Arts & Entertainment

Rutgers professor Named Pulitzer Prize Finalist

b625623e87ca6f681241_lower_rez_NR12ShockleyClass0306.jpg
Evie Shockley, English professor and Pulitzer Prize for Poetry finalist, helps students engage with the world through literature. Credits: Nick Romanenko, Rutgers University
b625623e87ca6f681241_lower_rez_NR12ShockleyClass0306.jpg

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - For Evie Shockley, poetry – and her professorship at Rutgers University–New Brunswick – are central to her engagement with a world that needs change and central to the ways she prepares students to do their own engagement.

This week, Shockley was selected as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the poetry category. The Pulitzer board called her latest book, semiautomatic, a “brilliant leap of faith into the echoing abyss of language, part rap, part rant, part slam, part performance art, that leaves the reader unsettled, challenged – and bettered – by the poet’s words.”

Shockley is an associate professor of English at the School of Arts and Sciences, where students benefit from the experience of someone who is not just a theorist but a working poet.

Sign Up for E-News

“They get to appreciate poetry both in terms of its cultural value and in terms of a poet’s way of thinking. I have some insights into what goes into the process; how poets are influenced by those who came before them, their schools and traditions; and how one poet’s work might influence the next,” she said.

Shockley also codirects the Rutgers English Diversity Institute (REDI), which encourages students from underrepresented cultural, economic and ethnic backgrounds to pursue academic careers. Nationwide, she said, education and the business of preparing minds improve when faculties become more diverse. 

Students of color benefit from working with professors whose experiences may more closely reflect or intersect with their own, Shockley said.  Those from more privileged backgrounds benefit from working with peers and authority figures whose lives and perspectives are different from their own.

These values – and those of recognizing and ending racism – are also deeply embedded in Shockley’s poetry. 

Her Pulitzer finalist book “came together around the Black Lives Matter movement and the attention paid to some of the most painful and outrageous acts of violence happening against black people. What we were seeing was maybe not that things were getting worse, but how bad they had been all along,” she said.

The title, semiautomatic, “brings up the weapon, but also signifies the habitual ways we react to one another. Violence is a habitual reaction to certain kinds of fear or disappointment, and the outrage or grief that people feel in response can also become a pattern.  I feel like we have to break out of these habits to create change.”

semiautomatic includes this poem, which references Shockley’s father. Born in 1930, he worked, trained and studied to become a commercial pilot – only to find that no American airline at the time would hire a black man.

jim crow stole my father's wings

that cat was a straight arrow, flying like he'd been shot
true from a sturdy bow, in a steady parallel to earth. scot

free : his tail all feathers, his high all feet. he kept a cloud
in his pocket, the wind's whistle between his teeth. proud

of his hours, his ratings, his license to skill, he took off
after a uniform and a jet. but a foul thing, picking a roof

and crawling in his wake, fused its (b)lack to his (f)light:
an arbitrary shadow screwed to his heels, waited his float

with gross ballast, dragged him down when gravity'd failed.
he held on to the whistle, sent it soaring up from the soil.

The book reflects Shockley’s belief that “art can help us think through possible solutions, help us imagine change and sustain us to do the work we need to do.”

“If we don’t hope, we can’t create change,” she said. “Hope is not optional.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Montclair

Original Pancake House of West Caldwell Evacuated in Possible Pepper Spray Incident

May 20, 2018

WEST CALDWELL, NJ — The Original Pancake House in West Caldwell was evacuated early Saturday afternoon due to a possible pepper spray incident that caused ambulances from the West Essex, Verona and Bloomfield First Aid Squads to assist at the scene.

Bianca Pietro, a West Orange mother of two, said she was seated inside the glass atrium on the south side of the building that faces ...

The Meadowlands' Jeff Gural To Talk Sports Betting On May 18 Broadcast

May 18, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Meadowlands chairman Jeff Gural will talk about what lies ahead for Garden State bettors Friday night, May 18 as the Big M prepares to take action on professional and college sports in the coming weeks.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with New Jersey and ruled that sports betting is now legal across the country.

Gural will be interviewed by ...

Upcoming Events

Mon, May 21, 7:00 PM

Hospital Auditorium, Glen Ridge

Tour of the Birthing Center

Health & Wellness

Mon, May 21, 7:30 PM

Luna Stage, West Orange

6th Annual New Moon Play Festival

Arts & Entertainment

Tue, May 22, 6:00 PM

Montclair Public Library, Montclair

How to Live Longer and Stay Healthy

Health & Wellness

Letter to the Editor: Gum Litter and what YOU can do about it

May 16, 2018

Gum is non-biodegradable, meaning it doesn't’t break down ever….

Today, the unlikely problem surfaces. The average person chews 275 sticks of gum per year. With the amount of people in daily society, it’s no mystery why chewing gum is the second most littered item after cigarette butts.  Did you know that gum is banned in Singapore?

In addition to littering human ...

Montclair Police Blotter: Montclair Business Burglarized, Arrests and More

May 17, 2018

MONTCLAIR, NJ - The following blotter was released by the Montclair Police Department on May 15, 2018:

Arrest:

05-11-2018 (Orange Road) Mr. Tyrone Davis, 44yoa from Newark, was arrested and charged with DWI.
05-14-2018 (Grove Street) Ms. Sabrina McSwain, 21yoa from Bloomfield, was arrested on an open
warrant out of Glen Ridge ($250)

Burglary/Theft:

05-09-2018 (Union Street) ...

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin ...

'The Sting' with Harry Connick Jr. Slithers and Shakes at Paper Mill

MILLBURN, NJ – In a premiere production of “The Sting,” Harry Connick Jr. commands the Paper Mill Playhouse stage.

Based on the sensational Paul Newman/Robert Redford film in 1973, the 1930s plot centers on a con game and gambling, sometimes on a train between New York and Chicago.  Scott Joplin’s music is intertwined with the show, especially “The ...

Community Movement Project: Montclair's Pay-What-You-Can Movement Program for Adults + Kids

May 20, 2018

The Moving Architects and Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair are partnering together to offer the Community Movement Project, a 4-Week pay-what-you-can movement program for kids and adults, beginning May 14.  Classes offered include Pilates/Barre Blend classes for Adults with free childcare available, and Creative Movement Classes for kids ages 3-9.  All ...