Sunday, May 6, 2012

An Interview With Cristina Rizzuto

 One of two things happen to me at the end of every day. Sometimes, it is enough for me to close my eyes and enter the world of my dreams, where love and colours and yellow-brick roads await me. And sometimes, I don’t want to close my eyes, so that I can watch the night. I don’t want to miss all of its morbid, beautiful, frightful obscurities. This is my idea of happiness.”  So begins our conversation with Toronto-born poet and eternal hope-seeker, Cristina Rizzuto.

Blaurock: When did you first start writing The Music Makers

Cristina Rizzuto (CR): I never really started. It has accumulated over time. But I wrote the most in summer 2011 while living downtown on my own for the first time – more than half of it. The first poem was “On my balcony”, which I wrote when I was 15.

Blaurock: What is your favourite poem in the collection?

CR: That’s a hard question. I think my favourite is “Be rare”. I want to be rare, not beware. I want to live in a daring world. I want the world to be a place without the barriers of tradition.

Blaurock: What prompted you to group the poems into musical stanzas?  Has music played an important role in your life?
CR: That was the very last thing I did, when I finally started to think about a finished product. I do not play any instruments but music has played a very important role in my life. It inspires me, it moves me, it makes me think, it makes me feel. Without music, I am just going through the motions. And I cannot write anything unless I am listening to music.

I listen almost exclusively to film scores. When I’m driving, when I’m writing, when I’m cleaning the house, or making dinner, or doing yoga. Instrumental music is the only music I can concentrate to, and lose myself in.

Blaurock: What time of day do you usually write?  Do you have a routine?

CR: I can only write in the early morning. I feel focused then. Maybe my best ideas come to me when I’m half asleep. I also work best alone. I usually start writing at my kitchen table at 5 a.m. and stop whenever reality requires me to get ready for work and contribute to the economy.

Blaurock: You’ve interned at HarperCollins and worked with a variety of literacy organizations.  Has your work experience changed your attitude about getting published? 

CR: I loved interning at HarperCollins. I even loved my morning commute, because it gave me time to read. The experience has actually made me so much more positive about getting published and the industry in general. They were an amazing team. It was nice to be in an atmosphere where everyone loves books – and loves talking about books! I do that a lot.

Blaurock: Who are some of the writers who have affected you most?

CR: J.K Rowling and Jack Kerouac have affected me the most. For a long time, my existence was defined by Harry Potter.  It gave my childhood meaning, and gave me somewhere to escape to when I had to stay where I was. I read On the Road in my early teens, after taking it out from the library one summer, and became obsessed with the Beat Generation. It was about young people seeking meaning in their lives, searching for the answers. It helped me begin the process of finding them within myself, and gave me a powerful story and powerful ideas to think about forever.

Another book that had a big impact in my life was The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – I read a passage from it when I was 16, and it never left me. I can recite it by heart. “Beauty is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon...”

Blaurock: Any favourite poets?

CR: Shel Silverstein! Of course. Children’s books are the best of them all. Allen Ginsberg, Pablo Neruda, Dante Alighieri, and Christina Rossetti are also among my favourites. I really love to read contemporary poetry. There are so many wonderful writers today.

Blaurock: What would you like readers to take away from the experience of reading The Music Makers?

CR: Pay attention to life. Pay attention to your family, your friends, strangers on the street, the wind, your history, the sound of coffee grinding in the morning, conversation. Pay attention to the music.

In a world of ongoing conflicts and strife, outside and in our own lives, colours still exist. The sky. Family. Love. Plants. Animals. Food. Art. Oceans. Bridges. Cafes. Friendship. Hope. I see traces of hope everywhere.  It is good to remind ourselves of this.

Explore the world of The Music Makers and read excerpts from the collection at:

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