[CROSSING THE RUBICON] Ep. 4: Poetry with Andrew Inchiosa


Maddy: Hi, I’m Maddy Fisher and this is Crossing the Rubicon, SPAs poetry podcast. On this episode, I will be interviewing English teacher Andrew Inchiosa about his experience with poetry.

Inchiosa: I’m Andrew Inchiosa and my pronouns are he/him.

Maddy: If you can remember, what was your introduction to poetry like?

Inchiosa: Growing up, a big part of my introduction to poetry was in my family. My uncle is a poet, and so I think that I grew up hearing a lot about poetry and what it was like to be a poet and going to some of his readings and reading some of his work. I think that meant more and more to me as I got a little older; when I was in middle school or in high school, especially, I was always close to him and I think I was reading more of his work then and it meant a lot to kind of see things about his life for people in my family’s lives through his poetry. I think that was a big part of my introduction to poetry and made it a part of my life.

Maddy: What was your experience with poetry in school? Did you enjoy studying it and why or why not?

Inchiosa: I think in general, I really enjoyed studying it, but I think that I always felt with poetry a little bit not that confident about reading it or understanding it and there are different stages of that. I think that there is a version of that when I was maybe first reading poetry in middle school or high school. I’m sure I read it before then, but I don’t totally remember. I think that in high school I would sometimes read things for school and really love it and then read other things and think, I don’t really know what to make of this or I feel kind of lost. Some things felt that way, where I kind of felt like I was missing something, or not sure what to think. But then I had amazing experiences where something about reading it in school and the kinds of conversations that teachers and classmates would bring up or the things that I learned from people talking to them about poems was really helpful for me to understand things better or to know what I was drawn to or what was meaningful to me. I think it was a slow process, and I still feel that way sometimes like I’ll read something and think, I don’t know. But, I think that I kind of found that I could find love for certain poems or poets on my own, but also through those kinds of experiences in school.

Maddy: What is your relationship with poetry now and how has that changed from your first introduction?

Inchiosa: Poetry has been something that is more of what I’m reading or less of what I’m reading at different times. I think that in high school, and then maybe especially at different times in college I read a lot of poetry or I was really into reading poetry. I’d go to the library after school to read poetry or check out poetry books and read them. I feel like that changed at different times later on where I maybe went like a couple years without reading a new poem or something like that, or especially a whole book of poems. But then I feel like very recently, partly because I’ve gotten to teach some poems this year in 2021, in a class I’m teaching, but it’s been possible to read more poetry and just kind of like, spend a lot of time bouncing around between poems and throwing myself into poetry and and that’s been really wonderful. I think it’s a different kind of reading for me and I think it matters a lot to me when I get to do it and allows me to think about language and ideas and different kinds of stories and experiences in ways that are different from what I get from watching movies or reading novels or stories.

Maddy: You’ve talked about reading poetry a bit but do you ever write poetry and what has that experience been like?

Inchiosa: I think that I have written a little bit of poetry. I haven’t in a long time but it was something that I was into for a little bit. Growing up, I kind of wanted to be a writer. I mostly read fiction and short stories, and so I wanted to write those but I was really bad at it and I was like a really anxious short story writer where I’d write like two sentences of a story and then not be able to write anymore for a year so I kind of knew that I wasn’t actually going to be able to do that. I found that with poetry I was actually able to write it in a less self conscious way or I could just kind of sometimes come to it so I started to do that a little bit in college, on my own. I’ve only taken maybe one creative writing class in my life but I took one in college on poetry, which was really amazing. So it was for me that college time was the time when I did some writing. I think for me that was really important, like I got to think about things that I hadn’t really written or thought about before, in a way that was different from studying them academically, or talking about them. It was just kind of a chance to explore personal things or things that interested me about how people speak or talk or write in a way that I didn’t get to do otherwise and then to like talk to other people about their writing, which was maybe my favorite part. I still remember poems I read that my classmates wrote in that creative writing class. And then I kind of just became an adult and became a lot less willing to spend time doing that or like giving myself time to do that and so I feel like it’s not been something I’ve done in a while, which I feel some sadness about but also okay about that. Someday, maybe, I hope to go back to writing poetry again.

Maddy: What is your favorite poem and, sort of relatedly, who is your favorite poet?

Inchiosa: I don’t know if I have one favorite poem or a favorite poet; I feel like it kind of changes all the time, which is fun. Like I mentioned, I feel in the past couple of months I’ve gotten to read more poetry again, for the first time after not discovering a lot of new poetry for a while. I’ve been really into this poet named Alice Oswald, who we got to read a little bit for the English elective I’m teaching now, Literature in the Environment, and we’re gonna read more of her work a little bit later this spring. She writes these really long poems sometimes so she has this kind of adaptation of the Iliad called “Memorial” that’s very, very beautiful and unusual and then the book that we’re kind of looking at is called “Falling Awake” and the last poem in it is this poem called “Tithonus.” Let me read that subtitle. Actually, I have it with me. It’s called “Tithonus” or “46 Minutes in the Life of the Dawn,” and the story is about Tithonus, who the Dawn fell in love with and asked Zeus to make him immortal in Greek mythology, but then forgot to say he wouldn’t grow older, so he just becomes older and older but still immortal. Eventually the Dawn like locks him in a room and so he kind of just lives on endlessly waiting for Dawn to keep coming each day. This poem is sort of about him seeing the dawn one day. It’s sort of meant to last for the time that the sun rises and so it’s kind of about the natural world and also kind of this character and it’s just extraordinarily beautiful. It just seems like something I never could have imagined but also related to like the dawn or dusk which I see some days. I just find it unbelievably beautiful and it’s writing and just so cool in what it’s thinking about or imagining. I would recommend it. Yeah, it’s really beautiful.

Maddy: Yeah, I will definitely have to check that out. What recommendations do you have for students? Both writing and reading poetry; I know there’s different struggles that come with both. Do you have any tips for either?

Inchiosa: Oh man, that’s a great question, Maddy. I feel for reading poetry, I think that poems ask us to be kind of open to going into a lot of places in a way that fiction also does but it’s a little different, like we can really go down paths that seem really unexpected and we can be in places where kind of conventions of what is being said to us or spoken to us are much harder to keep track of or know, especially if we’re just kind of looking at a new poem that’s unlike something we’ve read before. I think that with some poems you’ll feel them almost straight away, even if you don’t understand them. That’s one experience you can have and that’s great. Sometimes you’ll get both of those pieces together. That’s also great. Then sometimes you won’t get it at all and that’s also like most of my experience; that’s probably for me the most common experience like I don’t really know what to make of this. Sometimes those times you’ll kind of learn to love them or develop much stronger feelings about them as time goes by and as you get to talk about them in different kinds of ways and look at them. I think that’s one of the coolest things that poetry can do, and sometimes it will be like, I still don’t get it or it still doesn’t work for me, which is also a common experience for me. I think feeling like all those different kinds of experiences are possible with reading poetry and being okay with all of them and knowing that like everyone is going to have those experiences is something that I think is helpful to know. I think for writing poetry it’s something that I’m not super experienced with still but I think it’s a little bit similar. With a lot of writing, if you feel like it might be fun for you or meaningful for you or different for you to try to write something for yourself, or to share with someone else, or just to kind of explore a thought for yourself I think being kind of open to doing that and seeing how it goes, is really cool. I think if you feel like, oh, this might be something that I’d like to do or if you’ve done it once for a class and you kind of liked that or something about that, I think being open to trying that out for yourself, and then sometimes it can be fun too. I mostly wrote for myself, but it can be fun to find a friend or two who might also want to share something with you or someone you don’t know as well who might want to share something with you. I think doing it for yourself is great and then finding one or two other readers or people you’d want to share that work with at some point can be amazing too.

Maddy: Awesome. Thank you so much! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Inchiosa: Not really. This was fun to talk about. Like I said before, I think it’s something that’s kind of like with a lot of forms of literature and art, it’s there for us to kind of like find it at different moments in our life when we’re excited about it. So I hope that I’ve been feeling that way like poetry is here and I’m excited about it. And I hope different people get to experience it that way too.

Maddy: Thank you to Andrew Inchiosa for sharing his story. Once again, I’m Maddy Fisher and this has been Crossing the Rubicon.

Adding The Sun by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/5708-adding-the-sun
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/