Triptych with Adam Giannelli

By Josh Otten

I had the pleasure of attending the most recent Triptych Reading, featuring Adam Giannelli. He opened with a wry smile, making himself known through his beard, lavender striped oxford shirt, and his stutter. He also made sure to mention the spider plant that hung behind him. I’d like to consider it as another member of the audience. 

His introduction through appearance was a perfect transition to the poems that he read from Tremulous Hinge, his first and most recent poetry collection. Focusing on the sensory, physical aspects of life and memory, he read poems that swept me away in detail and precision.   

From an exploration of bodies and the way that they hang, sway, and shift, both intimately and in discomfort, to a meditation on gravity and its very presence in our every step, embrace, or tumble to the floor, the poems Giannelli read struck me in the way that they made me think about the relationship I have to my own body. And I emphasize the word relationship. In “My Insomnia,” Giannelli leads us through a description of, well, his insomnia, in all its quirks and idiosyncrasies. His insomnia is curious. it likes to drive, look at the night sky and through closed storefront windows. It takes “chamomile and warm baths as bribes.” This poem, in addition to the others that were read, probes at the intangible, ethereal relationship we have with our bodies. As much as we are our bodies, we are all separate from them at the same time. We can place our palm over our chest and feel our heart beating, but the heart beats of its own accord. Giannelli explores this relationship brilliantly, in all its minute and spectacular detail. 

At the same time, though, the poems he read were about much more than just bodies and sensory detail. In two separate odes to his nana, Giannelli explores the winter snow, as he remembers it, at her old house. Simultaneously, he gives us a moving glimpse into her memory loss, frozen alongside the snowbanks. 

Another standout moment for me was the poem about porcupines, which was both adorable and fiercely, exuberantly expressive (much like the quilled critters themselves). I really loved how Giannelli welcomed and celebrated their quills, what we know best about porcupines, but also talked about how their noses and the pads of their little feet are soft and squishy. Porcupines are much more than just shiny, bristling quills, and among the themes of bodily acceptance, this poem conveys a truly positive message about taking pride in the beauty of our own bodies, in each different and unique aspect. 

Finally, Giannelli closed with three new poems from his new project, which I really appreciated. I love getting the chance to experience a brand-new creative endeavor. These three poems centered around language, as well as his stutter. In the first, he tells the reader about his stutter with confident ownership. Not something to be concerned about or to pity, but a wonderful aspect of himself and his own self-expression. His poem “Stutterfied” continued with this theme, taking in stride and with pride each aspect of this stutter, in all the ways it’s a part of his speech and his expression. Finally, (my personal favorite) was “Alphabet Acrobats,” which was a spectacularly physical description of each letter of the alphabet through stomping, chewing, and kisses on the cheek. 

When the zoom meeting closed at the end of the reading, I found myself pondering the way my shirt clung to my skin, listening to wind whistle through the open window. 

Adam Giannelli shared his work as part of the Triptych Writers Series, sponsored by University of Detroit Mercy’s English department and hosted by Stacy Gnall, poet-in-residence at Detroit Mercy.


Author Note: Josh Otten is a freshman at the University of Detroit Mercy. He is an English major and track athlete. He is passionate about sports and the arts, and hopes to explore the world through writing.

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