"One day I realized that I was looking forward to it all the time." — Introducing Connor Grogan, the new NOÖ/Magic Helicopter Press intern!
It’s crispy leaf school time again here in Western Mass, and that means a new intern for NOÖ and Magic Helicopter! We’re delighted to bring Connor Grogan onboard to help out. He’s going to be doing some copyediting, some book reviewing, some interviewing, and some special projects of his own, including starting an audio-based online journal and a poetry reading series themed around adult literacy.
Connor lives in Amherst, Massachusetts and studies at Hampshire College. He’s a Poetry Reader at BOATT, and his own work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Willard & Maple, The Legendary, and BOAAT.
We asked him a few questions, and he gave some great answers!
You grew up in New Hampshire, which is a state—if I understand correctly—that used to have a living mountain, a giant stone creature, that terrorized the gentry, leading to the New Hampshire slogan “Live free for God’s sakes it’s coming.” Can you please explain New Hampshire?
I grew up in a small town (around 800 people) called Hill. Given our (lack of) size, we frequently flew under the giant’s radar. As for the slogan, fear of being squashed under foot seems to have encouraged a fairly lax/care-free attitude towards seatbelt/helmet laws (read: none). We do have lots of really pretty granite, though.
Once you ordered a sandwich with sun dried tomato pesto, except you thought you were ordering a sandwich with sun dried tomatoes and pesto. Can you please advance a general theory of sandwiches?
My dad’s favorite sandwich is a Reuben. My Step-Grandfather’s (this always feels like such a curious linguistic/genealogical construction) favorite snack was a Ritz Cracker with Peanut butter, & Ketchup, & Onions which I suppose could be considered a kind of open-faced sandwich. As for a more general theory, I fear that any limitations I try to place on the Sandwich Form will eventually begin to leak (just like my soggy sandwich with sun dried tomato pesto!). So in lieu of an airtight definition, here’s a list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sandwiches.
A serious thing you’re interested in is adult literacy and education. That’s awesome! How did you first get passionate about this line of education, and can you tell us a little about your plans/ideas for melding poetry with adult literacy?
I started volunteering with the Literacy Project in Northampton, MA a couple years ago through work study at Hampshire College. The teacher that I worked under was super cool & super fun to work with. One day I realized that I was looking forward to it all the time, I even started substitute teaching a little bit with them. This is preferable to washing dishes or going door-to-door which were the only other jobs I’d done up to that point. Since starting at the Literacy Project I’ve worked with adults in other capacities, like as a Direct Support Professional at KFI in Bangor, Maine where I hail from (ever since the granite giant died).
Working with people to help them develop an increased sense of agency/autonomy/choice/&c. in their lives is very much in line with my politics. & art, for me, is inherently political so it’s not too big of a leap to mesh the two. Since we’re always already in writing, literacy is especially important. I don’t have any solid plans yet, but I’d like to see an increase in the number of literary outlets that are working with an eye towards art produced by people in Adult Ed. Programs/Prisons/Institutions and persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
I have a tendency to over-explain things.
One time we were having lunch, and your friend came up and said you were one of the best poets she knew, not just in school but in general. And I barked “EVALUATION TIME IS OVER!” in what I thought was a sort of Will Ferrell-ish “loud joke” voice, but I think your friend and everyone at the table felt genuinely afraid/embarrassed, including me, if I’m being honest, here at question four, as it usually takes me at least four questions before I really get honest. Can you tell us about the most honest poems you’ve ever read or written? What about the most dishonest?
For what it’s worth, I thought the joke was effectively communicated. I don’t know what my friend thought, though; I’ll have to ask her. This is a tough question. I don’t know if I can even speak/write meaningfully about the honesty of other’s poems. Which only leaves me with my own & I don’t know if my poems are very honest. Sometimes, lately, I try to write poems that incorporate interactions I’ve had with the people that I supported as a DSP. Sometimes honesty is really tricky. One time in a poem I wrote about masturbating, that felt pretty honest at the time. Yesterday, I wrote about “hav[ing] a masochist body,” this also felt pretty honest at the time (do I only feel “honest” about having written sex things?). Everything else is pretty much as honest but never feels remarkably so. Maybe I should work on that. “Honesty” has never felt like a meaningful lens of approach to a poem for me. Maybe I should work on that, too.
When did you first realize language could make people feel things?
Probably a long, long time ago before my memory. But the better answer is: Freshman year of college in a bathroom stall reading poems that the interns [read: RAs] had put there. There were some pretty cool W.S Merwin poems & these other ones by a guy I’d never heard of that I related to a lot better, like, in a way that I didn’t know (or had forgotten) that language could do. I googled this mystery poet and bought [Ben Mirov’s] Ghost Machine later that week & started taking workshops.
Please welcome Connor and watch for the great stuff he’s going to be contributing!