Poet Emari DiGiorgio

so we're in ventnor city new jersey it's a shore community that is sort of in the exact middle of a very wealthy part of town which is at the far end of absecon island which is long port where there's these exquisite mansions on the beach that are uninhabited right now in October and if we go to the other far end of absecon Island we move to the Back Bay section of Atlantic City where it is an extremely impoverished community and so Ventnor is right in the middle of these communities in my mind it can serve as a kind of bridge between the extreme wealth and the extreme poverty at both ends it can be pretty reflective of the larger United States where you would during election season there were plenty of Trump pence signs and plenty of you know Hillary signs all over the place I think it's really important to live for me to live in a community that reflects a lot of what the rest of the country looks like emery d Giorgio lives in the real world where she finds inspiration for her poems she's committed to engaging with her community on all levels every month at the Noize arts garage in Atlantic City she hosts world above an open reading for area poets or to reimagine I hate the sound of the click tonight is special as Emory is giving a longer reading from her just published first book of poems the things a body might become Emory started with a poem about a sticker she saw in the back window of a truck Calvin pees on Iraq pants down both hands on his invisible pecker the solid stream of piss arcs from his scribbled body to the kidney shaped country of Iraq in black the pretend piss slashes back nears a cow a woman walks over the stone arches of the city's most famous bridge imagines rain she wipes her brow Calvin smirks on the rear window of a royal blue Silverado parked by the carts at Pathmark consider pissing on 29 million people the market crowded with apples garlic soap three boys playing soccer in the empty lot a new bride a funeral procession it is on fire that's what my student from Iraq said no one has ever nuzzled a gun into my neck on the way to mass but I can buy a peace sign or a spread legged stripper sticker on the same website that sells an 8-inch Calvin peeing on Iraq for 895 shipping included what did he look like the man who I'm assuming is a man who drove to the supermarket with authority whip the truck into park and exited the cab as if it were his ark give me his loose face that thin-lipped sneer let him stand at the urinal of his favorite bar pleased with himself let the piss split stream hit the floor let it come until he panics a steady seep soaked his pants the premium cloth seats let him ask God to intervene I was really frustrated about the ignorance of the image itself and I realized I was waiting I wanted to see who was driving that truck and I thought no you can't you can't wait you know go grocery shopping and I thought if it's still there when you come out you can wait I barter with myself and it wasn't thankfully when I came out but it kept haunting me it really bothered me taking a moment like this and turning it into a poem is something Emery learned to do first as a student at Stockton University her professor was the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Stephen Dunn she was hungry for knowledge she had a lyrical quality to begin with and did not know how to make a poem really the way she learned to make a poem this poem is in response to the Newtown shooting and I was pregnant at the time and so it was a really you know painful thought to think about bringing a child into the world to have to give it up in that way the firing point I want to walk through that school tap each child on the shoulder I had been very interested in writing about injustice that would strike this chord in me that I couldn't shake I couldn't find a way to let it go it would eat at me until I'd been writing many of these poems for a long time you know even as an undergrad and I remember at one time Stephen Dunn had said to me you know a poem isn't a political platform you know it's it's not it's not a place to be doing that now of course a poem can be a political platform and the fact that he made it this absolute really irked me he was trying to communicate that it had to be more than a political platform and a poem does need to do that Emery is a full professor at Stockton University where once she learned the basics of her craft she got her master's at NYU where she found a way to connect poetry with her passion for social justice now she teaches an interdisciplinary class for juniors and seniors that blends the two and it's called why poetry matters and so this course was born out of my own experience teaching in a hospital setting but I was a graduate student at NYU and so I trained my students from all majors and this semester I do not have one literature major which is actually very exciting to me so I have students from chemistry and computer science and criminal justice who receive sort of a crash course in poetry where they're reading and writing it and I train them to be community teachers and so in pairs or in small groups they teach in the community and so this semester we're gonna be working with a local high school we're gonna work with Covenant House which is the youth homeless shelter in Atlantic City she's on the beach her mind is stuck in a deep dark abyss she can't go so they're teaching poetry they're also connecting with these humans from different landscapes and different walks of life and and seeing the way in which poetry brings them together for me are is wedded to ideas of social justice and change I can't shake it and when the rain subsided and the wind died down we'd venture outside surveyed the damage pull tree limbs from car hoods and shingles impaled like crooked tombstones in the yard and someone would get the ladder and then the work would start thank you you you

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