Now that he’s a grown man with children of his own, Billy Lombardo has a new appreciation for his own parents. As an author, he’s made them the subject of poems and books. As a parent, he continues to appreciate the perspective that’s afforded by being the link between two distinct generations.
Just like he does every year, Lombardo, a Forest Park resident, will be giving a special Father’s Day reading of his poetry at the Green Mill Café in Chicago on Sunday, June 17. His family isn’t directly incorporated into his work, Lombardo said, because it feels a bit opportunistic. But the experiences he has had with his family provide a strong influence on a subject that’s very dear to him–his father, Joseph Lombardo.
“I’m more aware of the special moments and of the sort of subtle influences that I exert on my children,” Lombardo said.
Lombardo is married to singer and musician Elisa McMan and has two sons. He is an English teacher at the Latin School in Chicago, where he founded “Polyphony HS,” a literary magazine that specializes in publishing teenage authors.
Lombardo, whose first book, a collection of short stories titled “The Logic of a Rose: Chicago Stories” came out in 2005, said his roles as both a son and as a father have been the main source of inspiration for his writing. “The Logic of a Rose” was semi-autobiographical, Lombardo said, and recalls his childhood in Bridgeport where he was raised by his hard-working, blue collar dad, who struggled to support his family and encourage good values.
Lombardo’s father said his son’s collection of short stories accurately portrays a lot of the good points of growing up. It pleases him, Joseph Lombardo said, to see that his son picked up some of the lessons he hoped to instill.
“A lot of the training and discipline he had was in there and that part was good,” Joseph Lombardo said. “And so was the love that we had for our family, which is a part of the Italian heritage. But he did exaggerate a lot, which is fine. That’s what writers are supposed to do. He’s a very loving person and very family oriented, a good father and husband, and I’m proud of that.”
Lombardo’s first novel, “The Man with Two Arms,” is currently with an agent. It’s about a fictional baseball player, with the narrative point of view shared by the main character and his father.
Largely, the focus of Lombardo’s work is an effort to understand who he was as a boy.
“I don’t feel like I’m any different than I was as a child,” Lombardo said. “But as a child I wasn’t paying attention to who I was as a person and nobody else was really paying that attention either. Today I receive credit and recognition for my work. As a child, I didn’t feel appreciated. But who I am today has to be credited to who I was back then.”
Lombardo’s focus on the importance of childhood inspired him to start “Polyphony HS,” his teenage literary magazine. The publication is also run by teenagers who, in the production process, are learning grammar and editing skills. Lombardo’s role is primarily organization and publicity. He likes the idea of teenagers finding their voice and getting to know who they are through writing, and it helps them to gain more confidence at a crucial time in their lives, he said.
Lombardo’s current writing project is a series of short stories told from the point of view of mothers. He has an awareness of people’s feelings, Lombardo said, which he considers to be a gift that allows him to capture a more feminine perspective in his writing. A careful reader though, would probably recognize that this is a man writing about a woman, he said, but he’s optimistic that he has caught the experience of motherhood.
Though Lombardo claims a strong sense for the experience of women, he doesn’t think this makes it any easier to be a good husband.
“Being a father comes to me so much easier than being a husband,” Lombardo said. “A relationship with kids is blood. It’s unconditional. But as hard as people try to make their relationship with their spouses unconditional, it just isn’t. It’s more difficult to forgive a spouse or give the benefit of the doubt.”