, I found The Loss of Hope and Love
, where Jamaica Plain resident (he'll be moving to Brighton in a month) Jim McGrath writes poems comprised of words he finds in newspaper articles. Like this one, titled "Stars," written last Friday and culled from this heartwrenching article
about a New York homicide:
The whole morning stumbled in,
and in the candlelight
I was alone, trying hard
to hold a little bit of belief.
Twenty-six-year-old McGrath, a native Brooklynite who moved to Boston in 2003, is currently getting his PhD in English from Northeastern. I caught up with him over email this morning; here's some of what he had to say about his latest project (he maintains a separate, more generalist blog here
PHX: What was the inspiration for The Loss of Hope and Love?
JM: At the start of the summer I
found myself bored and heartbroken. I decided that the boredom could easily be
cured, so I bought a bike, and riding that has been a lot of fun. My friend and
I are trying to do 100 miles in one day; we did 70 yesterday, which was fun but
But I can't be on a bike all the time, and while I contemplated
installing handlebars on my computer, I decided to write poetry and all that.
Like most of young Boston, I'm a grad student, and I'm currently pursuing a phd
in English at Northeastern University. I hope to write a dissertation on
contemporary American poetry (how vague, I know-it's still early in the process
though), and I've been doing a lot of summer reading on the subject.
I had grabbed a cheap copy of an Allen Ginsberg biography (by Barry Miles), and I
was interested in Ginsberg's initial reactions to the cut-up techniques that
William S. Burroughs and Gregory Corso (and a few others-I'm sorry, the
biography is now sitting in my brother's apartment in Hoboken, probably on the
floor) were playing with in Paris. Ginsberg seemed to be worried about the sort
of automated, detached nature of the process, and in his journal at the time he
wrote "I could stand the loss of Peter [Orlovsky, his frequent companion and
lover who he was having issues with at the time], but not the loss of Hope and
I thought it might be interesting to test out the cut-up process
and see the effects on myself and on readers. So now here we are. I'm happy to
note that I"m much less bored now than I was at the start of the
PHX: What kind of feedback have you gotten so far?
JM: Not too much feedback as of yet. I've been simultaneously
quiet about the blog among friends and e-mailing sites like Bookslut and Levi's
Asher's Literary Kicks to let them know that it exists. The latter sites linked
to it and said nice things, and that was very kind of them. But now I've been
leaking the word out to people here and there, and my friends have been very
supportive. I think many of them were surprised; despite studying poetry and all
that, I can be a bit of a ham in social settings. The tone of the site (and the
economy of language) are probably a nice change of pace for them. I should
probably let the English Department at Northeastern know what I"m up to, but
they'd probably be happier if I was finishing up my coursework. Some of them.
Mainly the ones I owe papers to.
PHX: Do you have any favorites, of the poems you've written?
JM: I like the more recent ones, although
I am worried that all the poems will start to sound like emo fortune cookie
messages, if that [makes] any sense. I'd like to pay more attention to form and things
like that, but I think I'll do more of that in time. I'd like to do a sestina,
or an Elizabethan sonnet. That would be neat.
Of the more recent ones, I
like "star" and "some pride" and "Just." "star" in particular was satisfying to
me, but it was also a bit tough to write. The article I used concerned a young
man in Rockaway who was shot to death just weeks before he was set to start
college. His brother held his hand while he died in the street. It's one of the
saddest things I've read in a while, and initially I was concerned about using
it for my little poetry project. But I thought a bit about what I wanted to do
with the words from the article, and I think the poem came out ok.
not happy with today's poem ("old"), but these things happen.
PHX: What's your day job?
JM: I am
happy to say that I do not currently have a day job. I have taken the summer off
since my summer teaching at Northeastern wrapped up in late June. I had some
loan money tucked away from my year at school, so that cash is keeping me afloat
until September. Most of my friends and family hate me, obviously. But I've had
my share of terrible jobs (cemetery groundskeeper, bank drone) and my last
summer found me working six days a week, so I'm happy to be hated for a little