poets and professors who have taken interest in my scribblings. They taught me that poetry is a craft, not just random words in a notebook. They also took me under their wings free of charge; in fact, they often buy me dinner and drinks! It can be hard to find sincerity in poets who charge people sums of money to ” look at” their poems. If you have an interest or feel someone has the talent, then you will help out of love, not hand them a bill. My friends and teachers taught me this lesson.
What’s your favorite part of your endeavors? Living out some of my poems, no matter how painfully sweet those nights can be.
What’s your least favorite part of your endeavors? Not having a secretary or assistant to organize and send out my poems on a regular basis.
How many hours a day or, if more appropriate, a week do you spend on your work? I am involved in poetry in some form or fashion most of the time. I make a wholehearted attempt to grab material almost every Friday or Saturday night about 5 p.m. to last call.
Do you consider it hard work and could anyone do it? I consider it necessary. Can anyone do it? Anyone can write in a notebook and call it a poem, but not everyone is willing to accept the criticism that is part of the game. Criticism is necessary, and if one cannot work with it, then it is going to be a hard road, and more than likely your poems will not improve much. We all have to take our hits and pay our dues.
Any other comments you’d like to include? Yes, the Nevada County Poetry Series features monthly shows and open mics, it is a great place to read your stuff, meet other poets/writers and hear established poets. Plus, it is guaranteed applause! You can call 432-8196 to find out about readings. I also have a book of politically incorrect poetry called “ROXY” with Bill Gainer and Will Staple available at all local bookstores and http://www.rlcrow.com.
Todd Cirillo is a Nevada County Poetry Series board member. The next series’ reading will be Aug. 20 at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.
“The Artists” appears each Friday. To suggest a person to be profiled, call The Union newsroom at 477-4232.
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