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English Professors Publish Books of Poetry

by Montclarion News

Photo Credit: Jun Hashimoto

Montclair State University’s English department has seen four of their own – David Galef, Claudia Cortese, Michael Robbins and Sarah Ghoshal – publish poetry within the past year. From an Ohio summer spent in  a childhood home to the intricate characters of the Japanese language, each work has undoubtedly had its own unique influence.
David Galef, Director of the Creative Writing Program and English professor, had his book, Kanji Poems, published in June 2015. After graduating from Princeton University, Galef lived in Osaka, Japan for a year. “It gave me a different sensibility,” Galef said. “Case in point: you can eat a bite of something by piercing it with steel tines or you can pince it with two wooden sticks.”
Kanji Poems has its roots in the Japanese language. Each poem starts with a Japanese character and its definition. What follows is a poetic narrative crafted upon the definitions. Galef also teaches literature courses and creative writing workshops, in addition to being an author in his own right.
Recently, Galef completed a textbook on flash fiction for Columbia University Press. “I developed a theory of the genre, from vignettes and character sketches to what-if premises and narrative mass compression, that I discussed with my students,” said Galef. “They enjoyed the ideas and put some into practice in their own writing.”
After working on their books, the professors came to class with some fresh ideas and general reminders on the important parts of the writing and publishing process. Professor Sarah Ghoshal said she liked to emphasize the revision aspect to her students. “I often tell them the story of a professor who once told me, ‘A poem is never finished. If you think it is finished, revise it again,’” she said. “I believe this goes for all writing; anything can be improved.”
Ghoshal saw her own work, The Pine Tree Experiment, published by Lucky Bastard Press in 2015. The idea started when writer Samuel Delaney visited her graduate school class and unapologetically described his sexual exploits throughout the pages in his book.
“My professor’s challenge to us was to do something similar in whatever genre we chose,” Ghosal said. “[…] it’s one long poem that I have been revising for years and I’m really excited that Lucky Bastard Press saw its merit.”
Cortese had Blood Medals, a chapbook following the dark energy of girlhood through its main character, Lucy, published in 2015.  “Lucy embodies—I hope—the brattiness and hurt, the privilege and loneliness of suburban girlhood,” Cortese said.
Her next work, Wasp Queen, is set to be published in 2016. “Being a writer has certainly informed my teaching,” Cortese said. “Because I write often and I write poems, essays and stories, I can easily connect my own experiences drafting, revising, workshopping, rewriting again to my students’ own struggles with writing.”
Michael Robbins is also a professor within the English department that had his work published recently. Alien vs Predator was highly successful for Robbins in 2012 and more recently The Second Sex was published by Penguin Publishing Group in late 2014.

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