Vincent Ancona

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?

The only real constant in my creative process has been variation.  Trying new approaches or a combination of both new and old elements.  One common theme is that I like to listen to music when I write.  I’m also a musician, so having that Third Presence really helps to draw out the poetry that’s always hiding in my sub-conscious.  I want the poems to lure people in the same way a song would.  I want them to be that instantly relatable and intoxicating.  I draw a lot of my inspiration from observing human behavior.  I’ve always considered myself somewhat of an anthropologist. My entire life I have felt as though I were observing life through a glass window pane.  I never felt like I was a part of the crowd.  Contrary to the popular saying,  I was on the inside looking out.  Yet the glass helps, because then you see a feint reflection of yourself , too. And it’s almost as though, in looking through that veil, looking through myself,  maybe even formyself, I’m able to make an assimilation, or a synthesis of sorts. The goal of my creative process these days is to bring every day elements of life to surface, using my own experiences as a conduit to branch out into even greater universal realizations.  I think it’s very important to put yourself inside something completely so that it can better be externalized.  It’s the little nuances that can sometimes be the most intense and relatable.  Poetry should always tell a story, but  like most things in life, it’s the small details that paint the bigger picture.

What themes and concepts does your work generally revolve around? Do you write about life experiences?

Of course.  Mother nature.  Human nature.  The nature inherent in all things.  Conceptually, I like to focus on impact, rather than actions.  Aftermath, rather than destruction.  Who survives the catalyst and why.  What comes after the catalyst.  I guess I’m kind of obsessed with what happens next in life.  How do we respond, collectively, to all the crazy outside stimuli that surrounds us on a daily basis…? Why do we respond this way? Are there healthier ways to respond?

How would you define your style?

I don’t adhere to any rules if that’s what you’re asking.  I’ve learned many of the rules.  But I feel like I had to learn them to determine which ones I needed to break in order to find my own voice.   I don’t want to be an amalgamation of opinions.  I don’t want to lose touch with the mainstream world.  I suppose you could label my style as prosaic, or free verse.  I’m definitely an emotionalist. But when it comes to writing poetry, I’m allergic to any rules I don’t make.  To be completely fair, I am just as open to breaking the rules I create.  I operate from within a free zone.  No boundaries, no restrictions.  Everything is raw and usually involves a pretty intense introspection.

When did you begin writing?

I had my first poem published when I was 13.  It’s safe to say I started writing around that time.  I rescued a dog who was abused, bones crushed, some protruding through his flesh.  I carried his bloody body in my arms all the way to my grade school.  Every day, on the way to school, the other kids would just walk by ignoring his quaking body and shrill crying.  One day, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I knew I had to do something or he wouldn’t have a chance at survival.  The dog ended up dying, anyway.  But that experience changed me forever. I guess it was then that I realized that there were great injustices occurring in the world every day.  I felt I needed to call attention to these things, to lift up the rug.  Not to dwell in misery, but to raise awareness, to illicit change.  It inspired my first published poem.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I was formally and classically trained as a guitarist for over 10 years.  I taught myself to play the piano and flute all throughout my childhood.  I was also formally trained in the cello.  I was involved in arts programs at any school I attended and excelled in them naturally.  I had and befriended a few exceptional teachers and professors.  But I have to say, I definitely gained the most insight from other artists, poets, friends, and most importantly, my own observations.   I wanted to especially thank the following brilliant minds for supporting and encouraging me to continue my work over the years:  Susaye Green, former member of The Supremes; Nobel Peace Prize nominated Bryant McGill; brilliant world class poets, CA Conrad, Dan Maguire and Rae Desmond Jones; legendary photographer David LaChapelle and make-up artist Sharon Gault; incredible choreographer John Byrne;  Professor Moshe Kam,  DJ Reed McGowan,  and anyone who has ever read my poetry.  That kind of support has really been my engine over the years.

Do you consider yourself a performance artist?

Hell, yes.  I believe poetry needs to look pretty on paper, and it’s entertaining to manipulate the visual space, but every great poet should be able to feel and relay  their words to an audience.   It’s always concerned me when I hear poetry being read as though I were listening to a sermon in a Catholic church.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve been dabbling in work by the following poets in no particular order: Gerald Stern, Gwendolyn Brooks, W.S. Merwin, Yehuda Amichai, Pablo Neruda, Maya Angelou, CA Conrad, Jack Spicer, Elizabeth Bishop, Kenneth Patchen, and Terrance Hayes.   There’s too many of us to remember all the names.  Honestly, nowadays, I’ve really been getting into photography and painting as a source of inspiration.  Sherman, Arbus, Serrano,  Pollock, Twombly, Weems, too many names to mention, really.

What do you think of the Philly arts scene? Do you feel connected? What are the best and worst things about being a writer in the Philly area?

I believe the scene is growing, and there are some things happening which are good for the city. My best friend Liz Krick (an amazing painter) and I took over an artists co-op in Fishtown. The best thing about the scene is the folks who are running things are usually well connected.  There are many great artists in the city.   However, I feel that overall the scene is too safe.  There are not enough risks being taken, and not enough of a sense of community.  Artists aren’t communicating enough.  Most of us are islands.  Gay artists don’t leave the gayborhood enough.  There tend to be ‘cliques’.  Even though I have been accepted into some of these cliques, I don’t support the idea of exclusivity.  I feel the scene and the artists need to become more visible and more risqué.

How would you describe your work to someone who hasn’t read or heard it yet?

I wouldn’t try to describe it to them very much.  I’d rather have people read it and formulate their own opinion.

What do you hope people get out of your work?

I want people to get clarity, depth, resonation.  I want there to be a sense of security, even if the poem doesn’t completely resolve something.  I want to hear people saying, ‘yeah, that’s true.’ I enjoy using metaphors to describe things better than they represent themselves.  I guess I hope that by calling attention to certain things I can lure them out in the open, out of the sub-conscious, and into a visible place, where it’s possible to start making some kind of sense of them.

Do you collaborate with other artists?

Yes.  My two muses and best friends Liz Krick and Andrew Dyer.  We were featured artists on First Friday in Philadelphia for a show we put together last year.  We’ve done many shows citywide and independently.  Liz is an amazing painter who has really inspired me and Andrew is literally, living, breathing art.  We work in tandem in many cases.  We also keep each other sane and motivated.

Who and or what has had the greatest influence on your work?

I could rattle off a list of names, but I’d rather not.  Life is the greatest influence on my work.  And anyone who has the courage to pursue what they really love while defying overwhelming odds. Fighters.  Survivors.

What is your definition of success when it comes to your writing?

I want the work to be honest and to have integrity.  My work is successful if someone can read it and take something meaningful away from it.

Have you been published? Self published?

Yes and Yes.

Are you involved/ do you create visual art?

Yes, I do.  I am currently working on a series of  images that will feature one-liners from some of my poems.  I feel that super-imposing these ideas as images will give them new life.   I would like to eventually have them in a gallery or utilized in other ways.

If you had the time and resources to segue into another medium, what do you think it might be?

Painting or photography. It’s hard to decide which.

Music you like:  Anything with integrity or depth.   Although there are times when I just like obnoxious songs, too.

What are some of your interests?

I am interested in amelioration and everything that encompasses…

Favorite visual artists?

See far above.   Anything that takes risks and helps to shift my perspective on something.

Favorite movies?

Any with depth.  I really enjoy psychological mind benders.  American Beauty was a great movie. But perhaps not as great as it seemed.  I tend to follow certain directors work.  Fellini, Almodovar, Anderson, von Trier, Mendez, Aronofsky, Bergman.  I need to watch more movies.

If someone were to come to Philly, what places/ bars/ parks/ events etc should they be sure to check out?

I really like Yakatori Boy.  Kung Fu Neck Tie can be fun, but don’t order the Long Island Iced Teas. It’s hard to find a really cool artistic place that isn’t over-saturated with hipsters.  I tend to like places with good food and beverage at reasonable prices: Monk’s Café, Beneluxx Tasting Room, The Grey Lodge, Sketch, Chick’s Café, Alma Di Cuba, The Rim Café, Las Margaritas, Cochon, Sweet Lucy’s Smoke House, Honey’s Sit & Eat (for breakfast only), The Memphis Taproom, Taconelli’s, Medusa…the list goes on and on.  I enjoy Voyeur on Saturday nights for karaoke.  I used to like Bar Noir but they closed it.

Your website(s):

Google: Vincent John Ancona
Any last words?

Ask me in 60 years…!

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