UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Diamond in the Rough

A Diamond in the Rough

After a hiatus of a few years the Boston College English Department invited poets representing twenty colleges and universities around the area for the “The Greater Boston Intercollegiate Poetry Festival.” The festival was created in 1987 by Louisa Solano owner of Cambridge’s Groiler Poetry Book Shop. Each poet read two poems, one included in the Festival’s chapbook. In the introduction BC English Professor Suzanne Matson explained,

“This chapbook, made up of voices, subject matters, and poetic shapes as distinctly varied as the poets themselves, is our gift to this community of student writers in recognition of the distance they have traveled and the enterprise they share with each other and with writer’s everywhere.”

As a writer, attending the festival was a beneficial and positive experience. I became aware of my fellow local poets and was welcomed to bask in the beautiful images of their poetic genius. Sharing a common bond of poetry appreciation, the full audience listened to the striking variety between each student’s poetry. Each school came to represent something novel and distinctive. Different levels of expertise and composition styles created a spice of variety to the festival. Each poet served as a reflection of the college community they came from.

Representing UMass Boston was one of the most impressive poets that attended the Festival: Danny Diamond. His poem “Off My Line” appeared in the chapbook (“Off my Line” appears on pg. 17). It was a great opportunity for the audience to become aware of the UMB student and local poet. Diamond is a senior English Major in the Honors Creative Writing program. He’s twenty-four. He lives and creates in Gloucester, MA and was born in Bennington, VT. I interviewed Diamond in regards to the festival and gained insight into his experience as a UMB student, poet and artist representative.

Mass Media: As UMB poet what did you want to represent at “The Greater Boston Intercollegiate Poetry Festival?”

Danny Diamond: I wanted to represent a diverse urban university with poems that speak to the urban experience: graffiti and public transit. I thought it was important to choose poems, which highlight the working class characters of UMass Boston.

MM: You’re a talented reader. Does this come naturally to you?

DD: I took a lot of theatre arts classes in High School and college. Public speaking didn’t come naturally to me; it took a lot of exposure, practice and developing the ability to shut out the eyes of hundreds of people staring at you.

MM: How do you prepare for a poetry reading?

DD: I rehearse the poem in front of a mirror for a couple of days then I smoke a blunt just before the reading.

MM: What are the themes of your poetry?

DD: Themes in my poetry include: Graphic Arts, substance dependency, enlightenment, religious roots, romantic love, parody, city life, and the divinity of nature.

MM: How long does a typical poem take you to write?

DD: I usually spend between one and three months developing a poem. Then I let it become its own organism and I set it free.

MM: Do you have a muse?

DD: Yes, her name is Mary Jane.

MM: What inspires you most?

DD: The people I love. The people I love have changed in the most surprising ways.

MM: Has being recognized for your work changed you?

DD: Being recognized has encouraged me to write more material and to devote more money and energy to my education.

MM: What are your goals for the future in regards to your artistic pursuits?

DD: I hope that I have the strength to keep writing.

MM: What other art forms are you interested in?

DD: I work in visual arts including tattoo and graphic design. I live in an art/tattoo studio called “The Firetrap” in Gloucester, MA.

MM: What is your relationship with Boston?

DD: I don’t live in the Boston area, nor could I. Traveling in Boston has showed me how horrifying general humanity can be when it is presented in all its randomized desperation. It has turned me on to guerilla art and the power of our statement in the face of a thoroughly commercial culture.

MM: Tell me something about the poem you read at the festival “Off my Line”.

DD: “Off my Line” is about the overlooked language of graffiti art, which creates a public forum for expression within the working and oppressed classes. It also provides a snapshot of urban culture, art, aesthetic from any given historical moment. I have been studying the writing on the wall since I’ve been taking the rails to school.

MM: What are your interests?

DD: I’m interested in expanding my understanding of the media in which I create art. I’m interested in inter-dimensional travel.

MM: What are your plans for the future?

DD: The future has plans for me. I will try not to resist them.

MM: What would you change in the Poetry world today?

DD: Poets should be more honest and less intentionally obscure in their public work.

MM: What poets have influenced you?

DD: Mark Halliday, Allen Ginsberg, Tom Waits, Lloyd Schwartz, Joyce Peseroff and Stephen Dobyns.

MM: Who has been your mentor?

DD: Professor/Poet Lloyd Schwartz.

MM: How has your UMB experience changed you into who you are today?

DD: UMB has provided me with a literary community in which to develop my creative skills and share in the communal activity of poetry.

MM: How have you changed?

DD: My brain has overflowed.

MM: Do you have advice for amateur poets just starting out?

DD: Amateur writers should find a group of people who challenge them and devote themselves to the art of revision.

You can view more of Danny Diamond’s work in this semester’s “The Watermark” where several of his poems appear. Also his book, “Change Your Mind” is due out this December on Arrowsmith Press.