Ramapo welcomed alum Carlie Hoffman to the York Room last Thursday as part of the “Readings at Ramapo” series to share her poems and insights with creative writing students. This was her first time presenting at this yearly series.
Hoffman, ‘13, has authored three poetry books, one of which has been published so far. She opened with poems from her debut collection, “This Alaska,” then moved on to unreleased work from her upcoming books, which are slated for publication in 2023 and 2025.
When Professor James Hoch introduced Hoffman before the reading, he revealed to the audience how special this event was to him because Hoffman was once a student of his. He invited the audience members to keep their cell phones hidden for the duration of the reading so that everyone could stay in the moment and truly appreciate Hoffman’s words, which he clearly holds in high esteem.
“You can tell that when you’re reading a first book of poems whether this poet has paid attention to their work, or whether it’s just a glam shot. This is really a poet who has paid attention to her work,” he said.
Standing at the podium, backed by the wide set of windows revealing bright sunlight and trees with gorgeous orange and red autumn leaves, Hoffman read in an airy and subdued voice to match the tone of her poetry.
Her poems touch on a variety of topics, from her family life to mythical and biblical references, and take place in a variety of settings, such as upstate New York and the Jersey shore. She even read a poem that was inspired by apartments in Kearny that overlook a cemetery.
She also read some poems inspired by her late grandfather. She prefaced them by sharing a short but heartwarming anecdote relayed to her by her mother.
“Before he died, he told my mother that he wrote poems,” she said. “I don’t know if you buy into that kind of thing, but maybe that is, you know, why I am a poet.”
No matter the subject, her poems were infused with a lyricism that mesmerized the audience. The students in attendance were enthralled, snapping not only after each poem but also after lines that resonated with them while she read.
Students were equally as enthusiastic about asking Hoffman questions during the Q&A, ranging from her poetry inspirations and how she deals with writer’s block to how long it takes to publish a book. Hoffman didn’t hold back or sugarcoat anything with her answers.
When a student asked how much money she earns as a poet, her answer of “nothing” garnered much laughter around the room. She went on to explain that she actually earns $500 per book, but poets can additionally submit to contests where the prizes are up to $10,000.
Hoffman went on to discuss the impact that Ramapo has had on her career path. Before she took Hoch’s class, she was intimidated by poetry, but the class opened her eyes.
“I really didn’t know anything about poetry. I didn’t realize how interesting and amazing and life-sustaining it could be,” she said.
“Even though with [“This Alaska”], the poems are not the poems I wrote when I was a student here, I think very much… the poems started here.”
Photo by Rebecca Gathercole.