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The editors of Poetry magazine have paired the following prose quotation from City Dog: Essays by W.S. Di Piero with this poem:
I was sitting in the Upper West Side studio of the painter Paul Resika. We’ve known each other nearly twenty years. I’ve seen a great many of his paintings and he has read my books. He’d been wanting to paint me, but since I didn’t have days to give up for an oil portrait, we spent a long afternoon talking, smoking cigarillos, and drinking sherry—very Philippe de Montebello—while he drew. An hour or so along I was confiding secrets (which is not my habit) and relating long-ago events that hadn’t before snagged in my consciousness. I monologued (also not my habit), I couldn’t shut up, I was being a real chiacchierone, as my family would say, wagging their hands as if flicking water from their fingertips. Roy Eldridge boiled from the cd player while I related an anecdote from my childhood, about a time when I briefly and uselessly took music lessons. “You should write about that,” Resika said. And a year later, I do, but in the writing the originating anecdote turns into an essay on how in my youth music became inseparable from physical pain. It’s pure self-portraiture. (But what is its truth?) Meanwhile, it’s three hours later and Paolo has finished two drawings, one a suave, light-handed, rather fair likeness. “Not bad, this one,” he says. “But I think I got something here.” What he got was a portrait that snapped and roared at me—an angular, anxious head that looked not so much drawn as struck. He had found, or reimagined, animal quickenings in my inner life which only I (I thought) was aware of; the image also coined a sensation very familiar to me, a crude blending of idiotic irrational joy and fevered fear of living in a world of harm.
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W.S. Di Piero was born in 1945 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned degrees from St. Joseph’s College and San Francisco State College. A poet, essayist, art critic, and translator, Di Piero has taught at institutions such as Northwestern University, Louisiana State University, and Stanford, where he is professor emeritus of English and on faculty in the prestigious Stegner Poetry Workshop. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, Di Piero was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2012.
Di Piero’s poetry is known for its gritty realism. Populated with characters and settings reminiscent of the South Philadelphia neighborhood of his boyhood and the Italian-American working-class families he grew up with, Di Piero’s poetry frequently makes use of colloquial language and diction—what poet Philip Levine described as “our American voices in all their glory and banality.” Using everyday objects as well as speech to create...
Poems By W. S. Di Piero
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