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The Slow Trains Ten
writers on the creative life

featuring Pasquale Capocasa

Pasquale Capocasa is the editor of Poems Niederngasse, an award-winning monthly online poetry journal, with issues in English, German, Spanish, and Italian. He is an expatriate American now living in Switzerland, after his life changed drastically when he was chased from the University of Minnesota for setting up residence in one of the school's old pottery kilns. He has since worked as a potter's poet, than as a poet's potter, and his work has been published in many journals, including Slow Trains, The Poet's Page, Poetry Motel, Breakfast All Day, Studio Potter, and California Quarterly.

1. When did you start writing?

How's this? Little Paco Capocasa, eleven years old:

I would like to go to Mexico
for they are people I should know
to sleep under the moon at night
and in the morning see a bullfight.

Canít be more sincere than that. But to answer the question; with starts and stops throughout my life I finally began seriously when I was 56 years old, and once I began taking writing seriously, I realized why it had taken so longÖ Itís a lot of work, needs lots of practice.

2. What is your writing routine like?

Mornings. What time depends on what time I went to bed the night before, but 3-4 hours in the morning, every day that I can make it. I donít always write write, but Iím always busy writing something.

3. Who are some of your favorite writers, and why did you start Poems Niederngasse?

After my Mexico adventure, I discovered Ernest Hemmingway. I saw a picture of him sitting at a typewriter on his boat, docked in Havana, and as a young boy, fell in love with that image; started me on a lifetime of reading. Elizabeth Bishop with her poem "The Fish" pulled me into poetry; and Bukowski, James Wright, my fellow Minnesotan Robert Bly, and William Carlos Williams, whose poem "This is just to say..." has been tacked on my refrigerator door in every place I've lived for the last thirty years. And Anne Rice, who writes so erotically about vampires and things.

I started Poems Niederngasse because I was very unhappy with the submission process of the paper magazines. It took so long to get a response, and of all the submissions I sent I never received a personal message, even the acceptance notes were impersonal. So up jumped Niederngasse. And what a plus! I love the magazine; I love the pleasure it gives me; I love my co-editors, who are talented and dedicated, and the poets and artists who submit are, by and large, sincere people. And when you think about it, the Internet and all the writing ezines available has changed many wannabe writers into gotta doit writers or, at least, into people who write things. Long live writing ezines and the Internet!

4. Besides writing, what are you most passionate about in your life?

I would like to say Iím passionate about life, but that would make me sick to my stomach. I can say I am passionate about making my life happy. Which means I do whatever makes me smile and anything that doesnít, I avoid. When I find myself in a non-smiling situation I quickly head for the exit. Very effective, but you have to work at it.

5. What kind of music do you enjoy and do you find that music has an influence on your writing?

Iím a big fan of Michel Petrucciani, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, the writing of Roger Waters, and anyone who works like BB King. I donít really know in what way music has influenced my writing, Iím sure it has, in the same way all the reading I have done has. I almost always work with a background of music. When it intrudes, as it does some days, I work without.

6. Where are your favorite places to travel?

Switzerland, for the most part. Coming from a flat land in the US, these mountains never fail to excite me. Interesting cultures, and if youíre into old, there are many, many things to see. Planning a big trip to Calabria, the land of my forefathers, as soon as my Italian improves. Iíll send you a postcard.

7. Where do your best ideas come from, or, what creates your most inspired state?

Iím not sure how to answer that. Ideas come; sometime I read a phrase, see a picture, feel something and the idea appears...and, of course, sometimes not. On a doctorís visit one day I remarked how complicated the body seemed, and the doc said, ďDonít think about it.Ē I mentioned to the Roshi how complicated Zen thought appeared, and he said, ďDonít think about it.Ē I guess I can say, I write, but I donít think about it, otherwise...can I say that?

8. Do you have any interesting vices that youíd care to share, and have they helped or hindered your writing.

Well, I have what I call ďsanity keepersĒ and they are fun, albeit time thieves. I do cannabis, and while it is not clear how it has helped, it has provided some funny experiences. On the other side, it makes my already short attention span shorter and I find myself hopping here and there. Another sanity keeper is the appreciation of all things erotic, that touchy feely thing, and predictably this has helped and hindered my writing. Again, both are big time stealers! There are others, and now that I think about it, they all tend to stroke my writing. A friend once said, in reference to his own big sainty keeper, ďit must be the right thing to do, because I keep on doing it?Ē So it would seem.

9. Yeats said that the only things worth writing about are sex and death-what would your list include?

With all respect to Yeats, there is much more. Each of my sanity keepers is worth a line or two; one day watching television yields pages of insights, etc. Lots of things going on.

10. Whatís next for your writing and for Poems Niederngasse?

I decided that 2003 is the year of proliferation, that is, writing output will double. So far I have only doubled my intention, but I am always hopeful. I am excited about the Poems Niederngasse format change that is in the works, five years of blue frames will suddenly disappear, and who knows what will happen, also some added features. The contest for unpublished poets will reappear...and a featured poet. I plan to continue what Iím doing until thereís no more.

©2003 by Pasquale Capocasa

Pasquale Capocasa's featured work online includes::

The Clown Trilogy
Selected Poems

For more information about Pasquale Capocasa, see Poems Niederngasse.

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