The pioneers of aviation were never lonely
Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.
Who: Allison Grimaldi-Donahue.
Where: Bologna, Italy What: writer, translator, editor.
Cat No: DW-375
What do you do?
I've come to realize I like to write a bit of everything. Content and form do need each other and this can also mean changing genres, mixing them up a bit. I've written prose for a while now, short fiction and essays. Poetry on the other hand has come back into my life more recently, I think mostly it's that I've allowed it back in, that I've stopped resisting those impulses, out of shame, or fear. I am also a translator of both fiction and poetry. Translation for me comes from a very similar place my own writing comes from, that is, the work I chose to translate. Then again, even the commissioned work takes on a certain personal quality after a while and becomes integrated into my larger practice.
As for whether my work is experimental, I don't know, I hope so. To me experimental means I am trying something new or something for the first time and I feel like each time I sit down to write it is an experiment, like I have to relearn how to do it. The shape of work, the form, is very important to me, it is something I like to play with and work on, so if that is experimental, then yes, I am.
Stock question. Can you tell us a bit about your influences?
There are so many kinds of influences and they are constantly evolving and I am probably not the best judge of my own influences, it feels like pieces of my past and my interests sneak in all the time and I don't often notice. Growing up I was more interested in music than anything else, classical music, opera, a lot of classic American folk, but also classic rock from the 60s and 70s. I went to hear a lot of live music when I was a teenager and it wasn't only the sound that interested me but my interactions with all of these different kinds of people, the different crowds to which I would have to adapt. Then I was reading a lot of Allen Ginsberg and a lot of Dorothy Day, I had a deep religious impulse back then. And I was reading Plath and Wallace Stevens and picking up books at used book shops and sort of going at random and studying Latin, especially Catullus. Later I went back and got really into medieval poetry, Dante and Petrarca and moved through more Italian poetry (and started translating). I've always wanted to go back to find answers, to pull things apart. I remember learning that the field of semiotics actually existed and going to the library and trying to read this crazy books I wasn't ready to understand. It's always been about language for me, this big mystery of language.
It is as a translator I think I've become most aware of our capacity to be influenced. I have been working with this amazing Italian poet, Vito Bonito, and he has really opened up worlds for me. I love to be able to get into someone else's paths to knowledge, see what is important to them. In my MFA program I worked with Trinie Dalton and she really changed how I was able to see myself as a writer, she is probably the one who got to me realize that I could write all of these different forms and still somehow have an identity as a writer.
Influences, as I see them, are the people who showed you certain things were possible. I remember reading Amy Hempel and A.M. Homes for the first time and being really impressed. Or essays from people like Anne Carson, Maggie Nelson, Norma Cole, Eleni Stecopoulos, Chris Kraus, Wayne Koestenbaum.
Can you tell us about your most recently published book and whether it does or doesn't differ from the types of things you've written before?
I recently published a chapbook with Publication Studio Vancouver, it's called Body to Mineral. It is a bit different for me because it happened very quickly after I started writing poems again. Many of the poems are part of a larger project that blends poetry and prose but many of the poems are also pieces of the past few years, that stand alone. Those poems also come after a few intense years of writing short fiction, they still feel, like most poetry does to me, like bursts of concentrated energy and force.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on a collection of essays. They are theoretical, regarding language, literature and translation but they are also deeply personal and autobiographical. I'm working on a few more of them and it's beginning to feel like something cohesive. The essay feels so good right now, this meeting of logic with poetics, it feels right.
I've also got some translation projects going on, I'm translating poems by Franca Mancinelli, a wonderful young Italian poet. And I am also translating Franco "Bifo" Berardi's latest book, co-authored with Massimiliano Geraci—it's a psychedelic dystopian novel!
Editing projects are also ongoing, the latest Queen Mob's Queer Translation Issue is open for submissions. This year we are creating a print version with Publication Studio Vancouver and we are focusing on the "trans" in translation, queerness and process.
Swimmers Club has a focus on the state of independent culture at the moment (independent coffee shops, presses, record labels, etc). How healthy do you think independent culture is right now?
...more on independent translation culture...?
What influence, if any, does the city in which you live have on your world?
It is probably the country that influences me the most, living in Italy for the past seven years has certainly changed me. I'm from Connecticut, I've lived in New York and Toronto and Vermont—Italy is different. It is hot and slow and chaotic, it is a different set of expectations for daily life. I'm going to be teaching in Rome and going down there more often I've already begun to feel its power over me, the ancient air. The stories I see, the way I intuit in language, it all feels changed. My family is Sicilian and in a way it also feels like coming home, like I'm recuperating something that was lost in our family line. I guess I'm always reaching to the past for answers, even in my personal life.
Finally, can you swim?
Not well. I'd rather have a floatie.
You can find my chapbook here:
Links to my work:
My instagram...cuz it's my favorite social media: