Brian Fanelli admits that the concept for his latest book of poems, “All That Remains,” “sounds really academic and nerdy,” but it’s also one that many readers will relate to.
“I had this idea that I wanted to explore the idea of gender communication and failure of relationships and why they failed based on communication, and also gender stereotypes and things like that,” Fanelli began.
“Some of that is still in the book, but as I was working on this, the Occupy Wall Street movement exploded. I became kind of conscious of some of the class divides that this country was going through and is still going through, so I thought about a lot of the jobs that I worked as an adjunct instructor, as a factory worker, as a county employee. All those jobs were part-time and had no benefits. In light of this one movement, it made me think about my own situation and this country’s situation, so a lot of poems came out of that.”
Inspired by working class poets like former U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine and Jim Daniels, mixed with influence from groundbreaking female poets like Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton, he started writing the poems for the 75-page collection from Unbound Content in 2009 and 2010 as he entered his final semester of the Wilkes University MFA Creative Writing program, publishing some of the work in various journals periodically.
By the summer of 2011, he had enough for a full-length collection, but ended up having to change the title after discovering a Binghamton professor had already chosen “What Remains” for his book. Fanelli’s title came from one of his poems about a doomed relationship, but “All That Remains” ended up working just as well.
“I think it works two ways metaphorically. The poem is about what remains after these relationships end, but it’s also about what remains and all that remains when cities crumble because industries leave, when people don’t have jobs anymore, what remains after. I was thinking about that concept in light of kind of living in this ongoing recession where states are slashing services and education and what remains for us as a county in light of all this,” he explained, specifically noting NEPA’s mining history.
Currently pursing his PHD while teaching English at Lackawanna College, the 29-year-old Kingston resident has always made time to write, publishing his last book, “Front Man,” in 2010 as part of his thesis, though both he and his characters have matured since then.
“(‘Front Man’ is) a book that deals with music and this kid growing up in the punk rock scene. This book has, I think, some of those characters, but they’ve aged, and I think that they’re kind of questioning, ‘Is music or this music scene enough to carry us through these hardships?’ set in the background of this Great Recession that we’ve been going through,” he noted.
While some of these observations are personal, others are fictionalized, but both explore similar themes with occasional music references that Fanelli feels aren’t just for academics or even the poetry slam scene, but for the everyman, who continues to appear in each and every piece.
The first official “All That Remains” signing and release party will be held on Friday, Oct. 25 at The Vintage (326 Spruce St., Scranton). Fanelli will read selections from the book and copies will be available. He plans to read across Pennsylvania as well as New York and New Jersey in the next year, with tour dates listed on brianfanelli.com.
“It’s going to be busy, but I’m excited to do it,” he said of the tour.
“I just want the book to be out. It was accepted for publication about a year and a half to two years ago, so it’s been a long, exciting process watching it come to this. I’m thrilled to have the book out there. I’m nervous, but I can’t wait to share these poems with the community and my family and my friends.”
It may be “nerdy,” but who isn’t a little geeky about something these days?
“I hope that people like it, especially people that think, ‘Oh, I don’t like poetry.’ If I can reach somebody who says they don’t like poetry, then I’ll feel good about this book.”