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20 Questions with... Giulio Magrini

Giulio Magrini has performed at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Arts Festival numerous times, and many other venues in the City. He has conducted poetry workshops at alternative high schools, prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and hosted a radio show for local poets. He was asked to perform his elegy to late mayor Richard Caliguiri, The Pittsburgher, with the Pittsburgh Symphony at Point State Park before a 4th of July crowd of over 100,000 people. Magrini has always preferred performing his work over publishing--until now. The Color of Dirt is an anthology of his poetry and flash fiction, and may be purchased via Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, or preferably by contacting the poet himself at As Magrini tells us, “We have put our hands in the dirt and sanctified each other.”

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What was your life like growing up?

My name is Giulio Magrini and I am from Pittsburgh PA. I am the grandson of an immigrant, my Nonno, also named Giulio. Our family was originally from the city area of Pitttsburgh. After moving to the suburbs, my family had a comfortable, protected life in a part of Pittsburgh that emphasized community and safety. We were therefore insulated and sought compliance. No individuality need apply. We were happy, comfortable, and conveniently ignorant.

Did you always want to be a writer? If you also work, what do you do / did you do?

I had no idea what I wanted to do. My motion was voluntary but without purpose. Goals were for rigid people. I was wrong, of course. It is important to have a dedicated professional fulfil the purpose. I am retired from my latest occupation as an Enforcement Agent for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Prior to that I assisted pathologists when they performed autopsies. I was an unpredictable ping-pong ball.

Tell us about your most recently published work in a sentence.

My most recent publication is my book, The Color of Dirt. It is a compilation of my writing over the last fifty years.

What are you working on right now?

The promotion of the book, including readings at book stores, libraries, coffee shops, and other interesting venues. My last book drop was at a friend’s restaurant Il Pizzaiolo, where the audience listened to my work while they ordered pizza, wine, and other appetizers for the purpose. The gustatory process was glorious.

Do you have a writing routine, and if so what is it?

I write anytime, anywhere, but most of my work is done in my office.

Where do you write – always in the same space, or different places? Can you write ‘on the move’?

A better answer is that all ideas for my work are typed into a Word doc called “SEEDS” on my computer. It is a good place for weeds to grow.

What advice do you have for other authors who are starting out? What is the best advice you’ve heard?

Learn to listen to the sound of YOUR voice. Imitation is for chumps. Bukowski and the Beats were great, and inspirational. Fanaticism will thieve from your artistic direction. You need to use your individual talent, as it is special. Study your predecessors. Learn from them and use their art and lives to improve your own.

Do you enjoy doing live readings or are they a necessary evil – or somewhere in between?

From the beginning, I fashioned myself as a performer of my written work. The excitement of physical sharing was my motivation. I hope that preference is betrayed in my writing? Still, I would publish only to legitimize my credibility to my audiences. My publishing history was therefore bait for my audiences. I used my publication experience, therefore, as an imprimatur. I reasoned that after all, my work is written for a general non-academic audience. I wanted my table to be equipped with comfy chairs with purple cushions, hard, unyielding seats, high-chairs for the uninitiated, and couches to encourage my listeners to sit with someone else as they listened.

Are there recurring themes in your work? Where do you feel these emanate from if so?

A preferred way to answer is to enumerate the chapters in my book of poetry and flash fiction The Color of Dirt. 1. Amore (Love) 2. Arte (Art) 3. Odiare (Hate) 4. Politica e Guerra (Politics and War) 5. Sporco (Dirt) 6. Famiglia e Relazione Family and Relationships.

Should writers have a moral purpose? What is the purpose of a writer in today’s society?

Writers should have a moral purpose,which is to follow their voice. Create a path of truth for those that need or enjoy it. Admonish and administer against the cultural poison when the writer sees it. Your reader or listener can determine the worth of your voice. We speak to each other in recognition and harmony. The appropriateness of dissonance is also a strong tool, all to be used with discretion.

Do you write between genres or not?

I write poetry, flash fiction, and some Italian poetry which I translate for publishing and readings.

Which living writers do you most admire?

Isabel Wilkerson, David Rabe, Mario Llosa, and many others, including myself.

Which dead writers do you most admire?

Howard Zinn, Jacob Bronowski, James Baldwin, Leo Tolstoy, Lorraine Hansberry, Arthur Miller, James Goldman, Shelby Foote, Jean Rimbaud, Pablo Neruda, and many others.

What’s the book you wish you’d written?

The Lion in Winter

What other external influences do you have?

I do not consider influences external, for one thing. My interests in cooking, travel, and music directly express who I am.

Do you suffer from ‘writer’s block’ and how do you overcome it if so?

I have never had writer’s block. The only lack of inspiration to write is to be dead. Sadly there are some who meet that criteria that publish today.

What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?

Even if my topic is depressing and hateful, I am generally happy when I write, including answering these interview questions. Writing is medicinal for me, and brings out my enthusiastic nature.

How do your family and friends feel about your writing?

I am pleased to be supported by friends and my wife Barbara, who is my only remaining family.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

I try to support all their missions ecumenically.

How do you see the future of writing? Will we become more or less dependent on Amazon?

Platforms like Amazon provide a means for others to publish their work, and that is good. Writers need to sit at the table of the world, and limitations and exclusivity have no place. Alternatively, the small presses of the world are a beautiful and more intimate place for writers who are able to work within their boundaries. A novitiate writer cannot always connect with a willing publisher, or understand the protocols of submission. So, your answer depends on the individual circumstances of each specific writer. I have an accomplished friend and writer who does not believe in the publishing world. He creates PDFs and YouTube videos of his work and presents it to the world. Writers will create their own individual environment but must live there. There is no universal one-dimensional artistic world, as that concept is counter-productive to our purpose. We must walk our path in our way, and alone.

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