Nico Tortorella is re-introducing himself. With All of It Is You, his debut poetry collection, the Younger actor is offering an exploration of “all of it,” from the smallest cells in our bodies to the outer limits of our universe. The book is divided into three sections: the first features poems named after body parts, the second after elements relating to Earth, and the third expanding to the outer reaches of the universe.
Safe to say, it’s an ambitious and idiosyncratic undertaking. Tortorella spoke with EW about All of It Is You, sharing details on his inspiration, writing a book in 45 days, and the message of ‘self-love’ he hopes to share with readers. Read on below, where you can also listen to three excerpts of the collection narrated by Tortorella himself, each drawn from one of the sections.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The collection itself is such an experience when reading — and listening to it. What inspired you to write a poetry book?
NICO TORTORELLA: I mean, what didn’t? That would be an easier thing to answer. [Laughs] Just the world around us really, I think that everything that’s happening right now, we’re living in such a trying, wild time and everything is so external all the time, there’s information to be taken from everywhere and I think that right now we should all take a little bit of time to look inward and try to connect with this oneness that’s really the vibrant force that connects us all. I had a podcast [The Love Bomb] and that’s when I really started diving into spoken word and writing. I get to give a piece of my soul out to the world that I can’t even explain, but I can paint the picture with words and sound. I just wanted to put out something that people can hold.
You wrote the entire book in 45 days — tell me about the writing process.
It was all about dedication. I never worked on something that I had to dedicate a lot of time to every single day. Writing poetry has to channel some sort of inspiration and to make that inspiration work is definitely a really interesting experience. I more or less just journaled for a month-and-a-half all day, every day. I wrote five to seven pieces a day and if I missed a day I would be behind and I would have to catch up. It naturally flowed out of me; I wasn’t attached to the outcome as much as I was attached to the process and I knew where I was starting with “Sperm” and ending in the cosmos with UFOs and aliens. It was written as a journey from the seed to the big seed and I just kind of blasted off.
Is that why the book is split into three sections: body, earth, and universe?
Yeah, but I can’t give you a definitive answer as to why it is split like that. When I sat down to write this book, that’s just what came out of me. Those are the three sections of the world that we live in, that just made sense. It all starts with us, we live on this planet and this planet is floating through space — and that’s all we know so far. I mean, we all have ideas of why we’re here. Religion and spiritual has given us practice and storytelling, so this was just my own whack at it.
You say in the intro that you hope this book is transformative for those who read it — how did it transform you to write this book?
I mean, it still is. I’ve done a lot of spoken word and looping with different effects. For the book launch party I’m going to be doing some music with the poems. Hopefully I can take it on the road someday, but every time I pick up the book and start reading a poem I get taken to a new place with it. There are little nuggets, pieces of gold throughout the entire book, that even I am still learning from every single day. That’s what I wanted to create, at the end of the day the entire world, everything that we see, we feel, every other person that exists, buildings, countries — for me I’m coming from this place that none of it would exist without you. If you weren’t here none of it would exist, and that’s the idea that links us all in such a beautiful important way that we all just need to be reminded of right now.
I want to talk about the title — it’s such a simple phrase and according to your introduction the “greatest title of all time.” What is it that makes it such a great title?
[Laughs] It is the definition of the oneness, the fact that the entire book is written in second person and it is reading to the reader itself — there’s no other way of saying it. I’m very much so inspired by Ram Dass and when he put out Be Here Now, I would like to think that his mantra inspired this mantra. It is a reminder that we are everything and everything that exists is us, is you.
I listened to the audiobook — which is a whole production and experience in itself. Why was it important for you to craft it that way?
I didn’t really have a choice. If I was going to put out a poetry book there was no way I was going to let anybody else read it. I’d like to think that the way it is read and spoken it is very much so alike in the way that it is written. It is authentic and it lives in the moment. Is it perfect? No, absolutely not, but for me that’s the journey and the process. To me, the audiobook is a living breathing piece that represents a moment in time and [will] live on forever somewhere, hopefully.
The music that you pair with some of the poems, did you collaborate with someone on it? Or is it all yours?
Actually, one of my childhood friends, Andy Pomykalski, we are up just blocks away from each other. We hadn’t talked in a little bit and he was here in New York when I was putting the audiobook together. I knew that I wanted some sort of ethereal sound and I reached out to him. It was a no-brainer from the second I started listening to his music, it worked perfectly. We’ve been working together since. He represents a piece of home to me and that’s what this book is. It’s about celebrating our homes, our bodies, souls, and minds. That’s home to me.
Were you afraid of sharing this side of you with the world, since you’ve never written a book before — let alone a poetry book?
I still am nervous. [Laughs] My greatest insecurity has always been my own intelligence and also my own vocabulary. There’s a space between the speed with which my mind thinks and my mouth speaks. There’s a space between those two that I really like to live in. I had a terrible stutter when I was growing up — I don’t think I’ve ever said that before — but anyway I’m really insecure in the way that I speak on things. I’m most nervous for the academic, the poetry world, the lit folks to get their hands on this book and attempt to tear it apart. That’s what they do, that’s their job, especially with poetry right now. I just have to remind myself that this book isn’t necessarily for them, but for me; this book is about everybody for everybody and if somebody has something negative to say about the language or the way that it is written, or not written perfectly — f— you, I don’t have time for that. [Laughs] There’s something so much more special that exists in this book, direct from source alchemy that is present in every page that far transcends any of that. But there is a small part of me that is nervous, because it’s a freaking book!
What do you want readers to take away from All of It Is You?
It is self-love really. If anyone that picks up this book can fall in love with themselves a little bit more then my job here is done. That’s what this whole book is about: celebrating yourself and who you are and what you do, no matter how flawed or incredible. It’s all worth celebrating, because all of it is you — that’s all.