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Canada 150

 


      Un Momento with Carmelo Militano

       
      By
      Dec. 6, 2012

      Carmelo Militano immigrated to Canada from Calabria at an early age with his parents. He is a hard working poet, literary reviewer and member of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers. Carmelo has published several books of award winning poetry and prose. His latest poetry chapbook, Weather Reports, was published in 2010 and short-listed for the F.G. Bressani Award for poetry. Carmelo lives and works in Winnipeg.

      Your latest chapbook, Weather Reports, was just short-listed for the F.G. Bressani. Congratulations. How does it make you feel?

      It was great to be short-listed especially with such a distinguished group of poets one of whom used to be my poetry professor, George Amablie (who won), many years ago at the University of Manitoba. But, at the end of the day you never write with a prize in mind. You do the best you can with the knowledge and skill you have at the time. Being short-listed or winning a writing prize is a shot in the arm. To me it says we recognizes what you are trying to do, we connect with the work, which is satisfying and the point of it all. The other thing that made it great is that two different publishers turned the collection down and so I self-published with some friends and I got short-listed. Sweet.

      Weather Reports has many poems that are wonderfully erotic. Is this kind of poetry difficult for you to write?

      Erotic poetry has its own special challenges depending on what you are trying to do, and poetry in general is hard to do well. I think for erotic poetry to work it has to be subtle and it has to be real. Over the top erotica tips into fantasy or porn that mind have their place but does not work in poetry. The other challenge with erotic poetry, actually erotica in general, is that people tend to assume it is based exclusively on a rich lived experience. You can write some very fine erotic poems, like Leonard Cohen has, centered on a series of very small quiet erotic moments. And it does not have to focus on the usual body parts or feelings. Ondaatje in one of his poems ends looking at his lover’s elbow and bony shoulders.

      The cover image of Weather Reports is very captivating. Can you tell us how you chose it and how it fits the theme of the book?

      The cover image and its origins is an interesting story. I was introduced to an attractive Croatian Fine Arts student a few summers ago on the outdoor patio at Bar Italia who had recently moved to Winnipeg. She was a photography major and happened to have her portfolio, which she hoped to use to get into university. She showed some of her work and some of the images she had collected from the net to my cousin and me. I was near the end of writing a suite of erotic poems and spotted the current image in her collection. I loved the colour and the movement and the dream like figure of the woman. When it came time to publish the collection my cousin was able to track her down and ask her for the image for me to use as a cover. I never forgot it. I believe she originally found it on the net. Alas, I think she moved back to Croatia.

      What is your writing process? Do you write everyday or work from project-to-project?

      My writing process is to work on one project or writing genre at a time, for example, if I am writing poetry I read and write poetry. If I am writing fiction, I read and write fiction. In between the two I like to read essays. But when I write essays or reviews I stick to the collection or novel at hand and then write an essay or review. I can only get my head around one kind of writing at a time. Each has its own conventions and challenges. The process, especially for poetry and prose, involves accident and revision and revision to get it right.

      You are also a reviewer. Are reviews harder to write than poetry? And what is your review style or vision?

      I think a good poet should also write reviews, at least that is what one of the characters in The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano says. I agree. And the book, by the way, is a great novel if you love poetry and a mystery. I have heard people say reviews are hard to write, but I do not find it onerous. I like to think about how a poet or novelist puts together a poem or novel. Your first job as a reviewer is to show you actually understand the work. The second is to tell the truth as you see it and why. Show your bias and comprehension, but temper it with generosity. Show how your mind and spirit moves inside the work, but be truthful without being an ass-hole.

      How does your Italian cultural background inform or inspire your work?

      My Italian Canadian background is who I am and has shaped my experience. A piece of who you are cannot but end up in your work, especially poetry. Your writing almost always has your fingerprints all over it, but that does not mean all writing is autobiographical. Writing also comes from reading others, reflection, observation, and an inward desire to share or communicate what you see and feel.

      Italian Canadian writing seems to have focused a lot on the immigrant experience and a nostalgia for Italy. Where do you think the future of this writing will go? Do you think these subjects have been played out?

      The trauma of the immigrant experience is talked about and written about in all cultures that left their homeland, whether it be the Jewish American experience, the Japanese Canadian experience, or the Italian Canadian experience. It is huge and I suppose the further you get away from that lived experience there will be less urgency and interest to write about it. But, I don’t think it is exhausted. There are big holes to be filled in that experience. For example, what was it like to be an Italian in Canada in 1920, or say 1890? There is lots of historical stuff in the Italian experience that has not been treated in fiction. I always thought a novel about Italians building the railway on the Prairies and Northern Ontario could be interesting. It is funny the amount of physical work Italians have done in this country but no one writes about it.

      What are you working on lately?

      I have finished writing a novella called Sebastiano’s Vine and I am in the final stages of editing. It is about a teenage love triangle, a potent wine, bootlegging, and growing up Italian. I hope to send it around to a few publishers in the New Year.

      2 Responses to “Un Momento with Carmelo Militano”

      1. Kelly Hermes says:

        The guy is a vastly under-rated poet and literary critic. Generous in spirit and mind and an all around decent guy. He is always ready to help out a fellow writer.

      2. Jimbo says:

        Great Poet !!