Dear Younger Poets 2012,
Have you been to the gym yet?
I don’t know if the gym’s lackluster offerings, when I was a June fellow, had to do with the slow summer months or a renovation project. It might be just a mediocre gym. I didn’t go very often, maybe twice a week, to bike, jump rope and hit the weights. Then one afternoon walking back to the dorm I put down my gym bag and sat in this nice patch of shade, where I started writing.
I was probably tremendously gross from working out, so I’m glad that none of the other June fellows happened along. I might have been running late for dinner. The thing is: I had been trying to write this poem for a few months, but it wasn’t until that afternoon the poem really took form.
Looking back, it’s one of only two poems I wrote at Bucknell that I still think very highly of. The other poem I wrote after going to Centralia, which, if you haven’t visited yet, you need to—it’s a tradition, and it’s a lot of fun.
But Centralia…of course that inspired me (I think at least three of us had first drafts written within the week). Why the gym?
My June fellows were as fantastically talented as they were aesthetically diverse, and I’ve only heard great things about each new group of poets. It was a real charge to be there. Heck, even driving up the Pennsylvania landscape felt rife with potential. By now comfort zones may have already been abandoned. Ambitions rightfully set higher. Hangovers extended later into the day.
I spent a lot of time with my fellows, and I don’t regret any of it. They still are some of the most talented poets I know, and some of the most interesting people. Those conversations informed my writing and my person.
Looking back I’m also grateful for the time spent alone, walking mostly, and working on poems. I did a lot of that, too, though often even my writing was social—in my suite’s common room, with whoever wanted to join me. Though I sometimes ran into other poets there, the gym was where I came closest to solitude, and that unintentional aloneness was fruitful in its way.
I still remember a night almost everyone went out drinking and when we came home the one fellow who didn’t go, my friend Nick, was happily writing away. If I remember correctly, Nick didn’t even miss all the fun. He saved what he was working on, put his laptop away, and joined the party that was still going.
Joshua Gottlieb-Miller (Junie, ’08)
Joshua Gottlieb-Miller holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Houston, where he was a poetry editor for Gulf Coast. Most recently he was the winner of the 2012 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, as well as the 2012 Inprint Barthelme Prize in Poetry. He has also received scholarships and fellowships from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Indiana Review, The Journal, The Birmingham Review, The Laurel Review, Linebreak and elsewhere.