Tim Shaner with Nick Piombino

Nick Piombino
Nick Piombino

This interview with Nick Piombino started roughly five years ago as a project for Wig, a magazine devoted to writing work: poetry that appropriates time and/or materials from the job for its own purposes. As it turned out, we (Kristen Gallagher and I) never produced the third issue of Wig as planned, and so eventually the project fell by the wayside. Nick and I, however, continued our correspondence over the years, periodically reiterating our desire to continue on with the project, with Nick reassuring me that the questions I had sent to him regarding his career as a psychoanalyst and its relation to his writing were still very much on his mind. The Conversant has offered Nick and I this opportunity to pick up where we left off. Part Two will follow in the coming months.

Tim Shaner: As for the questions, I’m thinking of starting with some practical ones, like: What is your average work day like and how does your writing fit into your working schedule? Do you write on the job? You mention having a number of different notebooks going at the same time. I’m interested in how your notebooks fit into your work schedule. In other words, I’d first like to deal with the material aspect of your writing, as it relates to the rhythms of your everyday life.

Nick Piombino: As far as I can tell, my writing has little to do with my schedule as a therapist. But it has much to do with my experience as one. Right now I am seeing patients three days and nights, but for over 20 years I did that plus work at an 8:30 am to 4:00 pm position as a school social worker in New York, and for years before that as a social worker in clinics, hospitals and agencies. I wrote around this schedule somehow, plus went to readings quite often. Nine years ago I retired from my work for the school system. The fact is I have no writing schedule and never have had one. I carry a notebook around with me and write as the feeling hits me. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and deliberately chose to become a psychoanalyst rather than go through with formal literary training. I started as an undergraduate at CCNY where I did honors work in literature. The idea of writing according to some plan, or having a literary career, did not appeal to me. But right now we’re talking about mechanics. At one time I kept several notebooks but stopped doing this after I found it disorganizing. When I found out about blogging (from Ron Silliman and Gary Sullivan) I remembered I had many boxes full of unpublished material, mostly notebooks, but also some lined pads from the 1960’s. I started my blog fait accompli in 2003 in order to get those notebooks out there. I blogged from these notebooks every day for a couple of years, finally over a thousand pages. What I tried to do was create synchronicities by finding passages that corresponded in some way to how I felt the day I was posting the material. One of the synchronicities that happened was that I received the first copies of my book Contradicta (with illustrations by the artist Toni Simon) on the seventh birthday of the blog! The Contradicta started when I found I did not have time to blog and also work on the book fait accompli, which was based on the first three months of the blog. The fait accompli book was published in 2007 by Factory School and the Contradicta book in 2010 by Green Integer.