All posts filed under: Poetry

Letter to Myself a Year Ago

Photo by Gray Malin.  Do you remember the ancient summers of your childhood? Our fingers would search the dirt between tree roots for acorns. We found so many with their shells cracked open, waiting to unfurl itself deep into the dirt. This is how it feels to be you. — You might find this hard to believe: the other night, I had a dream about our parents that was completely mundane. There was no chase, no violence, no public nudity. Our mother was looking for an apartment in Florida. Our father and I were building a new cage for small animals. We could not find the parts needed to complete it. — You are tired of the grey concrete, the spires of corporate towers, the achingly long commutes on red and blue trains. You are tired of the same lakes as big as seas. More than anything, you are tired of what you remember about this city, all the people you used to love it still holds. I am tired of writing about how my …

A New Beginning

If you’re reading this post on this blog, it’s because you have some level of investment (financial, emotional or both) in the MFA degree. When I applied to write for this site last year, I fully expected to recount a year chock full of nothing but reading & ‘riting, the first such year in my life. However, that’s not what happened. Life (& death) reared its ugly head. Over the past year, my MFA was a mere background note. To be honest, I’m lucky it was even that. Not every MFA program would allow you to enroll in August after you turned them down months earlier. Not every program would let you attend classes part-time. But Rutgers-Camden is not like every other MFA program. If you’re reading this while considering your own applications or while you are in the midst of your own MFA year(s), I urge you: please make sure your program cares about whatever issues might potentially affect your life while you pursue this degree. Nothing is more important, not even funding. I say that as someone who needed his MFA degree to be …

Spring Break

Photograph by Ron Magill.  You can live your whole life in the springs of T. S. Eliot. There, snow fades to street charcoal, ice water soaks through in the seams of your shoes, and the sky remains an unmovable gray as the clock ticks forward an entire hour all at once. But somewhere, on the other side of this city, there is a beach lined with bodies getting tanner, an MTV camera crew in attendance. Somewhere, in the heart of this city, a celebrity you adore leans over a balcony, aiming his phone’s camera at the pool below. His lens is filled with bikinis, inflatable volleyballs, waiters in white button ups serving tropical drinks, the pool deck: a pink concrete, the pool itself: an azure glass. It’s the undergraduates attending class in their swim suits that makes the campus swimming pool visible again, and you realize you now live in the place of vacations. What does that mean for you, the poet? Spring break is always something quiet. Every day, you open the windows and doors of your …

An Ode to the Part-Time MFA

I remember the MFA post-application period like it was yesterday. I was six months into a dead-end job that I had found through a temp agency. I felt my brain liquefying every day I worked there. The profound apathy in the building was practically on the payroll. I knew my time at this job was short when my boss declined to give me a raise (and I had earned that raise, damn it!) upon converting me from a temp to an employee. His rationale? “You’re a smart guy, you’ll leave here eventually.”

In Defense of Actioned Poetics

While it is important to interrogate our motives and impacts when we write, to dismiss any act of writing, but especially poetry, as irrelevant involves both misguided utilitarianism and overgeneralization. Acts of political resistance begin with the imagination. In order to create a more just and equitable world, we must have an idea of how that world may look. Once we have an idea, we must be able to communicate it. Inarguably, revolutionary ideas have been communicated in language throughout history.

Learning to Read (Again)

As a child, I felt like I belonged in The Boxcar Children, The Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown more than I belonged in my own life. Reading became less about fantasy and more about escape as a teenager. My portals were contemporary fiction which allowed me to imagine a world outside my troubled narrow slice of New Jersey. Books remained my companions as a young adult while I bounced between unsatisfying jobs and relationships. My knowledge of the classics was pitiful, but Nick Hornby, Adam Davies and Augusten Burroughs wrote words that kept a spark of hope flickering intermittently in my brain even in the darkest of times. Once I got through those turbulent years, I became serious about school. Reading, writing, and poetry in particular, became joys in my life. On some days, moments spent reading Kay Ryan or Terrance Hayes or Li Bai and responding with my own bad poems were my only joys. I expelled words out of head and onto the paper with extreme force. As I finished my associate degree after four arduous years …

Winter Break

When people ask you where you are from, practice a different answer each time.  Give the name of a region, an adjacent town, the street you last lived on.  Take each place and hold yourself against its light to see where the edges meet. In January, move the writing desk to the other side of the room.  There is no window there.  Later, you will empty the last of the boxes from August, the ones filled with ephemera: photographs, letters, slips of paper that hold memories of people and places that have never been more distant.  There, you will find the porcelain figurine that belonged to your late grandmother, the one your mother accidentally smashed, then glued back together again, and gave to you when she could no longer stand to look at it.  In this reordered room, set it in the corner of your desk. Christmas will have come and gone in this new place.  A month ago, you felt the blood of your origins ticking through your veins and wondered how this type …