A Talk with Michael Schiavo

 Fourteen Hills is always in search of unique writers who are not afraid to break down walls and articulate the questions we cannot put into words. Fourteen Hills 17.1 author, Michael Schiavo, is one of those special individuals who uses his craft to tantalize a reader’s senses and leaves us asking for more. His poem, “In the Early Morning in the Cypress Grove” is a poem with beautiful tempo and imagery that grabs hold of its reader and doesn’t let go. No surprise it was selected for our magazine.

“Each servant stamps the reader with a look”

During a small break from running his blog and his wonderful online poetry anthology The Equalizer, Michael had a chance to reply to our e-mail with his thoughts on poetry and his craft.

"Poetry, as a category of art, is closer to music and song then it’s to prose (“fiction” and “nonfiction”), & should always be approached by its composers, audience, & institutions that promote it, as music, keeping in mind the definition includes—for the true poet who makes all available to him—every mode, whether Johnny Mercer, John Cage, John Lee Hooker, Lil’ Jon, or Johnny Jump Up.

I am an inlet to & for the Voices that arrive chanting their case. Ghost, Martian, Transparent Eyeball, Daemon, Muse—whether this process is called rearranging, unveiling, renaming, or misquoting, all are accurate and all insufficient to describe what transpires. My first book, The Mad Song, was composed in 10 days, September 2006. The Voices gathered, held our Carnival, then they left me to hammer the house back up best I could & present it for habitation.

I act not as editor of the individual pieces, or the assembled series, but rather as producer & DJ, drawing this to the fore, that to the back, over to the left, right, up, down, in, out, above, around. Mixes vary wildly & what might appear in one place may, much later, be found in a different form—dub, club, trance, chance, sound & pressure, sounds are pressure, & this informs that.

The piece featured in Fourteen Hills, “In the Early Morning in the Cypress Grove,” is both an aubade and elegy, one that proclaims love can/will never end while acknowledging, at least in this corporeality, it does. I’ve named the form a range. The method of composition might well then be called a pass, for how I did it was all at once, the best & only way to put it down, returning later & again later to adjust rhythm & melody. Girl Talk is a good analog: his music is centered in hip-hop, which brings in everything, everyone, & then some.

While Poetry arranges itself as music in the ear, it arranges words on the page too. We find music in Nature. If it please the gardeners & geologists, think of each line as a layer of mineral or soil, flower or plant, animal undoubtedly, always a star. Some are discrete, some run to one another, some are broken up only to meet at some other crease. The effect is pleasing at times, quite rude others, but—no use arguing that it is, so it’s got to be in there. Line upon line make a range, range next to range make the Green Mountains.

Each range is composed so you might take the first step up its side, crest here & there, put down at the foot having been to a place, a time, folded & swapped. A character or more talk the whole while, through stones, peer out from a crag or overhang, bubble from a stream or bloom from the cross of sky & jay, and as we pass o’er the range, we trace the DNA spiral of these Voices to hear the tale they spin, read the graffiti.

Much as in the formation of the “real” mountains under whose shadow I live, I have a little, but not much, to say about what goes where & why. Each ascent I hope brings a different panorama, or different eyes, & that’s what I aim for."

Michael Schiavo was born in Massachusetts, 1976. He was mainly raised in Connecticut, and has spent a few years in Georgia in between. He has been writing since his was little; discovering his craft as early as fifth grade and has been writing ever since. The Equalizer is an anthology of poetry from himself and many other collaborating poets such Tony Tost, Maureen Thorson, Eric Unger, and many others—all collected in a wonderfully crafted .pdf for easy reading.


Note: “In the Early Morning in the Cypress Grove” was mistitled in 17.1 as “In the Early Morning Cypress Grove”. We apologize to Michael for this mistake!

—Joel Gonzalez, Poetry Staff



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