“It is in our nature to share and collaborate”: an interview with Peter Ciccariello

This is the second in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Anyone who submits to the Storehouse has to think through the question of creative control — how important is it to you, what do you gain or lose by holding on to or releasing control? Our second interview is with Peter Ciccariello.

1. Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse means taking a step back from a focus on oneself as individual creator and opening up one’s work to a new set of creative possibilities. Talk about your relationship to your work and how you view this sort of control relinquishment.

PC: I think artists and writers are by nature introspective and solitary. I work alone, thinking and creating in a quiet and controlled space, my most creative and free times are late at night, well past the hour between dog and wolf. There is an innate resistance to collaboration but there is also an allure and a fascination. Since my work is about appropriation, remixing and re-purposing, and ultimately about ownership, I think it may be easier for me to see my work altered or re-interpreted by other artists. As I have grown as an artist, I welcome the chance to actually see how others see my writing and am actually fascinated by how it can be birthed into a new form. Lately I have been reading and thinking a great deal about the idea of cooperation among animals in an evolutionary sense as opposed to individualism and “survival of the fittest.” It is in our nature to share and collaborate and it is ultimately essential to our growth as creative people and as human beings.

2. There is never any telling whether one will love or hate the remixes that result when a poet permits remixing of his or her work by others. Please describe the remixes that have resulted for your work at the Storehouse and your own reactions to them.

PC: Marc Neys (Swoon)’s video remix of my poem “Today is your advocate” (read by Nic S.) was an absolute delight to experience. My overwhelming reaction was that they actually “got it.” My work can be so removed and inaccessible at times that is truly amazes me when someone actually understands what I meant. That is not said in an elitist sense, more because my writing deals with issues like obscurantism, and free association, so at times it is not the most accessible or available use of language.

3. Would you do this again? What is your advice to other poets who might be considering submitting to The Poetry Storehouse?

PC: Absolutely! Highly recommended.

4. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?

PC: I thought that it would be interesting to see how a remixed piece would get altered being used by a number of different artists and writers over and over again. That is a major fascination in my own work. Taking a poem or a word and deconstructing it until the original context is destroyed. What is left? Where is the meaning? What is the source of a new understanding?

5. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience?

PC: Having other people create something new from something you have created is a marvelous concept. From the roots of Tristan Tzara pulling words out of a hat to create a poem in the 1920’s, to William Burroughs cut-ups and Creative Commons licensing, The Poetry Storehouse appears to be on the right trajectory.

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