A&E

Artist Spotlight on Poet Nicole Markert: An interview with a student that often challenges herself by creating more meaning in a poem by how it looks on a page.

The moment that I knew my roommate, Senior English Writing and Literature major, Nicole Markert, was not just a fantastic poet but a spectacular storyteller was when I watched her present her senior writing thesis last spring.

“In 2012, there were 4,738 people in the age group of 21-24 that were involved in fatal car accidents in the United States. My brother was one of them,” Markert said. This line was what Markert used to begin her thesis. Her poetry collection surrounded the passing of her brother, and how Markert dealt with grief, anxiety and relationships.

Last spring, I watched Markert solidify to a room full of professors, parents, siblings and friends that her poetry has the power to force us to come to terms with our own personal versions of loss. Even though the audience may not have faced the same struggles as Markert, her words brought them into her world. As an audience member, I felt like I was grieving alongside Markert.

Markert started writing at the age of nine. However, she did not know about the emotional power creative writing would have for her until she took a creative writing class in high school.

“In that class, I learned that I could express my feelings more openly. The environment I was in was very open… I didn’t have to hide from how I felt,” Markert said.

She knows now that she probably had been writing poems specifically since eighth grade, but she did not know that her free-verse creations counted as poetry. She thought that poetry had to fit into set forms and that they could not develop a form on their own through free-verse poetry.

“I didn’t realize that the little blurbs I was writing about myself was poetry,” Markert said.

After this discovery, Markert began challenging herself by experimenting with form. Although she appreciates poetry with set forms, she is especially intrigued with how free-verse poems can influence and challenge meaning.

“Poems can create meaning visually,” Markert said.

Sometimes, her poems have lines that, although only a word or two, span a line of a whole page. This allows the readers of her work to not just read but to also see what Markert is trying to convey. Often, Markert experiments with form by adding meaningful spaces in between words and line breaks throughout thoughts. This is a challenge within itself. Often times, Markert saves multiple copies of her poems that are in progress, each with different kinds of spacing and breaking. This allows Markert to see for herself what is and is not working for a specific piece.

While challenging herself to experiment with different free-verse ideas of poetry, Markert also learns so much from the English department, especially from Professor Rebecca Gidjunis, Markert’s writing thesis instructor.

  “I learned a lot from Professor Rebecca Gidjunis. She challenged me to become the writer I am today,” Markert said.

While altering the spaces and breaks of her pieces, Markert often relied on her thesis critique group and Professor Gidjunis for vital feedback. In writing thesis, Markert would bring working drafts for her chapbook (a mini-version of a collection), and her class would critique it. During this process, Markert’s group members would discuss what was working and suggested what may not have worked in the piece. This feedback helped Markert see how her poems were working from an outside perspective.

On top of everything, Markert believes that her poetry is mostly impacted by the daily happenings of her life. Markert finds inspiration from what intrigues her each day or leaves an everlasting impression. Often, she thinks about certain experiences and how she can form it into a poem.

“I really like toying with dialect and direct quotes I hear from people around me, especially my family. I have a lot of poems where they either start or end with quotes. I find that the little things that people say to me in passing are what tend to stay with me,” Markert said.

Markert has had her poems published in Eastern’s literary magazine, Inklings as well as on SWWIM Every Day, an online journal. Her poem “The Quiz in the Grief Packet My Counselor Gave Me,” is forthcoming in Glass: A Journal of Poetry.

Currently, Markert is looking to attend graduate school. She wants to pursue her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry as well as learn more about the publishing industry. She is looking to apply to NYU, Rosemont, Rutgers, Vermont College of Fine Arts and a few others.

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