EA: When did you decide that you wanted to write and perform poetry?
DR: I really stumbled into it. I have always written prose and poetry but back in 2011 I went to the AWP conference in Chicago with my creative writing class in college and hit the magazine vendors picking up all the flyers, free issues, and other pieces of literature that were around. One of the magazines was a small print zine from Philadelphia, Gigantic Sequins. I followed them on social media and saw that they were hosting a story slam at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. I didn’t know what a slam was but I knew that my punk band just broke up and I was itching to get out there again. I wrote a two page prose poem went to the city with my best friend and ended up winning the slam. I became a regular at some variety open mics in the Bayshore but had no idea what I was doing or what I wanted to do.
I met a comedian named John Murdock from the city and we clicked. We did a bunch of open mics together and he ended up having me open for some of his variety shows. I bombed so many times in rooms I had no business being in but Murdock believed in me. I was 20 doing shows with guys like Lach and Joey Gay. All of this culminated with a show we threw at a bar on the Jersey Shore. It was a disaster and I quit doing shows after that day.
Fast forward to two years later. I was hit by a car and had to learn to walk again. I went to an open mike a couple towns over just to watch and someone signed my name to the list. I did some new poems I had on my phone, started hitting the open mike scene hard and learned that this is what I wanted to do with my life.
EA: What opportunities or people do you credit for supporting you as a poet? Who has been there for you, and believed in what you have been trying to do?
DR: I couldn’t name them all if I tried as I have been very fortunate to have met many wonderful people on this road. Charles Joseph has been a mentor of mine and has really guided me poetry wise. He’s a fantastic editor and knows where to cut and how to shape. He helped me work on my first chapbook A Symphony of Crows and published it from his press Indigent Press. Chelsea Palermo gave me the the first opportunity I had to read poetry. It was at her open mike at Papa Ganache in Matawan, NJ that I first began to perform. She booked me for my first feature at the Brighton Bar and really helped guide the early days of my poetry career. John Murdock, who I mentioned earlier was the first person to actually believe in me. He reaffirmed my vision of what I wanted to be both as a poet and a performer- a voice of the people and a force to take poetry to the working class.
Damian Rucci has a new book of poetry out, cowritten with Ezhno Martin, “The Former Lives of Saints”, through EMP Press in Kansas City.
“Sons of Twilight” (From The Former Lives of Saints, 2017)
Between the hours of eleven at night
and eight in the morning
I ain’t no poet
I am a third shift worker
I am a nine digit punch code
I am another lost soul biding time
at a suburban grocery store
But sometimes I feel it’s worth
feeling good about
The food for the neighborhood
doesn’t just appear on the shelf
it’s put there by the sons of twilight
the time biders
the drop outs