Wednesday, July 1, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by Jeffrey Beck

Jeffrey Beck

his father’s voice

because you didn’t have time to return

his last call, you linger now replaying

the crackly voicemail, his buoyant plea

to talk, his voice rising a squeaky

octave, so you’ll know he’s excited;

In the Spotlight: Jeffrey Beck

Jeffrey Beck received an honorable mention for the Worcester County Poetry Association Frank O’Hara Prize. His poem, appearing in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review, is a poem about his father (pictured below), Arnold James Beck, who died on March 29, 2009.  

What does it mean to write? What do you believe to be the role of the writer?

Writing poetry is creating astounding word-machines that move. They “move” the thoughts, senses, and emotions of readers. That is the role of the writer: to do the creative work with words that will lead to these movements. And the poet seeks to move all three—thought, senses, emotions. If a poem lacks one of these movements, it is less successful. The poet Ted Kooser says that certain poems remind him of machines that were invented in the nineteenth century—fantastic mechanical levers to help men tip their hats. Of course, no one bought those machines because, in spite of their cleverness, they weren’t really needed. A poem that really moves people will seem necessary. A poem that is cleverly worded, but not moving, will be discounted as a trifle.

According to your LinkedIn profile, you received a PH.D. in English in 1993 and have been teaching since. You are also currently the dean of the Nathan Weiss Graduate College at Kean University and are involved in several projects. Could you discuss your strategies for finding time to write while also maintaining such a busy lifestyle?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by William Jolliff

William Jolliff


Explanations for the Night



Her doctor, she says, claims he can't do a thing

for her other troubles until she starts to sleep.

Anybody who goes a day or two without it

is likely to forget things, lose things, maybe

even find things that aren't really there.

In the Spotlight: William Jolliff

The writer of “Explanations for the Night” and "For Rebecca, Off to Spain,” two poems published in The Worcester Review Volume XXXV, William Jolliff is a professor, old-time country and traditional music enthusiast, and poet who here offers writing tips and insights into his own work as a poet. 

You have noted on the George Fox University faculty page that you are interested in traditional Appalachian and Midwestern music. Could you discuss how your interest and involvement in these genres has influenced your poetry?

That's really hard to say. I assume there may be some mutual influence but not much that would lend itself to easy correspondences. I've loved old-time country and traditional music since the cradle, but other than the shared fascination with words, such art forms seem very different to me from literary poetry. When I write songs in those genres, I put a very different kind of formal demands on myself than I do with my poetry, which is largely (more or less) free verse. Probably the main influence might simply be that the kinds of people who show up in my poems are often people who like old-time country music and live in that little demographic slice. I did happen to notice a few summers back that I'd written about forty poems of sixteen lines each: four, four-line stanzas with about four pulses to the line. That happens to be the structure of a traditional fiddle tune... So I suppose on some deep structural level there's a bit of merging going on.

You have also noted that you like to focus on countercultural writers. Could you share why and which works in particular have stuck with you and your writing? 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by Becky Kennedy

Becky Kennedy





It's Sunday morning and sun the color

of honey spills on the kitchen counter;

it’s ten or eleven o’clock and they

fill our kitchen, our son and his new wife

and their friends and the laughing, the way that

people laugh when laughing is like breathing,

laughing about beer and golf and bad luck

and graduate school, laughing at jobs they’ve

had or never had, the two wives rolling

eyes, laughing, planning Sunday. His new wife

humming as if she were baking or were

planning something really nice like golfing

while you test your clubs in the living room

where I sort my photos. In the night you

In the Spotlight: Becky Kennedy

Writer Becky Kennedy is a linguist and professor at Lasell College. In the following Q&A, she shares her unique perspective on writing as well as the behind-the-pen thought process behind her poem, “Golfing,” which appears in The Worcester Review Volume XXXV. 

Can you discuss your job as a linguist and professor at Lasell College? What does it mean to be a linguist? How has your work as a linguist helped you write from a unique angle?

A linguist studies both languages and language: When the linguist documents the parameters of variation in languages, the universal characteristics of language can be better understood. Critical to the linguist’s understanding of language and the language faculty is an appreciation of the completeness of a speaker’s knowledge of language. In my courses on language structure and language acquisition, I work to help my students perceive their own spoken forms as fully rule-governed and beautiful; one approach to that appreciation is the formal analysis of the components of spoken language. Voice is one of the features of spoken language that makes the individual speaker’s output so compelling, and voice is important to the aesthetic appeal of the language of literature. In my literature and creative writing courses, therefore, I focus again on formalism: on the ways in which tonality is reflected in sound and meaning patterns, for instance.

Your piece in TWR takes its title, “Golfing,” from an image in the poem. One of the most difficult (and potentially one of the most important) parts of writing a poem is its title. How do you go about titling your pieces in general and for this piece in particular?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by B.J. Ward

B.J. Ward


Daily Grind



A man awakes every morning

and instead of reading the newspaper

reads Act V of Othello.

He sips his coffee and is content

that this is the news he needs

as his wife looks on helplessly.

The first week she thought it a phase,

his reading this and glaring at her throughout,

the first month an obsession,

the first year a quirkiness in his character,

and now it’s just normal behavior,

this mood setting in over the sliced bananas,

so she tries to make herself beautiful

to appease his drastic taste.