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Weekly Poem: W. S. Di Piero uses language to create ’emotional immediacy’

W. S. Di Piero never wants to hear again that his poems are intense.

“You get tired of hearing certain things if they get said so many times about the kind of work you do. I don’t write poems that are discursive or casual sounding or stroke my beard deliberative. That’s not what I do,” Di Piero told Art Beat.

Instead, the poet, whose recent collection “Tombo” was released in January, would rather think about his use of language.

“I’d like to think that anyone who just reads the poems, not to speak of listening, that the language will just jump on their nerves before they understand anything … Language, if you get it in the right patterns, get the right musicality, it will make some kind of emotional sense and have an emotional immediacy before it has a rational sense.”

Awarded the 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime accomplishments, Di Piero writes poetry and prose. In those moments when he is stuck on one, he says he “always has something under my nose.” (Chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown spoke to Di Piero after that win).

It was during one of those “distressful stretches” without writing when Di Piero composed “Nocturn,” a poem in his newest collection.

“I woke up during the night and I woke because I had words in my head so I recorded the words and that was essentially, except for minor revisions along the way, that’s the poem.”

Listen to W. S. Di Piero read his poem “Nocturne” from his newest book of poetry, “Tombo.”


Where are you now
my poems,
my sleepwalkers?
No mumbles tonight?
Where are you, thirst,
fever, humming tedium?
The sodium streetlights
burr outside my window,
steadfast, unreachable,
little astonishments
lighting the way uphill.
Where are you now,
when I need you most?
It’s late. I’m old.
Come soon, you feral cats
among the dahlias.

Writing a poem without revision isn’t a usual experience for Di Piero.

“Revision is so much a part of the process for me. I revise over periods of years, if necessary.”

But “Nocturne” was a poem he felt that all he needed to do was get it down, that was the experience he was working to convey.

“All of my poems are driven by experience so I have experienced or have had reported to me as someone else’s experience everything that comes out in these poems … You take on other people’s stories, that is my experience.”