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Desire for realness

December 11, 2016

I am meeting writer Joseph Chiccarelli. He writes poetry. He belongs to the tribe that can create a whole world in a few sentences. I admire people who write lines that make you stop in the present moment.

Verity, the person I interviewed previously referred him to me because:

His work is incredibly personal. He has actually inspired a shift in my own writing because reading someone else who is willing to be so vulnerable empowers others to feel like they can do the same. I also like Joe because he seems both sensitive and fearless, which I think is an ideal combination for producing revolutionary change in our society. Too often people align themselves with dominant or submissive roles in society, but when I first met Joe I got the feeling he did not fit into such a box.

While he was reading his chapbook "Art is Masturbation" at the Analog cafe between two local bands, I could tell it was deeply personal for him and probably slightly difficult to read. Everyone was dead silent except for a couple of people being obnoxiously loud at the bar. Joe stopped and said into the microphone, "Hey, I spent like several years putting this together and it's like really important to me, would you mind showing some respect?"

They became silent immediately. I admired him. He did not seem to care if anyone accused him of being touchy or whiny for complaining. He said what he felt and didn't seem to care if others agreed.

I felt he must have done this because he believed in the value of being vulnerable and honest.


'They appreciate how candid I was'

He spends his nights sitting on his porch to decompress from all the impressions during the day. I start by asking who Joseph Chiccarelli is according to Joseph Chiccarelli. He laughs and replies with several answers “I work at Trader Joe’s and in a kitchen”. “I am tired a lot”. “ I write and take pictures”. I like that he isn’t merely describing what he ‘does’. After a pause he continues:  “I am a social person. I love people. But they also freak me out. They stress me out”.

He learned that having enough alone time works for him not to get too anxious. During this alone time he listens to music, scrolls mindlessly through his phone or he writes.

He is shy about the effect his writing has on other people. He doesn’t like to inflate himself. But eventually he acknowledges his success.  “I have been told by people I never met that they appreciate my work. It’s insane. They appreciated how candid I was.”

People reading Joseph’s work appreciate the rawness in his poems and stories. He writes honestly about his experiences growing up, as well as his mental illness and his attempts to make sense of that and come to terms with it.  

Real and honest

I like the poem he recently placed on his blog . He gives words to our universal desire to be seen and reassured, in such a way I immediately recognize the real feeling that comes with it.


ugly and insistent  standing next to you a child  “notice me” I cling to the lengths of your sweater  “am I good?” and you sigh and remind me “yes, you are good” doubt is smeared across my face  you’ll leave I’ll be alone again down in this muck the same dirt of which clings to your sleeve from every time I tug asking for reassurance

I see that a growing group of people nowadays are longing for realness, and with realness the sadness or craziness comes with it and isn’t being numbed. Society pressures us to focus on the outside of things. Focus is on how we look, how much money we make and how we seem to be successful and fun on social media. So when you come across something real and honest, like one of Joseph’s poems, it makes you stop, think and acknowledge the truth.

Moments of clarity are small pockets of love 

When I introduce the concept of deep talent to Joseph, he listens and thinks. “I recognize feelings of flow-- those moments where I am making something of meaning. I call them ‘Moments of clarity’”.  I immediately like his description. Moments of clarity are moments where your talent is switched on. You are creating with a certain easiness instead of ‘trying really hard’. You are acting from inside rather than re-acting to something that is outside. Everything that comes from within is authentic and somehow we are touched by this uniqueness.

 “Those moments of clarity are very honest. I’ll just shoot it off. Those are the ones I get the best feedback on. It usually trumps a specific style. It came from a place of sincerity.”

I am sure this line from a poem in his chapbook “Art is masturbation’ is written when Joseph had a moment of clarity:

everyone is my best friend, they just don’t know it yet

and this one:

everyone is connected

all I’m doing is just tracing the dots

Joseph continues expressing his thoughts on moments of clarity. “Writing from a moment of clarity is usually the best way to connect with strangers. It’s a way to bridge. To create dialogue”. His stories create a sense of solidarity with his readers – they make people feel that they are not alone. It makes an impact on how they perceive themselves for a while. I would say these moments of clarity are small pockets of love for others to receive.

Joseph continues: “That people get the feeling that they are not alone, means a lot to me. If I never get popular those things are still going to matter”.  This is pure wisdom. The impact we have on people doesn’t always need to be huge or vivacious. One of my teachers, Jan de Dreu, kept telling us ‘As long as your deep talent touched one person’s soul, you succeeded’.


What do you desire to learn?

At the end of our interview I get curious to know what he desires to learn. “I would like to read a story that completely changes how I view writing. That blows away any preconceived notions”. He is desperately looking for a way to remove any boundary he might have in expressing his art. He desires to directly tap out of his ultimate creativity without being stopped or warned by inner anxieties how the world would perceive it.  

In my words he is looking for how to express his talent and not being stopped by dragons, our limiting thoughts. His desire makes me immediately think of one of 13th century Rumi’s poems. He wants to tap out of this fountainhead from within and not be bothered by the other intelligence we are taught at school or somewhere else.

Two Kinds of Intelligence

There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired, as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts from books and from what the teacher says, collecting information from the traditional sciences as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world. You get ranked ahead or behind others in regard to your competence in retaining information. You stroll with this intelligence in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one already completed and preserved inside you. A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness in the center of the chest. This other intelligence does not turn yellow or stagnate.

It's fluid, and it doesn't move from outside to inside through conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead from within you, moving out.

Just do it.

When we are about to end the interview, Joseph wants to add one thing. He urges everyone to ‘just do it’. “If you have a hobby, art or anything that you would like to share with the world, just do it! If you used to do something that made you happy, start doing it again. Make time. I leave 1.5 hr earlier to go to work just to take pictures or to write outside before I clock in”.

What is it that you would like to express, create or make? What makes you happy? You might experience a moment of clarity while doing it. And the world definitely becomes more interesting with all our moments of clarity.

Joseph will be publishing a new work of short stories end of this year on Glory Kid LTD. You can stay updated at

The pictures are made by Chelsea Perri



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