Writer uses poetry to process experiences

By Jason Harris - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Fri., Dec. 28, 2012
Poet John L. Stanizzi. Photos courtesy of Stanizzi. - Contributed Photo

Bacon Academy teacher and poet John L. Stanizzi’s latest poetry book, "Dance Against the Wall," deals with his father’s illness and with such characters as a fireman, his family and even former students. The first 13 poems in the book deal with his father’s fight with Alzheimer’s disease. “My father recently lost a 10-year struggle with Alzheimer’s and during his illness I coped by recording his journey in my poems,” Stanizzi said.

His poem, “S-Plan,” recounts a story that took place the first Halloween after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and weaves that incident with the litany of war preparation that every generation goes through, Stanizzi said. Writing poetry is how Stanizzi processes his own experiences and the experiences of the world around him, he said. “It’s my way of articulating my response to the world I live in,” he said.

Included in these experiences are such diverse things as preparations for war, a bombing, watching a leaf fall out of a tree or a grandchild trying to catch a firefly, he said. “I never really know what might find its way into my work, but I try to keep an open mind, a sharp ear, [and] wide open eyes,” Stanizzi said. “Everything I experience, from major events to the tiniest, most insignificant things all must flow through that poetry filter in my mind.”

Stanizzi never knows what ideas for poems will stick as they go through his "poetry filter." He has written about fishing, gardening, murder, old neighborhoods and battlefields. He began writing poetry when he was 9 years old because he wanted to express himself and it felt good to do this, Stanizzi said, adding that he felt very fortunate to discover this at such an early age.

“I do know, however, that part of the reason I continued to write was because of the positive feedback I received from teachers,” Stanizzi said. After struggling for 25 years, he finally got his first poetry collection published.  "Ecstasy Among Ghosts" was published in 2007 by Antrim House Books, Stanizzi said.

Two of his poems, “Green Hill Beach” and “Drink,” have been nominated for a Pushcart Award. “The nominations are made by the publishers of the journals in which the poems originally appeared,” Stanizzi said. “It is very gratifying to know that an editor feels so strongly about a poem that has appeared in their pages to nominate it for the Pushcart. Having been nominated for such a prestigious award is certainly a source of great pride.”

Stanizzi has been teaching at Bacon Academy for 21 years. He said he never wanted to teach, even though he received his secondary teaching certificate from Wesleyan at the urging of his professor. After college, he went to work in his father’s upholstery business, then worked at Aetna. He was collecting unemployment and was dissatisfied with his career when his wife saw an ad in the newspaper for a teaching position at Bacon Academy, Stanizzi said.

“I had no idea it would end up being the most significant and amazing aspect of my working life,” Stanizzi said about teaching. “I cannot imagine doing anything else.”

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