The Rainbow’s End #3

Peter Ristuccia: where many styles converge …

Short bio

Peter Ristuccia graduated from the University of Georgia with a B/A in History. He performs commentary on Georgia Public Broadcasting, the local NPR affiliate. His writing can be found on http://www.PeterRistuccia.com. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and three children.

 

Five questions
1) You are a man of many styles … Do you consider yourself a poet or writer in general? Is there a reason or motivation for the diversity in your writing?

I consider myself to be a writer. Poetry is one of many styles of writing I am interested in using to express myself. While some are content to stick with one format such as poetry, fiction, commentary etc. (and certainly, there is nothing wrong with this) I feel that each format has its own individual merits in expressing the intentions of the author. For example, poetry is more disposed to direct and visceral impressions from the writer. Commentary, however, engages the reader in a different way-often using a voice that is more objective in nature. Fiction can, due to the length that often accompanies its transmission, offer a wide suite of views, observances, statements etc. Again, each style of writing has its own inherent value and I’m very interested in exploring all of them.

 
2) You are the first unpublished author featured here … Why did you never publish?

For many years I struggled financially, and while I wrote the entire time, the pursuit of publication felt like an intangible dream. If I may be frank, my material condition was so desperate that the inner and highly personal segment of my being from which I derive my writing could not bear the thought of adding rejection to all of my other concerns.

As my life became more balanced monetarily, I felt I had the breathing room to explore the actual completion of work and process that is involved with writing and publishing a novel. Unfortunately, about this time, I became very ill. It was a slow, progressive illness that physicians did not or could not diagnose properly until Father’s Day 2008 when I collapsed, was rushed to the hospital and discovered I was within 72 hours or so of death.

Thankfully, a proper diagnosis came on the heels of this situation, and corrective surgery fixed the problem. Within a few months, I was better from what had been a long and protracted illness.

Of course, this experience changed my life in many ways. Chiefly, I realized just how short and limited our span in this world really is. If I was ever to get my writing out and about, I needed to do something about it. I was officially better on November 15th 2008 (though still in recovery to be sure). On December 23rd I started my blog, linked it with Facebook and started to blog prodigiously-although I had been sending out queries for my first novel since that summer.

I sent queries for my first book starting in the summer of 2008. I got rejections that were, for the most part, form letters. I really don’t think the queries or sample work were read. The replies I received were pretty much formulaic. I’m not being critical of the agents, mind you, I know they get a pile of inquiries and it’s hard to wade through them all. Also, these were my first query letters, and so there was a learning curve for me as to how good query letters are written. I think I’m still on that curve. So, yes, I think it was how I addressed them. However, I did make sure the agents I sent the queries to were interested in the sort of work I was submitting.

 
3) You are the first writer here who came in contact with the infamous agents …Don’t you think other aspects may have played a role: previous publications,marketing, … ?

I definitely think so. My overall lack of connections, previous publication and no MFA played a role in my rejections. Also, book publishing is a business. While I am sure agents pick up work they really believe in, even that material is stuff they really believe will sell (at least some day). So, unless the work being queried readily fits into whatever criterion happens to be hot at the time, you’re working at something of a disadvantage. That’s why there are so many books about vampires, time travel romances and dog memoirs.

 
4) I have to smile … dog memoirs, hardly known in Europe at all. But let’s stick to the subject: what makes me curious is why you chose to use the services of the agents … were you looking for a large press, and if so, why?

I chalk that up to my inexperience. It seemed like everyone was just blindly submitting queries to agents in hopes that they’d get lucky. It’s like throwing mud at a wall and hoping it sticks. I am sure that if one perseveres and tries hard enough, success will eventually arrive. That said, I don’t like sitting around on my hands and waiting for someone to give me an opportunity. I think it’s important, especially if you really love what you’re doing, to find a way. What that way is may vary, but if you are resourceful enough and really exploit any and all channels available, something is going to happen-because you are the one making it happen. For me, this meant using my blog in tandem with social media (Facebook mostly, Twitter to a far lesser extent) to export my material. It’s worked really well, actually. I am in the process of revamping my web-site and having pod-casts available for people to listen to.

 

5) Favourite authors/poets/quotes

Perhaps my all time favourite book, one that really impacted me, is Demian by Herman Hesse. The spiritual seeking and youthful narrator really spoke to me.

I also enjoy Rilke, his poetry is so transcendent. One of my favourite quotes: “Every angel is terrifying.”

Oscar Wilde is another favourite. His writing is so full of aphorisms and anecdotes it’s really hard to pick just one. Perhaps his last words, “Either this wall-paper goes or I do.” It makes me: laugh-good old Oscar, keeps us laughing no matter how bad things may seem.

 
His work:

 
End

I knew someone who ended himself, Christmas time, years ago. I wanted to tell him curtains rise and fall, that the set and dialogue changes. Whatever act they were in, it would have come to a close and then a new show could begin with a different story. When the tale takes a tragic turn, its conflict brings out what we have inside us, what we find is what was there all along. Nothing alone and void, there are meanings, even if it is just being. But it was his last playbill. Turning out the lights, locking the doors and closing down the theater. I walked by the abandoned marquee in what was now a bad part of town, saw old posters from sold-out performances long decades ago. There are other shows, things that come after a long run before the footlights. A stage on the other side of town perhaps, one thing is certain, that as things come to a close, something else opens up, and we find ourselves the player and audience at another show.

© 2009, Peter Ristuccia

 

Loss

We’ve all felt deprivation, parts of time that were parts of ourselves no longer alive and now only found in the swiftly departing moments of past. What was there is there no longer. The one who was there is now absent and will never be present again. The present is for the living. The past is for the dead. All we can really have is the present, the dead are lost to us, in the past. There are words, smells, gestures, events that frame the old photos of our memories, hung on the wall or set on a dresser. Visitors and others see but do not know. And soon, we ourselves will be those whose portrait looks out to strangers.

There are parts of ourselves that live in others and not within. And when that other passes, the part of our life that lived with them is also gone, never to return. It does not regenerate, bud forth anew like a flower whose germ lay dormant within us when its stem was trimmed. Instead, there are new growths and other lives that we find in the people of our time, and another life lights ourselves within them.

© 2009 Peter Ristuccia

 

The Little Prince

Like all of us, I once loved someone more than they loved me. Of course, I was young and undergoing a rite of passage common to everyone, even if it isn’t openly discussed except in hindsight. There are many milestones we use to notch our lives, like the marks we make on doors as children to show our growth as years pass. Some are religious: Baptism, First Communion. Some are secular: Getting Your Driver’s License, High School Graduation. But many more are never acknowledged, not even discussed openly: the First Dead Friend, Heart Break. Perhaps it is because the experiences are too painful to fully acknowledge, or perhaps in our highly competitive and material modern society any admission of failure reveals weakness, a chink in our armor that others may observe and exploit. Failure is, of course, impermissible; whether the threats without us are real or imagined.

Fairy Tales, in their true and unexpurgated from, can be terrifying stories. As children, we often read censored versions rather than the actual tales that were told around peasant cook-fires. It’s only as adults we learn that, in some versions of Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf eats the girl. There is no noble Woodsman. We learn that the Little Mermaid dies at the end. The poignancy of these actual endings strikes us. Through the revised and more real telling, we’ve learned some truism of life, something that was veiled to us as children.

When I was a boy, I read The Little Prince by Saint-Exupery. I loved the book-the whimsy of planets the size of houses and sentient roses spoke to my imagination. We know such things are impossible, which makes it all the more engaging. The child, as is often the case, is wiser than the adults he meets. Unable to please the Rose-which he loves-on his world, he leaves. The Little Prince journeys from planet to planet, meeting various adults-each engaged in exanimate tasks that have consumed their lives. Finally, the Little Prince arrives on Earth. There, he meets the aviator to whom he relates his story.

Saint-Exupery was, of course, French. The text is used to teach French to students in many classes. I dated a woman in college that was a talented artist, a francophile, a dedicated vegetarian and environmentalist. She was beautiful and her family was loaded. I had no idea how I wound up with this woman, and being the first person I practically lived with, fell very hard for her. Things were great-for a time. I’d met someone that was not only attractive, but also interesting and passionate in their ideals. But then, I found that I lacked some essentials in my character. I wasn’t a vegetarian. I wasn’t eco-conscious enough. Of course, my lack of means-I worked through college and rode a ten-speed bicycle. It was either education or a car for me-also did little to help matters. Rather than accept the situation for what it was, I raced about trying to please this Rose.

One day, I saw that she was reading The Little Prince for class. We talked about the book. I was excited to discuss it with someone. We argued about the ending. She insisted the boy dies at the end of the story. I insisted that he went back to his home planet. Reading the text, one could argue for both interpretations. But, nonetheless, the boy is bitten by a serpent at the end of the story, and in some sense, dies. He is gone the next day, with no body. During the course of our debate, where again, I was unable to please this Rose, I realized that things weren’t going to work out. No matter how hard I tried. No matter what I did or said. And I was right-within a few weeks, it was over.

I was left with the unenviable task of explaining to others in our shared social milieu just why things were over. I didn’t really have a direct answer. A lot of the women assumed it was my fault, somehow. I went through the course of being together even though we were apart, of trying to be mature and accept the situation and ‘be friends’, of watching some of my friends try to date her afterwards, of, finally, avoiding her completely.

Happily, I can say I never again underwent the painful process of critique and rejection I endured for reasons that, now, escape me. The Fairy Tale’s true ending came to me-the Little Prince dies at the end. I understood it. It happened. And once I arrived at this new perspective, my former view was beyond me. I was so sure I was in love. But now, years later, I feel absolutely nothing-except for a vague shame that I didn’t protect myself and my dignity by moving on earlier. That, and a strange wonder I could be so impacted by another human being.

The serpent, among other things, is an ancient symbol of wisdom. Death, often, is a device for transformation. We die to ourselves and are reborn, anew, a different person. There was a time when I was the Little Prince. But now, clearly, I am the aviator.
© 2009 Peter Ristuccia

 

Ashes

Ashes to my ashen boy
Once you were gold
And now gray by the hearth
The red blood of its fire
And its tongues and its eyes
Then short life suspires

Ashes to my ashen boy
The world opens and shuts
Now it turns, now it’s still
Spoken words from creation
The soul is the breath
Then silence, its meditation

Ashes to my ashen boy
Clothes, ripped and torn
Rent and stained frocks
Grant me shriving
And lights for the dead
Then sleep for the living

Ashes to my ashen boy
Aureoles and glorianas
Revelations from below
Time past, time passes
Time now for baths
And then, the world’s vastness
© 2009 Peter Ristuccia

 

Lives

There are lives in succession-according to our subscription of eternity, there is only one or several times upon the wheel that turns, casting ourselves into flesh-gossamer spirit into heavy clay. But while interred into the world that is defined by limits, we may have several incarnations. Throughout the years of our singular lives we rise and fall and rise again. Each time, although the face is the same, we are different, reborn in the crucible of experience. The one who is differs from the one who was and as we make our way through, we find that we have been many people, over the course of our alotted time.
© 2009 Peter Ristuccia

 

Friend

I met a stranger that was a friend, treating the alien well in my land, I found that the visitor was divine and dispensed gifts. The box, when opened, contained a mirror and I beheld my reflection. When we meet others, we meet ourselves. What they show us are our reflections, we see a part of us that is new for having encountered it in them. Within ourselves are worlds and marvels, simple and elegant nonetheless for seeing them everyday like a fabulous sunset of gold and purpling lights. Walking the vivid world there are endless revelations in the divine strangers that we meet and the boons they grant are moments of knowing ourselves.

© 2009 Peter Ristuccia

 

Darkness

Darkness enshrouds everything in night. An expanse oceanic from which it is impossible to see the other side. Whether there is a cosmos or nothingness girding about. There is no way to plumb or fathom its circumference, and in this space things can only be guessed at. I’ve seen the darkness before, a long and many times, and came to know it was my friend. It’s a shadow, that we cast, and when we trace its lineaments back to ourselves, we see that it is indeed infinite as we feared, but now that fear becomes hope as we see that there is an infinitude of light that is also within us, and the two meet somewhere in the unknowable confluence of being.
© 2009 Peter Ristuccia

 

Treshold

There is a threshold that divides the eternal and temporal worlds. Impassable except for those who have perfected themselves, a vast and uncrossable breach into which have fallen many who in their folly made the attempt before they were prepared. Perhaps we cross the divide instantaneously upon the achievement of illumination. When coronaded with lights of wisdom we see beyond what is limited and broken to the true face of the cosmos, where all is connected and without measure.

The image of the threshold is Janus, a deity with two faces. One looks forever before, the other forever after. It beholds the numinous and the mundane simultaneously. Janus is the god of gates, and we are constantly passing through the gates-each moment is a threshold upon which hinges the divine and mortal, God and man.
© 2009 Peter Ristuccia

 

Names

A name is a title, an appellation, but something more than this. A name says who we are and what a thing is. When a name is given to something, it is defined and given limits. Definition and limitations aren’t necessarily a bad thing, they enable us to make sense of the world about us; in a very real sense, a name is a measure.

But there are things that are without measure, concepts that, in the full flight of our minds and the cosmos about us, do not have definition-that are, in fact, defined by being limitless in quality. Names attempt to convey this and for awhile succeed. As time progresses, these become defined by the past, by a place in history that, as it becomes, shows what once was thought to be limitless, only to find there were further thresholds beyond the wakes of an older world. And new names are coined for the expanded frontiers that, in time, will also having been well explored become relabeled by what is beyond them. What is without limit is always new, and always new words are its creation.
© 2009, Peter Ristuccia

 

Red

Red is living that bleeds, flush with imminent delight and fresh wounds. Full of body and heat. Red arouses in us all that makes vibrant, ready to compress from life our own way to doing things. It is germinal infant and crashing iron, seething with annihilation and generation, all things converging. In red do we come together and break apart. Love and war are the same color.
© 2009, Peter Ristuccia

 

Blue

Some think blue is sad-but I find it grand. Simple things-the sky and it’s for free. Ocean, the true mantle of the Earth. Ways of mind and paths of mercy. The fourth heaven is blue and where pattern forms, and are given creation in the world of idea. Lights that awaken and yet soothe the soul. The blue is the depth of things, the innermost place where things that live transpose to where, still living, they live no more.
© 2009, Peter Ristuccia

 

Return

When we depart we are what we were. When we return, we are what we have become. Departure and return are the conditions of human life and process. When we depart, wherever we go-another land, the depths of oursevles-what we were before leaving immediately becomes who we were. The journey, no matter how short, changes us. But what is more, our absence, no matter how brief, means that the place we have departed from has also changed.

Upon return, we bring back what we have learned. How things have gifted us with the transformations of the world, and these we bear back to those who meet us, strangers and friends, for the gifts are dispensed for all to share and and are free. Experience is the common property of us all…
© 2009, Peter Ristuccia

 

Past

Things that were are in the past. The past is a place where things have happened. The past is a time that once was; it was the shape of things to come, the form of what was yet to be. When the past is the present the now is undefined and experience is unfolded in its potencies, hammering out what is to become. Behind us are various shapes sculpted by what was, tragic or comedic, a gallery of statues of ourselves at different times when we have been villains or heroes, living dreams of happenstance or car-crashes of misfortune. Yet, amid the gallery of what was, we stroll, the person we truly are, gazing upon the hardened clay of ourselves and who we were, and moving onward into parts of the museum yet unseen.

 © 2009, Peter Ristuccia

 

Note from the author:

I’ve been very successful with using the new social media to get my material in front of those who would be interested: namely, a reading audience and the editors that actually read material-as opposed to the agents that sell it. In the upcoming months, I expect to have content in a number of publications; many of these themselves are the product of the still burgeoning and developing Internet market. If I started over again, I would definitely handle things differently. The old days of spending a few years writing a novel and then printing it with a major publisher are gone (if they were ever really here to begin with). The game is a little different. As more and more of us hit the public forum that is the Internet, we bring a new set of expectations-but also a new set of ambitions that shape those expectations. They say that buyers shape the market, but I think the case could be made that the market can shape the buyer as well.

I expect to have my material represented in the conventional print media someday, but really, it’s not necessarily my primary ambition anymore. I want to get as much of my material in front of as many people as possible. We seek print so people will read, after all. Internet and its attendant social media seems- at least presently- to be the best way to do this. I want to find readers in Copenhagen and Pretoria, in Lima and Mumbai. If I can connect with someone of like mind in places as far afield as this (and I have by the way) and trade ideas, hopes, fears, dreams then life is lived on a superlative level unimagined only a decade ago. I live for moments like that. I write for moments like that.

http://www.peterristuccia.com

One thought on “The Rainbow’s End #3

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