Webster University alumnus discusses his life as poet.
Story | Mariah Nadler • Photo | Taylor Ringenberg
“My father told me, growing up, that you’re going to spend 99 percent of your early working career figuring out what it is that you don’t want to do with your life,” Travis Mossotti says. Despite graduating from Webster University in 2005 with a double major in English creative writing and French, 33-year-old Mossotti ended up employed at a law firm. It was here that he realized the truth in his father’s statement.
“I think working at a law firm taught me as much about what I wanted to do, which was the exact opposite of that, as what I didn’t want to do, which was that,” Mossotti says.
This experience helped Mossotti decide to pursue poetry as a career.
Mossotti found poetry through a book his mom gave him, “Sailing Alone Around the Room” by Billy Collins, while he was still searching for what it was he wanted to do professionally. Mossotti devoured the book and began to write some of his own poetry.
“One poem turned into two poems, turned into three poems, and the next thing you know—” he was a poet, Mossotti says.
While at Webster, Mossotti studied under the tutelage of David Clewell, the second Poet Laureate of Missouri and director of the creative writing program at Webster.
“He was a very good teacher,” says Mossotti, then adds as if it took him by surprise, “and, yeah, I can’t stop [writing poetry].”
The poet’s first book, “About the Dead,” was published in 2011.
A St. Louis native, Mossotti and his wife, whom he met at a Cardinals’ game, have a daughter who is almost two. She is an addition that he says he is going to let “settle for a while” before he writes “too many daddy poems.”
Mossotti admits the biggest impact on his career is seen in the way he budgets his time, especially the time he spends writing.
“You gotta manage, and I’ve found that just being a father, more than anything else, has made me more aware of taking advantage of every waking moment.”
Mossotti’s entire life is a testament to that very idea. Whether taking home a deer skull from a kill site in California, where his wife studied pumas; collaborating with his brother on a short film based on his poem “Decampment;” or running 40 miles a week, he lives life in the present. Rather than keep on the safe side, he prefers to get his hands a little bit dirty. His advice to graduating Webster students: “Go out into the world for a year or two. […] Don’t rush off to a graduate program.”
In accordance with this philosophy, the poet visits his brother three to four times a year in order to collaborate, not just on films but on poems as well.
“It’s a real boon when you can find somebody to work with who kind of excites you creatively, and it’s even better when they’re related to you,” he says, describing his creative relationship with his brother as symbiotic.
At present, Mossotti is sitting on three book-length manuscripts of new writing.
“I think I have two that are really, really done and one I’m still fiddling with,” he says.
As well as this, Mossotti is expecting his newest chapbook (a small collection of poems that is usually published by a small press) entitled “My Life as an Island.” The chapbook is the result of Mossotti winning the Press’ Chapbook Contest. It includes a poem called “Hills,” one of the few outlets Mossotti has found for his French degree; a poem after the French poet Apollinaire.
One surprise to Mossotti still, was that he graduated from Webster with a video production minor. He remembered taking a few film classes, filming some shorts with other film students and eventually taking a French film course abroad in Paris, France.
“I didn’t even know about [the minor] until like two years ago,” he says.
This incident perfectly sums up Mossotti: He is a man who takes every opportunity life throws his way, even to the extent that he doesn’t realize the result of some of those opportunities. He is a poet who enjoys the best things in life. What are the best things in life?
“Good food, good beer and good company,” according to Mossotti.