Open Alphabet welcomes Brian Fanelli and his new book All That Remains, published by Unbound Content (ISBN 1936373467).

Brian Fanelli

Brian Fanelli's poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and his work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His chapbook, Front Man was published in 2010. Brian is a contributing editor for Poets’ Quarterly and a reviewer for PANK. He has an M.F.A. from Wilkes University and teaches at Lackawanna College.

All That Remains speaks to difficult themes -- the death of family members, failed relationships, lost jobs, inescapable consequences, aftermath. This is serious business and these poems go about this business directly. The language is fluid, lyrical, accessible and human. There are haunting memories, there are sweet memories -- a teen victory followed by a kiss, a cooking singing father. There is also the muse and there is poetry.

Open Alphabet: What initiated this project? Was this book going to be "All That Remains" all along, or did the title come later? All That Remains

Brian Fanelli: The title “All That Remains” was there for a while, and there is a poem in the book titled “What Remains.” I continually returned to the idea of what remains after a relationship unravels, which is the idea a lot of the poems deal with, but I also think this book is about a questioning of the American dream, economic inequality, and what is left when dreams are deferred, what remains when full-time work is impossible to find.

OA: According to your bio, you teach at the Lackawanna College. Did assembling and publishing your first book have an effect on your teaching?

BF: I don’t think publishing a book changed my teaching at all. I’ve seen some students attend readings I’ve done locally, so in a sense, they’ve been exposed to a larger literary community, but that’s about the only difference.

OA: Has your daily creative methodology been altered?

BF: My creative process is still the same. I read more than I write, including different genres. Certainly, I read poetry collections, but also a lot of fiction and non-fiction. I’m still drawn to story as much as I am drawn to energized, elevated language. Most of my writing is done in the morning, before I teach, and the revisions are usually done later, once I have a solid draft to work with. I still enjoy the revision process the most, having something to sculpt and mold. The blank page still makes me nervous!

OA: What was the most challenging aspect of publishing a full length poetry book? Did the poems change during the process?

BF: The manuscript certainly changed. Poems were added and subtracted as the process moved forward. I wanted to make sure that the poems not only had a common thread, but were distinct enough to stand on their own. So, on one hand, a majority of the poems were published in various magazines and journals alone, but I needed to ensure they worked together as a book, while still being distinct.

OA: Throughout your book you maintain a marvelous consistency of tone. Is this a result of poem selection or is it a reflection of your internal themes?

BF: I think it’s both. This book is pretty specific in terms of its selection of poems and internal themes. I could have added more recent poems to the collection, but I felt that would have changed some of the working-class aspects of the book. I think tone is important to consider when working on a book of poems. As I mentioned earlier, you want the poems to be unique, but at the same time, I enjoy collections that deal with certain issues and themes and have a distinct tone.

OA: It seems that you favor consonance as a poetic device. If this accurate, what do you think it brings to your poetics?

BF: Like most poets, I’m conscious of the sounds within a line, and I’m of the belief that even in the most free verse poem, there should be some formal aspects and structure. To paraphrase Frost, to write in total free verse with no structure at all is like playing tennis without a net. Consonance is certainly one technique I use, but I also use slant rhyme and some other formal techniques at times. If used well, these techniques can place greater emphasis upon certain words or phrases. I’m also of the belief that poetry should have some musicality to it, and using the techniques you mentioned help do that, though I do encourage restraint because otherwise, you’re risking the creation of Hallmark, sing-song verse.

OA: Who are you reading right now? What is on your desk? (Include a picture of your desk if you like!) Brian's Desk

BF: Right now, I’m reading William Matthews’ last collection of poems, After All, and Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters. I’m enjoying both quite a lot, especially Anne Sexton’s letters. A lot of her letters trace her relationship to various poets of her time, including W.D. Snodgrass, Carolyn Kizer, and others. She was really a wonderful letter writer, and she has some funny complaints about studying with Robert Lowell.

OA: Is there any question that you particularly like or dislike to be asked about your poetry?

BF: Why doesn’t your work rhyme!

OA: Can you tell us what we can expect in your future work? Is there another project in the works?

BF: I’ll be doing readings into 2014, and then I’ll start working on another manuscript of poems. I certainly have a lot of poems that did not make this book, but I have yet to sit down and look at ordering them into another full-length collection or chapbook. That will happen at some point, and I will keep writing and revising. Right now, I’m enjoying sharing All That Remains with readers and doing readings.