QWF Prize for Young Writers: Interview with Matteo Ciambella

Posted on: 6 May, 2019

Category: QWF Prize for Young Writers

This is the first in a series of short interviews with some of the previous winners of the QWF Prize for Young Writers. To find out more about the 2019 QWF Prize for Young Writers, including how to apply, see our Submittable page. The deadline is Friday, June 14, 2019!

Matteo Ciambella won Third Prize in 2018 for his poem Twenty (a play in four acts), first published in Headlight Anthology #20, a journal from Concordia University’s graduate English Literature department. Now 25, he’s living in Italy and still writing and working with poetry. We got in touch to hear more about his work abroad and get insight into his writing process.

What was it that led you to write Twenty (a play in four acts)?

I first wrote Twenty as sort of riddle, about a director who has to stage a play in which all characters share the same name. A few years later I came across the riddle, and decided to actually write the cast of characters for the play in question. As I did it, I realized I was weaving those names together in a cumulative sequence, and some mystery was moving behind them. I was intrigued.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am still writing poems, and here in Italy I am working with poet Raimondo Novo to translate and diffuse his work, which is largely unpublished. I am also working with my friend Phoebe Fregoli, a Montreal-based poet and translator, on a new bilingual literary zine, featuring work in English and Italian, which should come out in the fall.

Younger writers often find that their style and approach develops as times goes on. Do you see differences between your current and past work?

For a while I was really interested in the loops and paradoxes of language per se. It was very playful, but I try not to get caught so early on in the writing process. In general, I try to be more patient. I cherish cluelessness while I write, because it prompts curiosity. In the past, that initial feeling was not acknowledged as often, and it resulted invariably in some more or less detectable kind of pretense.

Which writers do you consider to be influential on your work?

The poets I read most often are Patrizia Cavalli, Fernando Pessoa, Wallace Stevens and Dante. I don’t know if they have had an influence on me, but I am interested in what they are interested in.