Dodge Poet Spotlight: Michael Cirelli

Posted on by Dodge

Welcome to our continuing blog series here on Poetry Fridays, Dodge Poet Spotlight. We are turning the focus over to the individuals who make our programming what it is in the schools, with teachers in Spring & Fountain, and on the ground at the Dodge Poetry Festival — the Dodge Poets.

Each week, a Dodge Poet answers some questions about themselves and provides a selected poem of their own work. We hope that this will be a way for you to get to know the Dodge Poets a little better, and you can get an idea of why we love working with them so much.

Without further ado, today’s Dodge Poet is Michael Cirelli.

What are you reading?
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon, makes me want to give up on my fiction experiments…

When did you first discover poetry?  What poets made you want to write poetry?
I guess I first discovered poetry when I heard Run DMC’s “Raising Hell” album in 1986. Later I was moved by De La Soul’s “Stakes is High,” The Smiths’ “Meat is Murder,” Kenneth Koch’s “New Addresses” and Jack Gilbert’s “The Great Fires.”

Richard Hugo said we’ve written every poem we ever loved.  He was particularly proud of having written Yeats’ “Easter, 1916.”  What great poem are you proud of having written?
I’m not sure I’d call any of my poems “great,” however I’m fond of a series of five poems all with the same title, Brown Skin Lady, that explore whiteness, blackness, hip-hop and terrorism.

What is your favorite place to read?
Other than Dodge? Hands down Club Monet in Providence, RI where I had my book release party for my guido-centric-Jersey-Shore-opus, “Everyone Loves The Situation.” My cousin Vinny, whom the book is dedicated to, worked security at this club where DJ Pauly D started his career. The reading came equipped with strobe lights, fog, and eggplant parm…

With all the other demands and distractions in life, how do you make time for poetry?
I think poetry makes time for me. I used to systematically carve out time and space, with a melon baller, and try to write consistently because I’m a proponent of consistency, but now it seems like I have time for nothing except working, and eating, and as I told my editor (to her dismay) “I think surfing has trumped writing” (when there are waves)…so when a manuscript materializes it comes as a great surprise to me.

Here’s the title poem from my new collection The Grind (Hanging Loose Press, 2013):

The Grind

My mother knows The Grind.
Knows its shoe size, how it likes
its coffee. The Grind has always
been there, since the beginning,
before the Cadillac, before me
with more hours spent reading
than grinding. My family’s related
to The Grind, and when we lose
it, it’s like an uncle died.
When Nana and Papa had to close
their restaurant, you could brew
your coffee in the tears. Papa lost weight,
gained weight, died. When we’re
in The Grind, we complain about it
all the time. The Grind is rude, The Grind
is cheap, The Grind can’t get us to Florida
fast enough. The Grind turns our feet
to ash. When Mom got in a car accident,
she couldn’t work for five months.
The first week off was fine, but slowly
lonely started to buzz in her ear,
and she couldn’t sleep,
like when I moved away to college,
and she couldn’t eat. College was the myth
that The Desk was better than The Grind.
The myth of: so you don’t have to
work like we do. Her first day back
I called her, and she told me, It’s good
to get back to The Grind.
That’s the thing about The Grind—
when you’re in it, you want out,
but when you don’t have it,
you miss The Grind.

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