Robert Walicki is the curator of VERSIFY, a monthly reading series in Pittsburgh, PA. His work has appeared in HEArt, Stone Highway Review, Grasslimb, and on the radio show Prosody. He won first runner up in the 2013 Finishing Line Open Chapbook Competition and was awarded finalist in the 2013 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition. He currently has two chapbooks published: A Room Full of Trees (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014) and The Almost Sound of Snow Falling (Night Ballet Press, 2015).
DS: Why do you write poetry?
RW: I write poems because I have to. It's a creative impulse that rooted itself in me and really feels as necessary and as natural as breathing.
Interestingly, I actually began as a visual artist as far back as I could remember, but halfway through art school, I realized that I wasn't in love with what I was doing, and I was pretty crestfallen at the time about it. I played around with writing, but I only started writing seriously about eight or nine years ago. I fell in love with the form and the possibilities in writing poems.That was it for me. I was sold.
DS: What do you hope to find in poems written by other people?
RW: What I like to see in poetry are poems that are honest and aren't afraid to express emotion. I look for poems written with restraint, guts, and humor. I never want to be lost in the poem. Grounding is very important for me. I need to know where I am within the context of a given poem and to believe in the world that the poet is trying to create. In short, I like poems that engage the heart as well as the head.
DS: Describe your works in progress.
RW: I am working on several projects. One, a full length which features poems from both of my chapbooks as well as others that tie together the narrative thread between them.
The other project is a chapbook which is a bit of a departure for me. All of the poems will be about or inspired by elements in popular culture. It started very organically. I suddenly realized I had a bunch of poems that fit that theme. I'll be excited when that's finished!
DS: What are your hopes for the future of poetry?
RW: My hopes are twofold. One of my dreams is to have poetry accepted more by the mainstream community and media. It's a vibrant time to be a poet in Pittsburgh right now, but we're preaching to the converted. Most if not all of the people that attend our readings are other poets and writers. I want to see more awareness brought to the art of poetry as a vital and legitimate art that can be accessible and appreciated by all people, whether they are poets or not.
My other goal is to break down barriers within the community itself. There are so many groups and communities of poets that make up this thriving literary city, but that said, this can lead to it being fragmented. This is what I've tried to do with my series: put poets together that have never or probably would never read together to see what happens. It's about community. The sense of belonging that we are a part of something bigger than what we are apart.
Robert's chapbook from Night Ballet Press:
Robert's Recent Works Online: