Giuseppe Daddeo (39) is towering over a table, his tone composed. Yet his words are spirited when talking about his love for poetry.
“To me it is the most powerful expression of words, you can say a lot with a short poem, it is very powerful,” he says.
Despite suffering from a herniated disk in his back, he patiently answers questions for over an hour, about A Shanghai Poetry Zine (ASPZ), whilst standing up.
ASPZ is a free, quarterly multilingual publication of poetry and visual arts from the Shanghai artistic community. “We give them a space so that now you have a new incentive to write. So there are actually people who have started to write again just because they know there is a place where they can be published,” he says.
Originally from Avellino, Italy, Giuseppe has had artistic aspirations from an early age. “I have a strong ego, I wanted to make a difference, I didn’t want to go unnoticed,” he says with a shrug.
Being the son of a professor of literature and history, he spent most of his free time as a child reading and writing, since TV was banned in his house.
At the age of 17, J.J, his book about a rock band, was published in Italy. Despite having written short stories and a lot of poems since then, he admits that he hasn’t made much efforts until recently (via ASPZ’s anonymous submission process) to get anything published. “I leave it there, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the fear of not being good enough.”
At the age of 25 he moved to Shanghai after spending some years working in events management in Italy. Factory work in China helped him master Mandarin, and develop a good understanding of engineering terminology in this language. Currently he works as a consultant for Italian engineering firms wishing to expand their presence in China.
Enjoying some flexibility in this role, he can dedicate a lot of his time to artistic endeavours, such as ASPZ, which he founded with 5 friends in 2016.
“We are kind of nurturing the growth of this kind of half-dead form of art. Many people like it but they never attempted or they found it useless to do it because you write a poem and you do what? You put it in your closet,” he says.
Through the voluntary efforts of Giuseppe and his team, they hope to change this bleak outlook for poets residing in Shanghai.
The latest issue of ASPZ boasts 16 poems and eight visual artworks accompanying the poems. Copies are distributed in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Jakarta. An electronic version of each issue is also shared in the ASPZ WeChat group.
New issues are usually launched at an event where the works of the published poets are read. The artists also get to explain their work. After that, an open mic is held, and writers and poets, including those who did not get included in the issue, are invited to read out their poems to an audience.
Giuseppe insists that people should keep submitting their poems, even if they do not get published the first time.
“If I wanted to publish all the good ones, we would have had 100 pages.”
The ASPZ team accept poems in any language, as they are supported by a network of collaborators, including skilled translators.
Giuseppe is particularly interested in getting the Chinese and international community to mingle more. “There are amazing Chinese poets in Shanghai, so we do need to spread our word a bit more into the Chinese community.”
In terms of the selection process, only one team member has access to the email address where submissions are sent. From here all the poems are rendered anonymous and rated by external collaborators. Members from the editorial team wishing to submit poems also have to go through this process.
Giuseppe is pleased with the hundreds of poems they receive from the community: “The quality of submissions is skyrocketing. We are getting better and better stuff by the same people or new people. That means people are working on their skills thanks to this.”
He feels strongly about providing the publication for free: “One of the reasons why this spread quickly was also their availability. Free of charge, no barriers.”
However, printing and distributing ASPZ is expensive, and the funds contributed by Giuseppe, some of his team members and other donors have not been sufficient to keep distributing the magazine for free.
Dismayed he says: “We decided we are going to charge for the magazine, the hard copy, a symbolic value which will cover at least the printing.”
Putting costs into perspective, he says: “You can easily waste 100 bucks for nothing here in Shanghai; sixty five for a cocktail. But then you want to give nothing for a magazine.”
He is hoping to recruit a volunteer marketing manager in the near future, who may be able to help finding sponsors for the magazine so it can be free again.
“Generally speaking, art should be a tool for the society to be better for the people to have a better place instead of getting drunk in a bar. For the people to have an opportunity to grow as artists as creators all of these and the money for me they don’t click together. I don’t like money. I think it is a very dirty thing.”