Writer Notes: Tommy Desanto

I began writing back in high school when I realized it was therapeutic and meditative. It’s cheap medicine for my ever-lingering depression. There’s only one problem: it simultaneously feeds and cures the disorientation I feel day to day. When I sit down to write, I can streamline my thoughts in a way that helps me meditate on them. I can structure ideas into paragraphs or stanzas, and that helps me make sense of the madness that rattles around in my mind. At the same time, writing is very much a mirror to the human thought process (stream of consciousness). It scatters my thoughts in different directions. Ideas are born on the page; only they seem more immediate and pressing than a passing thought in the mind. That feeds my obsessive nature. Writing is just as therapeutic as it is disorienting. That’s why it’s beautiful: I could write forever and never answer all the questions I have about the universe. But I think, just as any curious creature, I owe it to myself to ask questions, to never be comfortable with what I know, to figure out as much as I can while I’m still alive.

I read a quote once (I wish I could find the source) that said something along the lines of, “I thought I wanted to be a poet, but I realized I wanted my life to be a poem”. A quote has never before struck me as being so aligned with my ideas of writing. For years now I have found myself materializing my waking life into poetry—it can be something as simple as drunkenly stumbling through the dirty streets of Richmond with friends, or something as complex as the beauty of being awake at an early hour, how the sun and the wind and a cigarette’s smoke mix so perfectly through your open car window that it makes you realize you are alive (something you otherwise ignore, or lose track of). How do you capture that feeling?

In my mind, I try to get at the root of how feeling and sense relate to one another. I do the same when I sit down to write. Why do some things swell me up with such intense feeling, then, when I try to get at the root of their reason, disorient me entirely? Does everything have reason beneath it? Or is feeling enough reason for a moment to exist? I lean towards the latter. In ”The Millers,” wrote in Joseph’s section: “is it possible/to feel deeper than feeling?/where: Nothing.” We live in a disorienting universe. Some moments seem to exist simply to show you that you are a wondrous being—to remind you that you are fully alive and made of love.

Jean Toomer’s Cane had a huge influence on my style. He blends fiction and poetry into this beautiful other that exists between the two worlds. I don’t believe writing needs to be fiction or nonfiction or poetry; it can live in multiple realms. e.e. cummings influenced my aesthetic greatly when I was younger. I still refuse to get rid of my italics, parentheses and ampersands. His rebellion against traditional poetry still fuels my experimentation with form.

What else? Whitman’s wonder when looking up at the stars. The tranquil and infinite woods in Frost’s “Snowy Evening.” The beauty of a single moment in Williams’ “This is Just to Say.”Eliot’s disorientation in The Wasteland and crippling self-consciousness in “Prufrock.” Both Perillo’s Inseminating the Elephant and Swir’s Building the Barricade, which showed me that the world is fucked up and unfair, but always beautiful. Writing will always be a passion of mine, and I will become bottled up with the urge to write until I am old and weak.

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