Love, life inspire poet

Photos by Andrea Poteet

Wyandotte poet Pietro Di Giorgio reads from one of his latest poetry collections, “Eloise,” about the former Eloise asylum on Michigan Avenue in Westland.

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — The love affair that inspired a local poet’s latest work started with his dirty laundry.

Pietro Di Giorgio, 80, met his wife, Sharlet, in the 1970s at an area laundromat.

After returning from a trip to New York, Di Giorgio, recently single after the death of his first wife, spotted the woman who would become his second wife reading a book titled “Sheila Levine is Dead and Living In New York,” and began chatting with her.

“She was looking for women’s clothing in the pile of clothes I was washing,” Di Giorgio said. “And she didn’t see anything. So she thought I must be single.”

The next day, when Di Giorgio’s car stalled, a familiar face pulled up in a Volkswagen bus. It was the woman he met at the laundromat, offering him a ride.

“I said, ‘Maybe we can have coffee,’” he said, “and it steamrolled from there.”

The couple have been married for 31 years. Di Giorgio’s newest collection of poetry, “Songs for My Love,” which he read recently at Biddle Gallery, is dedicated to his wife. In the book, he calls her a “gyroscope that kept me on course to a discovery of my true self.”

“I’m very flattered, naturally,” Sharlet Di Giorgio said. “But he has a poem for me every morning at breakfast. He has hundreds of them all over his studio.”

In addition to his wife, Di Giorgio also is inspired by nature, people and hope. His first chapbook
was inspired by nature and written on a bet from a friend who showed him a collection of black and white photographs he had taken.

“He said, ‘Write a poem for each one or I’m not gonna let you go home,’” Di Giorgio said.

Thirty hours later, Di Giorgio had written the poems for his first chapbook, “Dawn of Purity,” which was published in 1981.

Di Giorgio, a former writing teacher for Garden City Public Schools, began writing poetry in his early 20s when he was a student at Henry Ford Community College. Since then, he has published more than a dozen collections of poetry, for which he has won a variety of awards, including one for a short film based on his poems. His wife, a painter, provides art for many of his books. The couple also hosted a radio show on Garden City station WCAR-AM, called “Starting Point,” that helped mentor young writers.

“I tell them to get out of their head and see what is around you,” Di Giorgio said. “That’s what poetry is. It’s what you feel and see around you intellectually and writing it down beautifully.”

Di Giorgio said he intends to keep writing. He recently finished a book of poems about former residents of the now-defunct Eloise asylum (most recently known as Wayne County General Hospital) inspired by their grave markers. He said he let his mind craft their stories, as most of their records had been lost.

He is also working on a book of political poem called “Free Thought in Suburbia,” and an epic poem titled “Constant Melody.”

No matter where inspiration leads him next, Di Giorgio said he always will return to writing about one particular subject.

“I continue writing songs about my love because she inspires me,” he said. “I love her very much, and by next Valentine’s Day, I’ll probably have a new book.”