Spotlight Author: Travis Mossotti

“Rearranging a Few Molecules: Spotlight Author on Travis Mossotti”

Anyone who has been published in a literary journal will without a doubt thrill about their accomplishment, but there are few who would rather their work only reach a small circulation of readers. Enter Saxifrage Press, an online showcase of works from fresh young writers, most of whom who have already been published somewhere else. This online venue proved to be a great way to reach a much broader audience, according to the founder of Saxifrage Press, Travis Mossotti. Although the Press features writing ranging from fiction to poetry, as a poet himself, Travis finds himself drawn to the things in poetry “that can’t be duplicated elsewhere.” His fascination with the art of poetry has led him not only to pursue his MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, but also become a published poet.

The way Travis Mossotti speaks about poetry is captivating even to those who favor more structured prose. When asked about his “calling” to poetry though, Travis is reminded of a fun quote from friend Robert Wrigley, “Priests and nuns have callings, but not poets.” However, poetry has without a doubt always had a particular allure over this writer, even the simple facets. In a section of Saxifrage Press called “The Mossotti Files”, Travis writes a prose essay about the intrigue of the line in poetry, perhaps hinting at his experience as a faculty lecturer. He says, “The line…has this old almost primal quality, which allows both writer and reader to intuit each step together.”

When you have this sort of passion for poetry, it is no surprise to find out that Travis has published his own books of poems, About the Dead. He refers to them as “lyrical stories”, and he explains that when compiling the works he “wanted to make my intentions clear with the title…to maintain a fair bit of gravity and youthful anger in the writing….and to (more times than not) leave the reader smiling.” His inspiration was far ranging, including James Wright, James Tate, Elizabeth Bishop, and others who were “set apart from their contemporaries” because of a “sense of humility, fearlessness, and discovery.” Travis certainly knows how to stand out as a poet.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing artistic ventures of Travis Mossotti is his collaboration with his brother, Josh. The Mossotti family was certainly blessed with an abundance of creative genes. The two brothers worked together starting from a draft of a poem which Travis had written and ended up turning it into a short film. “Decampment” took a lot of hours of hard work, not to mention quite a bit of finances. However, Travis seems to be very proud of this joint effort (which according to him is best viewed on the big screen) and mentions that “the scope of the scenes and landscapes is nothing short of awe-inspiring.” Even on a small computer screen the imagery is stunning, and combined with the power of the verses, the Mossotti brothers have assembled quite an impressive project.

With all of his experience with online publishing through Saxifrage Press and his own endeavors, it is interesting to know that Travis still prefers to publish his own work mostly in print. Like many old school writers out there, he seeks the “tactile experience” of reading a book of poetry. He draws a parallel to not really knowing someone until “I’ve heard his voice, looked into his eyes and shaken his hand.” It all ties in with Travis’ poetic advice: you must “consider the senses simultaneously.” Nothing evokes memories like these physical sensations, and good poetry relies on a complete sensory experience. Readers should reflect on times when poetry has really been particularly moving, and most likely it has a direct link to both physical and emotional sensations. From his own writing to his work on Saxifrage Press, Travis maintains an earnest attitude toward poetry.

He says, “I don’t care for camps, exclusivity, schools, ranking, snobbery, posterity, manifestoes, rules or doctrines.” Travis articulates his defining view on poetry through the words of his old professor, David Clewell. He says the goal of any good poet should be “to rearrange a few molecules in the reader.” Any professor of Travis Mossotti would certainly agree that this accomplished poet has done just that.

Travis Mossotti was awarded the 2011 May Swenson Poetry Award by contest judge Garrison Keillor for his first book, About the Dead (2011, USU Press). In 2009, he was awarded the James Hearst Poetry Prize from the North American Review by contest judge Robert Pinsky, his poem “Decampment” was adapted to screen as an animated short film in 2010, and more recently, his poem “Crossing the Gap” was featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. Mossotti resides in St. Louis with his wife Regina and daughter Cora.

You can locate Saxifrage Press at www.saxifragepress.com.

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