Friday, January 16, 2009
LO GALLUCCIO: A Writer Who Struggles With Passion and Intellect.
With Doug Holder
Poet, memoirist, and vocalist Lo Galluccio grew up in Cambridge, Mass, the daughter of a prominent labor attorney. She graduated Harvard College and then attended acting school in Chicago. She was an understudy at the famed Steppenwolf Theater Company, and toured Greece with a theater troupe. She worked as a poetry columnist with The Cambridge Alewife, published a poetry collection with the Ibbetson Street Press: “Hot Rain”, and has a new memoir out with the Cervena Barva Press: “Sarasota Vll.”
Galluccio was very much part of the New York City Lower East Side arts scene in the 90’s, releasing a CD with the famed Knitting Factory label. She currently works as an ESL teacher in the Allston section of Boston, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry. I talked with her on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”
Doug Holder: You said in your interview with the Cervena Barva Press that men/mentors have taken your head off. How hard is it in the arts scene for a woman?
Lo Galluccio: I recently discovered Leonard Cohen and we did a tribute to him at the Squawk Coffeehouse in Cambridge. I read an interview with him in which he said he learned everything he knows from the opposite sex. In a song of his “Tower of Song” he writes, “They don’t let a woman kill you.” It made me reflect how many times I was metaphorically killed by male mentors. I feel I got as much as I could from the people I followed. If you are in a place like New York, especially, and you are precocious, ambitious, and temperamental and a woman, sometimes men will twist that around and have a hard time with it. I remember when I was working as a waitress, a man I admired a great deal told me “We’re done.” He was a poet I adored. I could have burned all his books. It was a matter of marital infidelity. I didn’t want to do it, so I told him no. I didn’t think this person would turn on me but he did. I was devastated, but two years later I sent him white roses—that’s how loyal I am. I have had my life threatened. I don’t think I come across as a very combative person. I have a side of me to me where I can be like a dog with a bone.
DH: Do you think things have changed for women on the arts scene from the time when you were cutting your teeth?
LG: Oh yes. It’s funny I opened up “Anne Sexton’s: Collected Works” recently, and she is someone who has had a huge influence on me. She has one poem that ends like this: “ I am sexless like Christ, beyond being a man or a woman.” And that’s Anne Sexton in the 60’s! I think people like her, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, paved the way for me.
DH: You cut your teeth in the East Village of NYC in the 90’s. This wasn’t the Village of the 60’s—what was the milieu like?
LG: It was in the 90’s but you had people around who dropped out of places like olumbia, like my friend Roy Nathan son (Leader of The Jazz Passengers), who told me: “You get a million chances.” I don’t really think that’s true, but I think it is a good thing to think.
DH: What was the scene like then?
LG: The milieu was experimental, it was diverse, it was pretty warm, open and communicative. A novice singer like me got to play with some top-notch people. I was told the East Village was where the “Weed trees grow,” I thought of myself as a weed tree. At this time I decided to give up an acting career that wasn’t booming. Although I was a stage actress and I did get some work.
DH: You have been an actress, vocalist, poet, journalist, educator, etc…. What hat fits you best?
LG: if I had to do it all over again I would have wanted to be a fabulous actress. I studied at the Goodman School in Chicago.. And I was very much encouraged to stay in school. But I dropped out. My Dad died when I was fifteen, so I just didn’t have enough of a foundation to stay with it. I had a wound that needed to heal in a lot of different ways, with a lot of different experience. It’s sad because I loved the craft of acting. I was an actress who was cerebral.
DH:What is your new memoir "Sarasota VII" about?
LG: The book is about how love can be warped by the memory of significant losses -- especially family deaths -- and it's a feminine statement about how desire is necessary and also how it can corrupt. It's in two parts and numbered and lettered paragraphs. Intertwined in the prose-poem narrative are scientific descriptions of Saturn's rings and the vortex of black holes....
DH: In your new memoir you write of the men in your life, the conflict of passion and intellect. Can you define that conflict? Can they coexist?
LG: You know, the brilliant reviewer Michael Todd Steffen, found a psycholinguistic dimension to the memoir. I really appreciated this, because I hope its there. Sometimes I think this book is just on long distorted rant. It is not a straight memoir.
My lover, John in the memoir, was a tremendous actor. We were both drawn to each other. When I conceptualized this book I thought of John as a black hole. Black holes are incredible vortexes of energy that have the ability to suck stars into them.
Basically the book is about the darker aspects of passion. How it can be dangerous and depleting. To live totally in a realm of sexual and visceral energy you need a place of sobriety. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I could handle it, I don’t think I could now.
DH: Was there a writer who influenced when you wrote the memoir?
LG: Marguerite Dumas. Her memoir “The Lover” was a seminal work for me. It has a wonderful obsessive quality about it.
DH: Did your grief for you Dad’s death spur you on to become an artist?
LG: Oh yes. Grief for my Dad most definitely drove me to be an artist. The world just turned upside down for me. I confronted the concept of finality. How many unresolved things remained between us. How my father’s Italian spirit lives in me.
DH: If your father hadn’t died when you were so young how would your relationship be?
LG: I think we would have had a tremendous power struggle. That’s partly why some of my relationships have been marked by that power struggle.
DH: So you might have a better relationship to your dead father?
LG: Death opens up something. That dark tunnel—different forms of light. The first work of art that I made, that I am really proud of, is “Being Visited” on the now defunct Knitting Factory label. One of the songs was an elegy for my Dad.
Thankfully as I grow older I am able to let go of the narrative of my life. Other people pulled me outside of my grief over my father.
DH: Can you tell us about your time at the Knitting Factory in NYC? It was a hotbed of the avant-garde, no?
LG: It was thrilling to be at a club like that. I worked with John Zorn,the avant-garde saxophonist. I was green, so it had it scary moments for me.
* To purchase Galluccio's memoir "Sarasota Vll" go to http://cervenabarvapress.com
Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Jan. 2009/Somerville,