“You cannot change what you are, only what you do.” -Philip Pullman
As a difficult year draws to a close, we look toward the horizon of a new one and with it hope. Many of us have spent this year learning more about ourselves and those closest to us than we ever imagined we might. Our time together has been either severed or intensified. We have been put to the test in one way or another, whether that is enduring the chasm of being alone for extended periods of time or withstanding the claustrophobia of confinement together. While this year has exposed and exacerbated many difficult circumstances, it has also given us a real glimpse of what truly matters. None of us will be sad to see the year go, but perhaps we can take from it valuable pearls of wisdom that perhaps could not have been harvested any other way.
George Abraham spoke to us on December 20 from Florida. Ordinarily, he can be found living in Somerville, MA while he works toward a Ph.D. in Bioengineering at Harvard and teaches Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College. For this trip to visit family, Abraham quarantined, and tested for COVID, and took great precautions while traveling.
Since the pandemic set in, work on the Ph.D. has been more challenging as laboratory time is less available. At the same time, he continues to teach literary arts and says that poetry has fairly taken over his life. While many may consider science a main focus and poetry a side focus, for Abraham quite the opposite is true. A double major in math and electrical engineering during undergrad, Abraham is drawn to framework building which is what led him to bioengineering. This discipline offers the opportunity to solve and more deeply interrogate problems. The complexity of biological problems – in particular neurological problems which are the focus of Abraham’s study – drew him to study bioengineering.
Abraham discusses the format of slam poetry – a method he teaches his students. The format of slam lends itself to “certain urgencies and certain velocities” in that it allows for a three minute poem that will be heard once by an audience before receiving a score. The intention in slam poetry must be to evoke an immediate reaction.
Abraham recently published a book of poems titled Birthright which he reads from throughout the interview. One of his readings includes song. Listen to the complete interview.
Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:
As we lurch toward the conclusion of this unprecedented year, may each of us take something from it that we did not have before.
Books to Read
What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. George Abraham is reading Inheritance by Taylor Johnson. Birthright by George Abraham is available through Button Poetry. George Abraham also recommends His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, a trilogy of three books, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass
New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) is accepting applications for their next round of artist fiscal sponsorship. This opportunity has four deadlines throughout the course of the year, offering multiple chances to connect with a source of potentially significant funding for your work. Visit the website for more information. Deadline for this final cycle of 2020 is December 30.