Creative Writing

December 9: The Golden Gloves Literary Competition & Literary Fair

Nine creative writing classes representing both Lincoln Center and Rose Hill will touch gloves and compete in a super literary battle to determine the winners of the 2nd annual Golden Gloves Literary Competition.

This year, classes will have the opportunity to compete for three top prizes:

  • The Ram d'Or (Best in Show) 
  • The Audience Award (Audience favorite. Attendees will be able to vote by smart phone for this award)
  • The Best Experiment (Given for most innovative presentation)

We are honored to have professors Frank Boyle and James Kim as our judges.

Students will also have the opportunity to learn more about campus publications representing both Lincoln Center and Rose Hill at a Literary Fair prior to the start of the competition. We're excited to announce that staff from The AmpersandBricolageThe CommaCURAMODEThe Observer, and the paper will all be in attendance.

Join us on Wednesday, December 9th at 7 p.m. in Lincoln Center's 12th Floor Lounge to see who will prevail when the final bell rings in Fordham's match-ups of poetry and prose.

Sarah Gambito Profiled in Inside Fordham

Sarah Gambito, associate professor of English and director of Fordham's creative writing program, was the subject of this profile published in Inside Fordham on November 24, 2015. The story was written by Patrick Verel. 

For Creative Writing Professor, Words Nourish the Soul

Readers of a recent The New York Times review of the restaurant Tito King’s Kitchen at Jimmy’s No. 43 were treated to a snippet of poetry when the subject of pork belly came up:

“When God was Filipino, / he put a pig and fire together and called it porkissimo.”

The line—an excerpt from the poem “I Am Not From The Philippines”—was written by Sarah Gambito, an associate professor of English and director of the creative writing program.

It was, to her knowledge, the first time her work had been used in a restaurant review, though it was not the first time food had infiltrated her poetry and prose.

“I remember having a very delicious bowl of ramen with a friend, and saying, ‘What if a poem could be like this bowl of ramen on a cold, cold day? You know, carbs and broth and complete comfort,” she said.

“I’m interested in the idea of how that can happen in words.”

The theme of hunger comes up a lot in her work because she writes often about the immigrant experience. Her parents emigrated from the Philippines to the United States, and she grew up in Virginia, before moving to New York in 1995. Because she never lived in the Philippines and left Virginia so long ago, the concept of home is very much on her mind, she said.

A trip to the Philippines in 1999 on a faculty fellowship—her first as an adult to the country of her ancestors— made her realize she has many homes.

“The idea of feeling at home in multiple places is a different kind grace that I didn’t realize I’d have access to either,” she said.

“Much of my writing has been about the anguish of feeling displaced and the anger around that. I’m ready to also look at the other side of it, because I may not have a capital “H” home, but I have these lower case “h” homes in many places that I look.”

Having already published two collections of poetry, Matadora (Alice James Books, 2004) and Delivered (Persea Books, 2009), Gambito is currently at work on a new one, tentatively titled Virginia. It’s still unclear what form it will take, she said, but chances are that food will play a factor.

“There’s a great quote from the poet Lin Yutang: ‘What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?’” she said.

Gambito came to Fordham in 2008, and in 2011, she became editor of Cura, Fordham’s literary magazine. The magazine, which is a collaboration among the faculty, the public, and students, publishes twice annually online. This school year’s theme, “Black Lives Matter,” was chosen in response to the recent racial bias events both on campus and off.

“Speaking with students, we said ‘We can do something about this. We don’t have to just observe. We can act as artists and encourage a voice against this action,” she said.

Claudia Rankine, whose book Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014) was a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, will help to edit the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 issues. Gambito teaches Citizen in her classes. She says one of the biggest challenges she faces is convincing students that the book, which recounts racial aggressions in encounters in daily life and in the media, is written for them, no matter what their racial background.

“We want to collect student voices from both campuses and feature them alongside the pieces we’re finding from members of the public. Poetry, fiction, some fantastic digital creative writing, creative nonfiction, visual arts; it runs the gamut,” Gambito said.

“It’s an issue for all of us to pay attention to.”

The Fall 2015 issue of Cura is being published at the end of the year, and is drawing some of its material from art coming from within the creative writing workshops. As such, Gambito is adamant that students are present for the workshops.

“It’s not just the poems that they bring in, or their stories, but it is what we co-create together. Sitting and speaking to each other is another kind of art. So I tell them, the workshop is mandatory,” she said.

“If you’re not here, we miss what you could have said. We miss what we could have created as a class,” she said. “I don’t make distinctions between writing and critiquing. We’re creating together, we’re imagining together what a poem can be.”

Interview with Jordan Windholz, author of Other Psalms

Jordan Windholz’s first poetry collection, Other Psalms, is a provocative, emotional examination of humankind’s relationship to religion and language. Jordan, a Ph.D candidate at Fordham University and teacher in the Poets Out Loud outreach program, won the 2014 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry for this collection. In this interview, he and I discuss his work and the process of cultivating poetry and spirituality. 

Erin Coughlin: First of all, congratulations on winning the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry.

Jordan Windholz: Thanks. I’m pretty thrilled about it.

E: How long have you been writing poetry?

J: I dabbled in it when I was in middle school, but I didn’t take it seriously. It was only later, when I was in college, my freshman year, I took an Intro Class and I read a poem. I think it was by Edna St. Vincent Millay. It blew my mind open and so then I became more and more interested in poetry. I took a course in contemporary American poetry, and then I started playing with the sounds of words, writing and experimenting. I was an English major and hadn’t had a ton of experience with poetry before that, so it really affected my reading practices. Then I just started writing and I didn’t really stop. I got my MFA. I went to the University of Colorado kind of on a whim. I guess it’s been, more or less, from undergrad years till now.  

E: Was this always going to be a collection or did you find yourself returning to similar themes in multiple poems and then decided to put a collection together?

J: Some of the work started during my MFA program. You have to put a thesis together. I was going to keep writing poems and have a collection to show for my thesis. Then my mentor said, "You should really work toward thinking about a book." So that’s when I started to think through what might happen. I took another course on poetic sequence, and then I arbitrarily picked psalms as my sequence. And so the seeds of this book were planted there, in that course. And then I got out of the program and kept thinking about what this book would look like. As I wrote more and more poems, I cut out a lot and added more in until it started to feel like it had a shape. “The Nomads” was new, “Of Apocalypse” was new, whereas a poem like “Myth” was pretty early.The manuscript had been a finalist in several contests for several years, it just never hit. But I kept refashioning it every year. This last year was the most aggressive reshaping of the book and fortunately, this was the year it got chosen. 

E: “The Nomads” is one of my favorites in the book. I love how violent it is, while also being so funny. And it tells a narrative story.

J: I love it, too. As a poet, you’re always trying to get your work out there, but I’m finding that the poems I love the most, like “The Nomads” and “Necessary Angel,” just never hit. I feel like they’re my most poet-y. Maybe not poet-y, but they’re doing the most stuff and I find them the most interesting.

E: “A Necessary Angel Recalls Unearthing its Terrestrial Existence” is another poem I loved. I went to Catholic school where there were statues of angels everywhere. I imagined one of these statues coming to life and discovering this powerful past existence.

J: I feel like that was probably at the back of my mind. “Necessary Angel” refers to Wallace Stevens’s statement that poetry is necessary in part because God is absent. Poetry does God's work. And so I was thinking about a kind of angel that exists in a world without a God, culling from its past incarnated life. 

E: I was going to ask you why you refer to it as a “Necessary Angel," unaware of the Wallace Stevens quote.

J: Sometimes I feel like some of the allusions I draw upon are kind of esoteric, but they feel very personal to me. That’s why my one regret is that I didn’t put a Notes page. I think I was just lazy about it. I had one at one point and never put it in.

E: Well, it allows the readers to fill in the blanks themselves.  

J: That's true. I like the statue imagery. I like the idea of this ossified symbol having a voice.

E: Can you describe the book in your own words?

J: For me, the Biblical scriptures are often about God’s absence. There’s a longing for a kind of divine presence, but most of my faith experience is about God’s absence So for me, faith is often the willful movement towards the divine in what seems to be a palpable absence of the divine. It springs out of the apophatic tradition, which focuses on how we can’t even describe or approach God through language. The only way we get close to the divine presence is by negation, describing what God is not. Just like how we see a black hole in space through the absence of light. That’s the story around Other Psalms -- What it would mean to use the religious forms inherited through the faith tradition as a willful way of approaching a god that I don’t really feel like I believe in most of the time? The original ending of The Testament of Mark has an anonymous man, believed to be the author himself, fleeing the empty tomb, terrified and naked. That response seems more human and more real than what we might get in Sunday school or even from the pulpit.

E: It’s interesting that you describe it as a willful movement because I feel like having faith is often seen as a passive state, like ‘Okay, I believe in God. I’m just going to stand here and let whatever He does happen to me.’ When really, it’s an incredibly active relationship -- you are always working on your faith. Obviously you studied the Bible academically.

J: Yes. I went to Messiah College in Central Pennsylvania. I have a lot of friends there and things I love about it, and things I really don’t like about it now, some of the policies. And I think that’s emblematic of my own experiences. I’m a member of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America. It seems like every day the question of my belief is up for grabs. I grew up knowing the Bible. I’ve had some preachers who were quite literary and academic in their interpretation. I feel like I had a healthy and thorough understanding of the complexities of the stories in Scripture, the ways they could be interpreted, and the ways they intersect with our lives.

E: In several of these poems you use scientific terminology to describe parts of the body. Why did you make that choice?

J: That might have been a passive choice more than an active one. Immanence is important to me, implicitly, theologically. Where I stand right now in my own faith is that I don’t much care for salvation. Things that draw me back to Christianity are the ideals and promises it has for this life.. The fact that there’s something deeply spiritual about all that we are. And then, too, some of the scientific terms are just fun words. There is a precision in bodily language that I’m drawn to.

E: These poems are well-suited to being read aloud. I read “The Talk” out loud a couple of times, trying to understand it. I find with poems, the first time you acclimate, the second time you really explore. “The Talk” reads almost like a nonsense poem.

J: Yes, definitely. 

E: And with a poem like “The Prayer” with that repeating use of O, which makes it sound like a lament and also like a hymn. Many of these poems reminded me of hymns. I love poems where when you read them, it means one thing, but when you read them out loud, you discover all sorts of new things about it.

J: Both poems came out of reading and writing them out loud. Originally, “The Talk” was going to be called “Babel.” That, too, is an apophatic approach. What are we trying to do when we name God and where’s the line between sense and nonsense? In the Babel story, humanity is getting close to divinity and so God’s response is to destroy their language. He destroys it, and (language) becomes a kind of nonsense. That idea was working in the back of my head as I was writing. And I wanted to see how few words I could use. 

E: I like that it’s called “The Talk.” “Babel” would certainly make sense, but I feel like “The Talk” leaves that element of it up to the reader. And it makes you talk. You almost have to read that poem out loud.

J: I like your take on that.

E: You experiment with many different styles throughout the book. Some poems use slashes, some use dashes. Some are extremely short, like “The Shepherd’s Song,” while “Other Psalms” is spread out over the course of eleven individual chapters. What was your reason for doing that? More experimentation?

J: I’m drawn to couplets, so part of it was trying to break out of little pairings of lines. If I wrote a poem like “Gospel,” which I feel is a kind of a narrative lyric poem, and is conservative in a traditional sense, my impulse would be to do something that wasn’t that. How can I do similar things in another poem, but reorient the form so I could bring to the surface different sound patterns or different attentions to line breaks and enjambments? I was probably bored with writing one way and trying some other things. Once you have a glut of poems, then it’s looking at them, too, and thinking, "How am I going to layer these so that a reader won’t feel like they are reading the same patterns over and over again?"

E: So that helped inspire the order they went in?

J: When this manuscript went out, I exploded it. Before I had all the poems printed out and I was gathering them together into sections and thinking about what would go on the page, the pace, the theme. Where did I want one section to start and what poem did I want to end the section? So some of it was a little arbitrary, but some of it was a gut feel. On the one hand, you’re writing the poem across different forms and then as you’re compiling the book and thinking about what you want the book to look like, you’re also then thinking about larger movements and arcs. And then you’re just trying to imagine what it’s like for someone who hasn’t encountered your work, where would they feel they could enter a poem? If I have a more abstract poem, maybe with denser language, I want to alleviate that with a shorter lyric, so that the reader comes out of a poem like “A Necessary Angel", and can move into “Epiphany” just a couple pages later.

E: Yeah, I definitely noticed that. The book moves at a good pace, denser poems contrasted with the shorter, lighter poems. You’re in the process of completing your doctorate right now --  how do you balance the creative and the academic work?

J: (laughs) It’s all creative work! No, the answer is, you don’t. Right now, I’m in the thick of revising a chapter for another article. That’s a lot of writing, so I’m writing all the time and it’s on my mind all the time. Poetry tends to not be the center of my writing life. It becomes the periphery, so I’ll write maybe when I’m on the train or when I get a chance to grab at something. I often find that I end up revising another manuscript and a lot of my poetic energy will go back into revising and tinkering with that. I don’t even think I finish a poem. I just have to abandon them. The scholar in me, the reader in me, can always return to the same book and get something new from it, so when I translate that impulse to writing, it means I can always go into a poem and think of another way to tinker with it. Both of them [academic and creative work] involve close reading. They feed off one another. I don’t even know if I’ve figured out the puzzle of how to balance them.

E: I think you’re doing a great job, considering you completed a collection and you’re still working on your dissertation.

J: I feel very lucky. This collection was finishing as I was still in course work. I did return to it and shape it and send it out as a kind of release from the intensities of research and scholarly work. I could step back, do the poetry, and take my brain out of Shakespeare for a moment. 

E: Your dissertation is about the nature of the bachelor in literature. Can you describe that? 

J: I’m interested in the ways that bachelor identity is explored in early modern literature. The 16th and 17th century did not have the identity of the bachelor that we have today. They certainly didn’t have the reality show. Nonetheless, there were figurations of the single life beginning to emerge and they became instrumental to certain genres like comedy. The comedies staged the lives of single men and single women, but there are also  a lot of essays with theories about marriage and what marriage is for. The single person gets intensified scrutiny. I’m particularly interested in how figurations of bachelor identities come to structure and inform larger questions. Some of those are about marriage. Some of those are about labor status. Some of those are about the nature of gentility or what it means to be a gentleman. And what it means to be a scholar. In some ways it’s a kind of genealogy of manhood.

E: A bachelor seems to be in an enviable place in life, while a spinster is to be pitied because nobody wants her.

J: That's right, but some bachelors are pitied, or even openly mocked.  The questions are framed very differently for maids, widows, spinsters. The single man might be imprisoned to his desires. If he’s a laborer, he might not have the same of economic agency a husband has. It’s a transitional period in which the assertion of a bachelor pronouncing his autonomy really begins to surface. For instance, if you were a scholar in the university, you had to remain single, but the masters of those colleges could be married, so a lot of the questions of marriage and singleness for men map out across hierarchies of power. With maids, there might might be power in preserving autonomy, whereas with men there’s a kind of queerness to virginity. There’s something wrong with you if you want to remain chaste when you’re a man. And so, there are similar questions, but the answers are different.

E: It’s telling that marriage has always been indicative of power.

J: Yes, and at the same time in the period single women could have more legal economic power because they didn’t forfeit it to a husband. You have widow discourses where young men want to marry widows because women have financial means that the men want access to. Then legally, when they marry, men gain control.

E: It’s actually much more complex than the idea that a bachelor can do whatever he wants while a woman is chained within this societal expectation of marriage.

J: That’s what drove my research. We tend to talk about bachelors in a modern sense; how they tend to have more freedom. They, more or less, do in a modern society. A single man is in a privileged position. The market tends to privilege the idea of a single man, and it doesn’t do that for women. But in the period, that question of, “What were the conditions that animated the notion of the single life?”, seems very different from how we think of it today. Sometimes it’s a matter of autonomy and freedom, often it coincides with the class position. 

E: So a laborer would have more economic freedom if he were married?

J: Generally, it coincided with economic mastery. For instance, if you’re a journeyman in the livery business, what should be the economic autonomy that coincides with the public demonstration of being married? Your household is also your workshop. Your wife is working in the workshop along with you. You’re indenturing apprentices. So that’s not the same process that a single gentleman might have if he has money. Marriage is a way of drawing up property in a way that’s not the same for a (single) laborer living in the city.

E: So you’re looking at literature from the 16th and 17th century?

J: Yeah, mostly plays: Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, Marlowe. Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy.

E: How far along are you?

J: Revising. I’m finishing up the fourth chapter now and revising another chapter for an article. Next year I’m going to be a senior teaching fellow, which I hope to be my last year. I was on the job market this year. It was good experience. I got some interviews and visits, but didn’t land, so the decision between my adviser and me was to wrap up the dissertation and then polish it so I have a book proposal going forward. So it’s done, but not done.

E: You’re working on a second collection now?

J: It’s mostly done...very different. It’s called The Grand Eloquence and a couple of years ago it was a finalist for the National Poetry Series. There are a lot of poems in Other Psalms where I thought, “These are poems that will be published.” I can tell they’re doing the things that might appeal to a reader. The second manuscript is much looser and riskier. I’m writing in a tradition that feels, in some ways, like a reaction to what I was doing in Other Psalms. These poems are lighter. They’re more conversational. In some ways, the volume’s playing with sentimentality. I don’t even know if all the poems succeed. The times that I’ve read poems from that volume, people come up at a reading and say (referring to the new manuscript), “I just love those poems.” The ones from the new manuscript tend to get a more enthusiastic response. I don’t know if Other Psalms are the more contemplative poems and the ones from The Grand Eloquence hit the heart in a different way. I don’t know what that means for the poems’ quality. 

E: The poems in Other Psalms feel so deeply personal. I needed to go back and reread them a few times. So maybe when you’re hearing something at a reading with a more conversational air, it hits an audience harder in that setting. Doesn’t mean it’s any less rewarding, but it’s a different kind of experience.

J: That seems to be my gut, too. They feel like poems you can just take away. I wrote the volume as a response to the idea that a poem needs to be an eternal object. As in, what if I wrote some poems that you could hear, and then throw away? You like them and then it’s just…okay. I’m interested in eternal questions in Other Psalms, and in The Grand Eloquence I’m interested in the ways that writing is ephemeral and the poem itself is an object that only lives at the moment of its reading. And then it’s gone, cast in oblivion until someone comes back to retrieve it from that.

E: That sounds like a poem.

J: (laughs) Maybe.

-This interview has been edited and condensed. 

CURA Magazine Accepting Submissions

Photo Credit: Vanessa Agovida

Photo Credit: Vanessa Agovida

Fordham University's national literary magazine, CURA: A Literary Magaine of Art and Action is now accepting 2015 - 2016 submissions. Featuring creative writing, visual art, new media and video, our aim is to seem to integrate literary art publishing with social justice.

CURA contributors have won Rockefeller, Guggenheim, American Book, and National Endowment for the Arts awards. Past issues have featured work by Alice Fulton, Brenda Hillman, Evie Shockley and Patricia Smith and Rigoberto Gonzalez.

In 2015 - 2016 our magazine is dedicated to Black Lives Matter. We are resolved to gather voice, art and action toward the struggle for racial justice. Accordingly, work submitted for consideration should be in some way related to this theme.

We seek to promote a movement of creative response guided by meaningful action -- to celebrate active citizenship where a republic of writers, filmmakers, visual and digital artists converge. What Martín Espada has written about the social responsibility of the "Republic of Poetry" we believe applies to a Republic of all the Arts. It is "a place where creativity meets community, where the imagination serves humanity. [It] is a republic of justice because the practice of justice is the highest form of human expression."

Last Week to Apply: The English Major with a Creative Writing Concentration

The deadline is fast approaching! Send your application to the English Major with a Creative Writing Concentration by Sunday, November 1st.

Premised on the belief that the study of literature and the practice of writing are mutually enforcing, the English Major with a Creative Writing Concentration emphasizes the inter-relations among creative writing, digital media, criticism, and scholarship. As a concentration with a dual focus on literature and creative work, fully integrated within the English department, this degree offering combines literature courses, small writing workshops, and practical industry training to prepare students for advanced study or careers in writing, media, and publishing. In addition, students benefit from the resources provided by New York City, a worldwide center for literary publishing.

To learn more about the application process, course requirements, and program please visit

Dogeaters in the Diaspora: A Symposium

On Thursday, October 15, writers, academics, students, and fans gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jessica Hagedorn's groundbreaking Filipino American novel, Dogeaters. Fordham Law School's Bateman Room was standing room only for the writers' and artists' roundtable moderated by playwright, novelist, and MacArthur Fellowship recipient, Han Ong.

The passionate panelists included Mia Alvar, Gina Apostol, Nerissa Balce, Mia Katigbak, Walter Mosley, Ralph Peña, Allan Punzalan Isaac, Jeffrey Santa Ana, and the author herself, Jessica Hagedorn.

Nerissa Balce, an associate professor of Asian American studies at SUNY Stony Brook, opened the roundtable discussion with a reading from the last chapter of Dogeaters, "Kundiman." In her discussion on the prayer-turned-curse, Balce noted, "This novel captures the very complex relationships people have with the Philippines." She quoted a line from "Kundiman" to reinforce her point: "Manila I was born here, Manila I will die here, tantum ergo sacramentum."

Ong asked panelists to recount their first experience with Dogeaters

"At first I couldn't get through it," said Alan Punzalan Isaac, a chair of American Studies and associate professor of American Studies and English at Rutgers University. "But, then I realized I could read the book like poetry."

Mia Alvar, a fiction writer, also sought a piece of her identity the first time she picked up Dogeaters. "It's hard to overstate how absent my own face or the faces of my family were from the novels I was reading [as a young adult]." Assuming that Dogeaters would be a "warm and fuzzy book about [her] home country," Alvar admitted that she was "extremely unsettled and destabilized" by the experience of reading Dogeaters. "It was the first time I asked myself if books and art were around to make me feel comfortable." 

Mia Katigbak described her first encounter with the novel as "a kind of surge of memories I didn't know I had anymore." Ralph Peña, a playwright, compared his first reading of Dogeaters to having an interior designer completely redesign the home in which he grew up. It gave him the impression that he too could be an artist in the United States: "It was life affirming."

Balce hailed Dogeaters as the type of novel she had been waiting for in her study of Asian American culture, saying, "It was a book I could claim. Asian American literature doesn't always have to be about the American experience. Living through the trauma of being Filipino: that's what I want to read."

Praise for Dogeaters continued as Ong asked the panelists to locate the novel in conversations in literature.

Acclaimed American writer, Walter Mosley placed Dogeaters in the literary tradition of Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, and the works of Gabriel García Márquez.

"[Dogeaters] is not limited by culture, or by race, or by gender. You can understand it in China. You can understand it in Russia. You can understand it in Haight-Ashbury," said Mosley.

Isaac elaborated on the universality of Dogeaters, quoting a former student: "The brokenness of the novel makes sense if you know what it's like to be colonized." The panelists nodded in agreement. 

Unsurprisingly, one of the highlights of the event came when Hagedorn herself joined in on the conversation. As the panelists discussed the categorization of Dogeaters as "the book that gave Filipino Americans a mirror," Hagedorn admitted that she had always found it "bizarre" that people referred to it as a Filipino American novel.

When asked what she would call it instead, Hagedorn replied, "A global novel."

Fordham is grateful to the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University for their co-sponsorship of this event.



Joy, Fordham Alumnus, Publishes Poetry Collection

Chuck Joy graduated from Fordham College at Rose Hill in 1973 with a degree in sociology. Today, he is a child psychiatrist with a passion for poetry living in Erie, Pennsylvania. His newest publication is Said the Growling Dog, a collection of new and selected poems from Nirala Publications (New Delhi, India).

The poems featured in Said the Growling Dog transport the reader from Erie and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the White House, Monument Valley, and of course, the Bronx. Joy's experience at Fordham College has inspired more than setting. "A Piece Of His Heart," which is featured in his recent collection, "recalls an exact moment and life after college."

Said the Growling Dog is Joy's fourth published collection of poetry. Every Tiger Wants To Sing (Poets' Hall Press, Erie PA) and is a chapbook and All Smooth (Destitute Press, Buffalo NY) is a chapbook. In addition to writing poetry, Joy also produces theatrical literary events, has read and published his poetry both in the United States and abroad.