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20 Questions with... Michelle Reale

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

Michelle Reale is the author of several poetry collections, including

Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press, 2019) and Blood Memory (Idea Press, 2021) and Confini: Poems of Refugees in Sicily (Cervena Barva Press, 2022). Her prose poem collection, In the Year of Hurricane Agnes is forthcoming from Alien Buddha Press. She is the Founding and Managing Editor for both OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing and The Red Fern Review.

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

I am a proud Italian-American poet, professor, researcher, mother, sister, daughter and dreamer. I am from a small town in Pennsylvania and had a rather ethnic upbringing with my parents and two siblings.

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

Yes! But more importantly, I think I always WAS a writer. I am an academic, a professor and an academic librarian. My doctorate is in educational leadership.

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

A collection of poems about refugees in Sicily.

What are you working on right now?

I have just completed a collection of poems In the Year of Hurricane Agnes, to be published, soon, by Alien Buddha Press. I have also received a grant and am working on a project that is an Italian-American reckoning of race. I have two other poetry manuscripts I am working on too.

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

I write every day, period. I begin every single day with writing in my journal. I am a voracious and inveterate journal keeper from the 3rd grade until now. I could not live my live without reflection. I am maniacal about it! I tend to my poetic life every day. I keep my projects out on my desk, where I sit in the morning before I go to work and in the evening after dinner to read poetry and/or write it.

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

I can write , literally, anywhere, and I do! But I have a wonderful desk in my home with lots of books and notebooks and that is where I like to write best.

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

I think people have to stop saying they want to write and just write. Writing is something I never, ever compromise on. I also possess a lot of discipline. If you are not writing or making the time to write, I would ask you: do you really want to write? Sometimes it seems a posture people make out of fear of beginning. And time? We all get the same 24 hours in a day. I don’t watch television. That makes a big difference.

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

This is going to be a really unpopular answer, but I am not crazy about live readings. Something about the theatricality of it, I find embarrassing. Even my own readings! My relationship with reading and writing poetry is this: just me and the page.

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

Yes! Loneliness is a big one for me. Yearning. Missed opportunities. Misunderstandings. Small moments writ large.

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

I think so. But I feel conflicted. I have seen writers whose work feels like a polemic .Not nuanced enough, but instead a hammer on the top of the head. There is nuance and there is balance and both are important.

Do you write between genres or not?

Well, I write a lot of research and have written seven academic books. But creatively, my focus is on poetry. I am a miniaturist. Distillation is important to me. I find a lot of contemporary work so overblown, so indulgent. I want to do the opposite of that with poetry.

Which living writers do you most admire?

Too many to list. Truly.

Which dead writers do you most admire?

Same answer as above!

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

Great question to ask, but I don’t go there!

What other external influences do you have: nature/place, music etc?

I cannot live without the influence of walking meditation in nature, which for me, means whatever I see in my neighbourhood. I love the quotidian. Music to me is essential!

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

I have never had writer’s block. I am not really sure it is a thing.

What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?

People have been so kind. When someone can find something to relate to. Even if it is only a line.

How do your family and friends feel about your writing?

Incredibly supportive!

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

Not really, though I do love bookshops.

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

I really don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball. What I focus on the most is the writing. That is not dismissive, just the truth. There is so much to be enraged about in today’s world,

and I can’t live like that. So I try to keep my writing far from it.

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