Sparta man published over 100 poems

Tripi has published over 100 poems

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By Rose Sgarlato
— Lake Mohawk resident Chuck Tripi is an accomplished writer with over 100 poems published. His journey from pilot to poet is an interesting one that results from a life-altering occurrence.

Always connected to the written word, Tripi, an English major at Siena College in the 1960’s, used to hang out in local places reading poetry. Back then he was a huge fan of Yates and believed that poetry died after 1939.

“I did some writing, but I didn’t think I had what it took. And in those days, you didn’t become a poet, plus there was a war going on," said Tripi.

So after graduating in 1969 and marrying his wife Barbara, he joined the United States Air Force. Pilot training was in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he remained on active duty for three years but was never sent to Vietnam.

When the war was over the Air Force was looking to downsize and offered various incentives.

“Palace Chase was a program that let you trade remaining active duty time for Air Force reserve time. So in 1973, I left the Air Force and started working for American Airlines at 25 years old. It was wonderful,” Tripi said.

At that point he moved to Lake Mohawk, which had a reputation for being an enclave for pilots because of its easy access to major airports, he said.

“The move here was more of a herding instinct. There were a lot of pilots here, and we only had to go to work three times a week so it was a great place to be.”

Tripi’s career took on a new direction when he was elected to the board of directors for the pilot’s union in 1984 during an era that some consider tumultuous in the airline industry, when contract struggles and labor management issues were front and center. When his seat on the board was replaced a few years later, he became Chief Pilot of American Airline’s Eastern division.

“It was a privilege for me to spend my flying career advocating for the rights and interests of professional airline pilots. I was an unconventional guy among some of the hot shot union guys,” said Tripi. “It was a hellacious and exciting time to be in the industry.”

With 20 years under his belt at American Airlines, Tripi’s health issues first started with a heart attack when he was 45 years old, causing him to slow down, switch gears and reevaluate. He turned to the Mind Body Institute for his rehabilitation and became an exercise freak, he said.

While studying the arts of serenity specifically Tai Chi, Tripi began to write again.

“Before that it was hard. I couldn’t do two things at once. But when I started to study Zen after my first heart attack, I began to write. I had 17 poems finished when I hit the floor,” said Tripi, referring to the massive stroke in 1998 that ended his career at 51 years old.

This time around, permanent brain damage particularly with sight and motor skills put Tripi on disability from the airline industry, and soon his new job became getting better and learning simple tasks. The cathartic experience forced him to create a new life during his arduous and emotional road to recovery.

“Tying my shoes was the hardest thing I had to do,” he said. “But eventually I was writing little poems walking around the yard trying to get back to equanimity.”

After attending a poetry reading series at Sussex Community College in 2004, Tripi began to immerse himself in the poet community, also participating in the Sussex County Writers Roundtable, an organization promoting workshop poetry among novice poets.

Through this networking and interaction, Tripi published his first poem in 2005 in a journal and more recently released his first book of poems entitled “Carlo and Sophia.” To date, he has written over 600 poems varying in theme with his flying poems being the most popular, but overall his work has no particular style and no formality and borderline metaphysical, he said.

Perhaps what Tripi is most proud of is The Paulinskill Poetry Project, an exchange forum he founded in 2007 that draws community poets together from many New Jersey counties and other nearby regions.

“The essence of the Paulinskill Poetry Project is to allow the people to live their poetry and develop themselves. It's difficult to get poetry published. The Paulinskill books have been my gift to the community.”

When asked if he misses the days of flying, Tripi replies, “Poetry is my life. I am happier now. To begin at the beginning is a beautiful opportunity.”

Information about the Paulinksill project can be found on Facebook. Carlos and Sophia is available on Amazon.

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