UH Moment

UH Moment: “Soros Poetry Fellowship”

Poetry can be the voice of those who can’t speak or cannot be heard.  It is the instrument one University of Houston student uses to speak about undocumented immigrants.  Listen to this week’s UH Moment.

Junkyarding through the great Moreno Valley

          S. was always looking for a carburetor
and I’d hang around
          to get some sleep on the bench
seat of his Ford. When I was awake
          and not browsing the glove compartment,
I’d help comb the rust edging the lots,
          finding nothing shaped like a such-
and-such all day. We’d split up
          —he called it double-timing
and I’d poke around at alternators and engines
          under the corrugated hoods.
If I got lucky, a cat or possum
          would skedaddle out a trunk,
or I’d find a cassette we’d jammed to
          at the skating rink a few years back.
Once when I was leaning against the open
          door of a stripped jeep, he proposed
with a pipe clamp too big for any
          of my fingers. I still wore it around,
every so often forgetting what it was
          and calling it a gasket.
We were always getting it wrong,
          he and I. He’d tell me to look for
serpentine belts, but to stay away from
          the rattlesnakes, and I’d come back
swinging an inner tube or two on my arms.
          It was good.
                                 Sure, not much
happened, but those things
          we’d holler one after the other
across the junkyards, weekend after weekend,
          well, they became something
like a language passed between us, our own
          long American sentence.

 “My poems always seem to be about the experience of undocumented immigrants,” Janine Joseph said.  She was 8 years old when she arrived in the United States from the Philippines.  Now a doctoral candidate of the Creative Writing Program, Joseph is one of 354 students nationwide awarded a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship that supports graduate study of new Americans. 

UH Creative Writing ProgramSoros Fellowships are awarded to support the graduate study of new Americans (immigrants and children of immigrants). Joseph is one of 31 Soros Fellows who were selected from about 750 applicants. Created in 1997, these fellowships have been awarded to 354 students.

“What I aim for when writing a poem is accessibility, because if I’m going to be writing about the undocumented immigrant experience, I’m not doing myself any sort of justice if I’m writing in a language no one really understands,” she said. Her current work explores themes of identity, transformation and relationships people build with each other.

Her poetry has been published in numerous journals, anthologies and publications including Third Coast, Calabash, Spoon River Poetry Review and Nimrod International Journal.

For more details on these fellowships, visit http://www.pdsoros.org/.

Janine Joseph is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.  I’m Marisa Ramirez. 

Telling the stories of the University of Houston, this UH Moment is brought to you by KUHF, listener supported radio from the University of Houston.