Khalym Kari Burke-Thomas spent his childhood moving back and forth between Trinidad and the United States before settling in New Jersey, where he attended both private and public, Catholic and Islamic schools. Although he has always been an avid reader with an interest in screenwriting, it was not until high school that he found a passion for writing poetry and then, at the Colleges, a passion for writing fiction. He plans on majoring in Asian Studies with a focus in Japan and pursuing an MFA following his undergraduate career. In the not so far future, he hopes to live in Japan as an English teacher while working on a writing career. His favorite poets include e.e. cummings and Lucille Clifton, while his favorite authors include Kono Taeko and Aimee Bender.
I think I am motivated to write for two reasons, really. The first reason is to have conversations with great authors, dead and alive. And the second is to write stories that I want to read.
When they join
there is a lump of flesh
that enters her
a sigh that escapes her lips
as he fumbles with
the placement of his waist
below the dip of her back
and all the curves he has only
ever seen and all the bones
beneath her skin he is only feeling now
Who would have known: that blood
would stretch this abdomen into a room
Who would have known: that the
doors to this room would have to be pried open
Who would have known: that you
would find him—limp, heavy
and his room—strangled, barren
Who would have known: that you
would have to empty this room so soon
Jamie Agnello originally hails from Oil City, Pennsylvania and is currently pursuing MFAs in poetry and theatre at Sarah Lawrence College. She works as a Graduate Hall Director for the Office of Student Affairs and is a member of the Women's Shakespeare Company. She is in the midst of a year-long poetry undertaking called "Hey, Hey! It's Your Feast Day!" where she writes a poem each day inspired by the lives of the saints. She always swoons after reading Ander Monson, A.R. Ammons, and Haruki Murakami and has recently become enamored with the work of G.C. Waldrep, Larry Levis, and Leigh Stein.
Writing at HWS
During my time at HWS, I found a welcoming and encouraging space to explore both poetry and lyric essay under the guidance of Deborah Tall and Karl Parker. The one-on-one attention that I received during my undergraduate years was truly something spectacular. It encouraged me to break out of only writing poetry and test out the waters of creative non-fiction. After building a strong relationship with Deborah and Karl, I decided to pursue an honors thesis, which culminated in a book of poetry, essay, photography and collage titled She Makes a Heart-Nest. To my amazement, Ander Monson, one of my favorite authors, came to campus to serve as my outside examiner and give me feedback on my first manuscript. It was an experience that I will be forever grateful for.
Now that I am pursuing writing and theatre at the graduate level, I look back on my time at HWS and am so thankful for my experiences. The personal attention that I received helped me to develop my aesthetic, challenged me to be able to speak about my goals within my writing, and prepared me for the intense process of graduate level workshops and one-on-one conferences with my professors here at Sarah Lawrence. In my current workshops and classes in graduate school, I feel that I can give articulate feedback to my peers because my professors at HWS taught me to be a careful and thoughtful reader. I can also appreciate the constructive criticism from my classmates and use it to develop my own work.
There are coal mines burning
beneath my feet. From across the field,
the mine shaft is a pool to drown in.
Love is a firecracker thrown on my lawn.
You wheeze with sinkhole lungs. You taste
like you've been chewing matches.
Unbutton your blouse and show me
what smolders underneath. Steam rises
from the grass. All I dream about are charred
bedframes, canaries with iron lungs. You
could engulf me. This is the moment
where it may or may not get out of control.
I am destroyed by the idea of fire
licking my bones clean like snow.
This Harp Inside of Me
bee stings get louder,
rattle their way
into the car.
heat slows the speed
of their wings.
this world is
what turns up
in the dark?
this harp inside of me
I am blessed
with an instrument
that cannot wail.
he goes to kiss me
and tastes nothing
Joshua Unikel is currently living and writing in Iowa City, where he is an MFA candidate and Iowa Arts Fellow in the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program. As a Hobart graduate in the Class of 2007, he was an English major with a concentration in creative writing (fiction) and a double minor in philosophy and cognition, logic & language. He started writing poetry around age ten, then moved to writing science fiction in high school, then realist and formalist fiction in HWS workshops, then experimental fiction at the end of college and during his two years off. His interest in experimental fiction led somewhat unexpectedly to his current love of the lyric essay and experimental nonfiction as well as fused art forms in general as a graduate student. With his current work, he is experimenting more than ever. From philosophic poems to graphic design essays interlinked with a mural-like personal essay to a travel essay that formally decomposes into magical realism. Some of his favorite authors right now are Susan Steinberg, Lauren Slater, Art Spiegelman, Lyn Hejinian, Jacques Derrida, Allan Grossman, Mary Ruefle, and Mark Nowak as well as many of his long-time favorites, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Deborah Tall, Emily Dickinson, Vladimir Nabokov, John Barth, and J. D. Salinger. "Bandaged Moments," a fictional memoir and Unikel's first national publication appeared in the fall 2010 issue of Essays & Fictions. A more recent work of his, the lyric essay "To Sophia -," will be published in 2011 by The Normal School.
A Few Words about Writing
There are three things that—without knowing it at the time—mark my writing process: figuring out what I want to tell (content), how I should tell it (form), and where I should tell it (publication). In other words: the art, craft, and business of writing. Built into these oversimplified three-steps, for me, is hours of writing every day, numerous drafts, workshops, revisions, conversations with other writers, re-writes, life experiences, and tons of leg work into the literary journal market.
Writing at HWS
As a writer at HWS, I was fortunate enough to have numerous mentors. Primarily, I studied under Assistant Professor of English Melanie Conroy-Goldman. My sense of narrative movement, structural awareness, and a laconic use of language comes from her guidance. Eugen Baer, my philosophy mentor and Hobart dean, strengthened my passion for fusing creative and critical writing during my time as a student and as a staff member at the Colleges. During those two years that I worked at HWS, Professor of English David Weiss and Professor Emeritus of English Jim Crenner helped me to hone my poetic ear and to understand the importance of revision in my writing process. Also, Associate Professor of English Karl Parker gave me incredibly insightful feedback on my work and crucially important encouragement to write in forward-thinking, somewhat iconoclastic ways.
(Photo courtesy of Laurel Fantauzzo)
For more information, contact:
Department of English
Editor, Seneca Review
The Trias Residency for Writers is supported by The Peter Trias Endowed Fund for Poetry and Creative Writing. This valuable fund was established through a generous bequest from Peter J. Trias '70.