Language and Space in Julie Agoos Poetics
Award-winning poet Julie Agoos needs little introduction in the literary world. When her Above the Land earned the 1986 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize—the oldest poetry award in the United States—it was only the first of the many accolades she was to receive in her twenty-two-year career as a poet and a professor.
“Brooklyn College has a strong reputation among creative writing programs, and I knew of its great faculty, too,” says Agoos, a Towson State University Prize recipient.
Which explains why, after teaching at Princeton University as a visiting professor for eight years, she chose to take a job at Brooklyn College in 1994. Today she devotes half of her time teaching in the Masters of Fine Arts—Creative Writing Program; the other half she dedicates to teaching modern British and Irish poetry, Victorian poetry, and creative writing to undergraduate students, always an appealing endeavor to her.
“Most of the undergraduate students who come to my class are curious, yet undecided, about literature,” says the Harvard and John Hopkins graduate. “We get chemistry majors, people studying political science, all wide open to looking at language in different ways.”
Not to mention the combination of people of different cultural backgrounds for whom English is their second language, a historic trademark of the Brooklyn College student body.
“It’s an eye-opening experience for them, and they need not worry about getting published,” says the former Resident Fellow of the Robert Frost Place, in Franconia, New Hampshire. “They learn that writing a poem is not so different than reading it.”
For Agoos, poems begin with a sense of rhythm even before there are words. “Many of my poems begin when I go for long walks because it reconnects me with the physical process,” says the Nyack, New York, resident, adding that her dog, Luna, normally tags along with her.
When Property, her latest work, was released in June, it was Agoos’s first poetry book since Calendar Year (1997). According to her, the new book is a big departure because its center is a long narrative that has the form of trial deposition transcripts.
“I’m a slow writer, and time is a problem for professors at the College. So I try to be really efficient in the summers. But I was only able to finish Property in 2006, when I got my first sabbatical—first!—in twenty-two years of teaching.”
Next semester, Agoos will replace Professor Louis Asekoff as the program coordinator for the M.F.A. Poetry Program. Her new position is, no doubt, another accolade in her lifelong dedication to poetry and her students.
If you'd like to read two of Agoos' poems, please either link below: