Interview with Robert Walicki


What is a current project you are working on?

I’m actually in the process of finishing my first full length book of poems. I’m just putting the finishing touches on it now and getting it ready for publication, so it’s very exciting to see everything coming together!

What is the piece of writing advice, good or even bad, that you have received that has impacted you the most?

I still think of a moment after a reading, when someone came up to me and said that she keeps a copy of a poem I wrote about a deceased soldier tacked up on her refrigerator so that she can look at it every day. This put everything in perspective for me. If something I write connects with at least one other person in a positive way, I’ve done my job. This is why I do this.

What are some of the greatest influences upon your writing, whether other writers or outside influences?

Wow, that’s a tough question. There are so many poets who inspire and inform my own work. Poets like Jan Beatty, Marie Howe, Dorianne Laux, Ellen Bass come to mind. Poets that take the ordinary daily experience and elevate it in a deeply personal and at times, spiritual way.

How did “Writing Political Poems at the Squirrel Hill Café” come about? What pushed you to write this piece?

Political poems are hard to write, and I actually address that in this poem. There’s a vulnerability at times, and a feeling of helplessness that sometimes overcomes me when I ponder the state of things in the world outside my own much smaller one. With this poem, I had a real strong desire to strip language down, to be as completely straightforward and sincere as I possibly could. The backdrop of this poem takes place in a simple bar with two friends drinking and sharing thoughts, hopes and dreams. It’s become one of my favorite poems to read.

Can you recommend one book that you think everyone should read and tell us why?

What the Living Do, by Marie Howe. I’ve learned so much from this book about writing. It’s become my bible in a lot of ways. This is by far, the most rewarding and moving book on the subject of grieving and loss. The control and restraint shown in these poems is so incredible and is a great example of how powerful it can be, in leaving some mystery, and allowing the emotional and spiritual intelligence of the reader to enter the poem. The reading becomes an interaction, an active experience instead of a passive one. It’s the kind of writing that asks questions of ourselves and takes us to deeper places within as a result.