Michael Gizzi was born in Schenectady, New York in 1949 to Carolyn and Anthony Gizzi. He had two brothers, Peter and Thomas Gizzi. He spent part of his childhood living in Ohio and lived in East Greenwich, Rhode Island for three years (10th, 11th, and 12th grade) of high school. His parents moved up to Pittsfield, Massachusetts and he returned to Rhode Island as an undergraduate student at Brown University where he recieved a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1976. He would return to Brown to earn his Master of Fine Arts degree in English in June 1977. He attended the Masters program with Keith Waldrop who, ultimately, connected him to the Burning Deck community of poets and artists. He was married to his first wife, fellow artist, Ippy (Patterson) and had his daughter Pilar at this time and they purchased a home in Rehobeth, Massachusetts. He worked for seven years as an arborist and tree surgeon in Southeastern New England to support his family.
After receiving his MFA, Michael Gizzi moved out to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts where he worked collaboratively with Clark Coolidge on a Jack Keuroac inspired series. This work with Clark Coolidge fomented a long lasting friendship in work and in life. In the early 1990s, Gizzi began teaching English and creative writing at Lenox High School, which he did for several years. In the late 1990s, he would move back to Providence. At this time he was married to his second wife, Cape Verde native, RISD graduate and collage artist, Barbieo (Barros). He worked as adjunct faculty and visiting professor at Roger Williams University and Brown University. He officially started work as an adjunct creative writing professor at Roger Williams in 2005 and worked for three more years as a visiting professor there. Due to financial constraints, Roger Williams could not ask Gizzi back in the fall of 2009. He worked as a visiting professor in literary arts at Brown during this time, as well, and coordinated a number of poetry readings and projects such as the Down City Poetry Series on campus.
In the midst of his apparently normal life, Michael Gizzi established himself in literary circles as an author and editor through his connection to the Waldrops and other impressive poets. He authored over ten books of poetry, including: Bird As, Avis, Species of Intoxication, New Depths of Deadpan, and No Both. Both of his wives, Ippy and Barbieo, contributed artwork for covers of his books. For example, Ippy designed the cover artwork for his work "Cured in the Going Bebop". His works were published by Burning Deck, Hard Press, Roof, among others and he would work as an editor for a few of those companies. An indicative reflection of these relationships is highlighted in his work as editor of "Lingo" Magazine which functioned as a component of Hard Press from 1992 - 1998. During this time he edited works from writers such as Bernadette Mayer, Jim Brodey, Merrill GilFillan, and Trevor Winkfield. In 1996 (and 2007) Gizzi was award the Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing. In early 2000 Gizzi collaborated with Craig Watson (who he met for the first time in 1976 at the Waldrop's home) to open their own publishing company called Qua Books. There first published work was John Ashbery's "As Umbrellas Follow Rain" in 2002. Their second published work was George Stanely's "A Tall, Serious Girl" in 2003. He worked on outside projects as well, such as lyrics for music scores.
Michael Gizzi died unexpectedly on Monday, September 27th, 2010 in his Providence home at the age of 61.
From the guide to the Michael Gizzi papers, Gizzi (Michael) Papers, circa 1940-2010, (John Hay Library Special Collections)