Ben Purkert’s debut collection of poetry, For the Love of Endings, was published in March 2018. The launch party was held at Powerhouse Books in Brooklyn, and the book tour that followed took him to venues across the country. Reviews of Ben’s collection have been stellar. “His language is always striking sparks, alighting on both the poignant and the haunting,” writes award-winning fellow poet Eduardo C. Corral. “For the Love of Endings is a tremendous beginning. It marks the arrival of a singular voice.”
We asked Ben to share his inspiration and advice for aspiring young writers.
What was your inspiration for this poetry collection?
If there’s a thread that ties these poems together, it’s an anxiety over loss (or, quite literally, endings). While every generation faces its own struggles, I think mine is the first to grapple with the horrifying reality that our planet may not be habitable for much longer. And so how, as human beings, do we confront that? How do we keep loving? I want to stress, though, For the Love of Endings isn’t all doom and gloom. At least I hope not! My favorite poets, like my favorite comedians, are the ones that make us cry and laugh at the same time. I remember one of my former NA English teachers, Mr. Mario Costa, saying that “the only thing more tragic than tragedy is comedy.” I think he’s right.
How has Newark Academy impacted your educational and professional journeys?
I owe NA a tremendous amount. In particular, I’m grateful to Dr. Betsy LaPadula, who really set me on the path of poetry in the first place. I vividly remember one time in Middle School when Dr. LaPadula had us memorize Anne Sexton poems and read them in front of the whole school during Morning Meeting. And here’s the thing: Sexton’s poems are super dark! And we read the darkest ones!
I’ll never forget listening to my classmate Tiffany Bergin deliver the lines, “I have gone out, a possessed witch, haunting the black air, braver at night.” It was a totally transfixing scene. You really thought she was possessed. And I guess that’s the thing about poetry – it haunts you in the best way possible. Some ghosts you never want to leave.
What advice would you offer to a student who is interested in a writing career?
Read. Read a lot. And I particularly like what our current U.S. Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith, advises: that it’s “important to read against your taste, to read the things you don’t love, and see if you can learn how they’re built and what they achieve and whether those tools can be useful to you.”
Ben teaches creative writing at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. His poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Boston Review, Guernica, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares and elsewhere. He holds degrees from Harvard and from NYU, where he was a New York Times Fellow. For more information about Ben’s poetry collection and upcoming events, visit www.benpurkert.com.