Scott Thomas Outlar: First off, Damian, I want to thank you for taking some time to do this interview with me for W.I.S.H. Judging by what I read on your social media posts, 2016 must have been a busy year for you as far as writing and performing was concerned. Looking back, what were some of the highlights for you last year?
Damian Rucci: Hey Scott, thanks for having me! Yeah, 2016 was an absolutely wild year for me. I read at the Kansas City Poetry Throw Down, and then came back again in October for some dates in Blue Springs, Missouri and Lawrence, Kansas. I was fortunate enough to host the Jersey Shore Poetry Slam Finals and was a nominee for Poet Laureate of Asbury Park. 2016 was a year where I really began to dip my toes in the wider national poetry community out there in this crazy place.
Outlar: On a similar note, it looks like you’ve already lined up a number of shows for 2017. What are your expectations as this new year gets rolling along at full steam?
Rucci: 2017 is shaping up to a be a year of pure madness. I’m returning to the Kansas City Poetry Throw Down for my second year alongside my girlfriend Rebecca Weber who is an outstanding poet. I have several projects that will be released this year and will be doing more road work to promote the releases. I am going to be reading my poems in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Fort Worth, Kansas City, Philadelphia, New York City, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and a half dozen other cities that are still in the works. 2017 is really about going full speed ahead and getting my work out in front of more people.
Outlar: Could you talk a bit about your most recent chapbook, Tweet and Other Poems, and how the collection came together?
Rucci: Tweet and Other Poems is my second chapbook and the way it came about was interesting. I was in the depth of the darkest period of my life and would have these three a.m. drug epiphanies, where I would write pages and pages and pages of . . . crap. But one thing that made it out was the poem “Tweet” which is a modern day satire of “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. I rewrote it a hundred times and buried it. Later in October, I read it at the first open mic I had been to in years and received a standing ovation. Later, working with Charles Joseph on my chapbook Symphony of Crows, “Tweet” was originally in the manuscript.
When we decided to go a more themed route with Symphony, we cut it from the chapbook. I put it in a folder and kept working on the chap with Charles. We spent days skyping with one another as we took a manuscript of twenty four poems to twelve. I was already bored with the project and most of my energy was spent writing newer poems. These new poems I would pop out between long editing periods of Symphony became the manuscript of Tweet and Other Poems.
Outlar: Do you have any other books or projects in development that you’d like to mention?
Rucci: I actually do have a couple. I am working on a project with Joseph Quiroz, a dope poet from North Jersey. I have a full length that I’ve been assembling and I hope to have it out by fall of 2017. I run a blog called The Literary Degenerate where I journal the life of being a poet in the 21st century. I’ll be having a podcast counterpart drop this Spring.
A big thing I’m doing is a split with Ezhno Martin, he’s a Kansas City poet who is an absolute madman in the best way possible. We’re publishing the book during the Throw Down and are touring it through the Midwest the following week.
Lots of good stuff.
Outlar: In your opinion, just what in the hell is the purpose of poetry in this modern day and age? What first motivated you to pick up the pen and start writing?
Rucci: I’ve been thinking a lot about that. I work overnights at a supermarket to keep the lights on and sometimes in those aisles you find space to think. I think that we’ve been so incredibly lucky to have been blessed with music, movies, television, and video games but words hold a certain power.
A word can be so concise yet so vague, so exact, but so open-ended. A poem can melt your mind with two lines. A poem can read to you differently every time you lay our eyes on it. I think poetry is still the pillars beneath the American ethos. The lifeline of its spirit.
I began reading very early and the moment I started reading, I wanted to write my own stories. I’ve always had a big imagination and writing let me make something concrete out of these flowing thoughts. I wanted to do two things when I younger: I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to be a New York Yankee. When it dawned on me that I was too fat to be a Yankee, I realized it was going to be a life with the pen or keyboard or whatever.
Outlar: Who are some of the writers, artists, and musicians (past and/or contemporary) that you draw inspiration from?
Rucci: I’m fortunate to be surrounded with loads of amazing poets who constantly inspire me. Charles Joseph has been a mentor of sorts to me and has helped me shape my voice and really work on my craft. He’s a great poet who knows how to strip down poems to necessary punches and kicks. Other inspirations to me are poets Bill Gainer, John Dorsey, and Joe Weil who are just literary greats whose work sing on the page and on the microphone.
Cord Moreski who strives to bring poetry to his life in every facet and Rebecca, who inspires me daily. She’s poetry personified.
Stephan Jenkins, Max Bemis, and Chris Cornell are pretty awesome too.
Outlar: What words of advice would you have for other poets in the small press when it comes to dealing with journals, editors, submissions, publications, rejections, and everything else involved in the grind?
Rucci: Be true to yourself, keep moving forward, don’t be a jerk, and don’t stop. That’s about it. Everyone’s own path rolls out in front of them, but it’s those who quit who miss out.
Outlar: Finally, where can folks find more of your work?
Rucci: My website www.damianrucci.net/ has my tour dates, books for sale, The Literary Degenerate blog, and links to my online work.
Thanks Scott for the opportunity.