In a world full of poets, you have to do a lot to stand out. Sure, sometimes you can get by on nothing more than the strength of your words, but when there’s so much competition that it’s harder than you first realise to get noticed.
That’s why the internet has been a blessing for poets, no less so than Damian Rucci. If it wasn’t for his many searingly truthful Facebook posts which can be both serious and light-hearted, this immensely talented “upstart” might have never been able to come to the fore.
October’s Poet of the Month is someone that you need to keep an eye on. Underestimate Damian Rucci at your own risk. He’s a firestarter.
I also just knew that he would send that photo to go with this.
Hi Damian, how does it feel to October’s Poet of the Month at Cultured Vultures?
Feels goddamned good! I’m absolutely honored and blown away by it to be honest. Poetry has always been a weird thing in my life and being recognized for it is both surreal and gratifying. I’ve struggled with the term “poet” for years. To me, it seemed that most folks who were calling themselves poets were pretentious asshats who do that weird sing song thing where they raise the pitch of their voice at the end of every line. I was predominately a prose writer and poetry was always a guilty habit of mine— I would write little haikus in my school notebooks, hundreds of angsty love poems riddled my teenage years, and I wrote lyrics for half a dozen failed bands across the Jersey Shore.
I always figured that prose would be my main focus and poetry would just be something to play with. A year ago I was hit by a car (I know— I’m a big ass dude and some woman smacked me damn good on my bicycle, I did some back flips, landed on her car, totaled said car, broke my legs etc. etc.) and lost everything I had. I lost my shitty basement apartment. I lost my job as a butcher. I lost a good deal of my ‘friends’ who fell away because who wants to party with a guy in a walker? And I lost my independence having to move into my grandmother’s trailer until I could learn to walk again.
I spent months just trying to walk in the day time and staring at the wall until my eyes bled. I started writing poetry again. Started reading poetry. I went on the internet and met dozens of poets who became close friends and I read their poetry and those who inspired them and it just snowballed.
This whole thing is pretty new to me.
Can you tell us some more about yourself and what poetry means to you?
I’m just a guy in my early twenties trying to figure this whole damn thing out. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. When I was younger I would lay on my grandmother’s porch and write into spiral bound notebooks for hours and hours. It never seemed like a dream but more of an inevitability. I’m not sure what happened or why I had such a fierce dedication to the written word but my grandmother says it goes back to Pokemon Cards.
I had a binder full of those damn things and at four would have my grandmother read me the cards descriptions and effects over and over again. One day she said she was so tired of doing it she just said no. I learned how to read after that and picked up writing a couple months after that.
I had two goals as a child: be a New York Yankee and be a writer— when it dawned on me I was too fat to be a Yankee, I figured writing was the only way to go.
Poetry is special to me. There is something that words can still do that I feel other forms of media can’t. With words you can interpret. You can take memory and change it— you can be vague or concise or both at once. Poetry is still such a crucial art. It has gathered a dirty name in the last couple of decades but there’s still so many great things happening. Poems are the cogs in the machine of the human spirit.
Is there a particular theme or style you stick to most with your poetry?
I try to be true. In my life I always try to remain myself across my art, my online presence, in person, and in any other facet. I see too many poets act one way in real life but on paper they’re some smooth talking, cigar smoking, gangster. In my poetry I am trying to break the stigma that poetry has gained. I’m trying to bring it to the people at the bar. I use the language of my people. I write about human experience sometimes heartbreak like my poems “She” and “Symphony of Crows” and sometimes downright degeneracy like “In Memory” where I talk about masterbating on a church bench and “The Tale of the Phantom Shitter” where I talk about my experience dealing with some asshole who used to shit on the bathroom walls when I was a janitor at supermarket.
I’m trying with my work, to get people to feel less alone. I want to connect to the weirdos, the skids, and the dirty faced guys sipping beer after working all day. There are entire populations of people who never knew that poetry could relate to them.
What’s the best poem you think you’ve written and why?
Well, I’m one of those cats that always tries to move past what he’s written. Not that I hate what I write but I know that I’m always growing and learning as a poet so my work keeps making strides forward. But I wrote a poem a couple weeks ago and posted it on Facebook that I’ve been really digging. It’s called “Softcore Porn Never Sounded Like This” and it came out of a conversation I had with my girlfriend poet Rebecca Weber. I was telling her that when I was like twelve I met some woman on the internet and we would have phone sex every night. The woman was like forty but I didn’t care, I was some hard dicked kid in the burning hell of perpetual masterbation we call puberty.
Rebecca was telling me how wrong it was. That, that was absolutely fucked. I thought about it a good deal after that and wrote this poem.
SOFTCORE PORN NEVER SOUNDS LIKE THIS
I haven’t had phone sex
since 2005 when Kay
stopped calling me
She was three times
my age but she didn’t care—
she was going to come
to America and make
a man out of me
once the chemo
stopped and she could
Kay said men her age
wouldn’t give a woman
in a wheelchair a chance
while boys and girls
were coupling up
in dim-lit gymnasiums
swaying to hits from the 80s
I was stroking
my half limp prick
to her purring to me
things I didn’t understand
and now just don’t remember
clenching my eyes shut
trying to conjure images
of what a vagina could look like
because the soft-core porn
commercials on channel 69
didn’t show anything below
Like a drunken buffalo
I would thrash around my sheets
with my member in my hand
dancing along her words
with each slap of hand
and when we would finish
I would slap my knees together
drunk off a cocktail of regret,
shame, and exhilaration,
say goodbye to Kay from Canada,
pull my waistband over my navel,
and slide down to the floor
so I could play with my action figures
I like this poem because it is honest and I don’t think there are any other poems like this especially from a male point of view.
And the worst? Are there any you look back on and they make you wince?
Not sure if you guys have enough server space for me to post the thousands of shitty poems I’ve written over the years. I used to write tons of bad poems and then one okay one would pop out. Over the years there’s been less poems that make me want to burn everything I’ve written. This whole thing has been a learning experience and I’m still lightyears away from where I want to be. I spent years writing bad poems in order to write a couple good ones. Just like when I first started doing readings— I had one lucky break at a story slam back in 2013 and after that I bombed over and over again for over a year. Made me quit doing it for a long while. I think it’s all about clocking in. Putting in the time. Doing the damned thing and learning from your mistakes.
Do you have any advice for new poets?
Read a lot. Write a lot. Don’t ask permission. I know it’s cliche but there are too many people who call themselves poets that don’t read poetry. It’s a damn shame. I sometimes think of poetry as a form of idol-worship. We read these poems written by the poets before us and from them we change the way we look at life. Poetry is this weird web where everyone inspires everyone and the art form pushes forward. If you want to get into poetry read every single thing you can get your hands on. Write whenever the muse strikes— don’t force it. Find local open mics— you’d be surprised some of the talent you will find at your local coffee shop.
Where should we be searching to find out more about poetry? Are there any groups or websites we should be aware of?
Facebook has become a wildly successful tool for the spreading of poetry. With a simple search you can find thousands of groups from around the world about every single genre, style, and school of poetry. From there you can find some great poets. Twitter too. I met B. Diehl and Charles Joseph on the internet and we clicked hard and I was introduced to a new world of poetry. Just get involved. Use google. Use social media to see what’s going on and get involved in those circles.
Any other poets we should be looking at?
Loads. Of course, there is Gabriel Ricard who’s a powerhouse, The Cringeworthy Poets Collective from up in Buffalo are doing some wild things, in Kansas City poets like James Benger, Jameson Bayles, Jason Preu, Jeanette Powers, and Victor Clevenger are really doing some outstanding work. Cleveland Wall and Lynn Alexander are two of my favorite poets of all time. In Jersey, we are lucky to have some fantastic talent like Cord Moreski, Charles Joseph, B. Diehl, and Joseph Quiroz to name a few. Rebecca Weber, which I’m not just saying this is one of my favorite poets. Her work is clean, pointed, and powerful. And John Dorsey is John Dorsey. He’s the best of today, hands down.
And finally, what’s your favourite poem?
I have several but to name one would be “A Primer” by Bob Hicok. It’s a powerful poem and the flow of it is absolutely masterful. It tackles the post-911 world with measure and compassion. It’s beautiful.