A look at the writing process of a professor Ramapo published

Photo courtesy of James Hoch.

In the fall of 2019, Professor James Hoch announced to his class that he had just signed a book contract. Last week he published two books of poetry, his first publications since 2007. Throughout his 16 years at Ramapo, Hoch has become known for delivering seemingly simple yet impactful lessons – his “write now, think later” approach. “Often teaches students more than well in writing.

He has an interesting take on the idea of ​​having a “writing process” and says he’s not sure he really believes in it. For Hoch, the most important part is to carve out “the space and time to listen” and, from there, to discover. He urges his students to value the review process.

“I don’t start with what I want to say,” Hoch said. “I start out being lost and find what I want to say.”

Hoch says he always has a stack of “half-baked” poems he’s working on, and for years of writing he thought he was working on a single manuscript. He says it took a few years to discover that there were three separate works in the works. Two of these became “Radio Static” and “Last Pawn Shop in New Jersey”, the third still in draft.

“It’s good to have a new book. It’s not something I take for granted,” Hoch said in an interview. “It’s exciting and a bit unnerving.”

The collections came together in their current iteration during Hoch’s spring 2021 sabbatical, but he says they never really feel complete, and he imagines he’ll always keep revising.

“Radio Static” is a collection of poems he describes as fragmentary in nature, to and about his brother. He says the collection is about two brothers and asks the questions, “How do they survive each other? How can we make a connection given the very different lives we live? »

“I feel like it was a bad walkie-talkie between us,” Hoch said. “Sometimes we hear static and sometimes we hear each other.”

Although strongly tied to all of the poems, Hoch says some notable ones include “Auditory,” a poem he recently did a radio reading of, and “Afghanistan.”

“Last Pawn Shop in New Jersey” focuses on Hoch’s personal identity. He says it’s the third book in a trilogy, the first two being his other collections “A Parade of Hands” and “Miscreants.”

“It’s mostly about living an adult life… There are a lot of poems about parents and the loss of parents, and how our [identity] are both our past and our future,” Hoch said. “I feel like a collection of a whole lot of things that belonged to other people. That’s how I came to think about my identity.

The cover of the collection is a photograph of the Atlantic City Ferris wheel, and Hoch says New Jersey readers will understand the poems in a unique way. Just like in “Radio Static”, this collection of poems also asks questions, but here about “the gift and the burden that is post-adolescence”.

“He has all the memories of being young and all the reckoning of going through this. Connecting to the past is not enough to support the future, it must be taken into account,” he said. “When you’re grieving, you have to ask yourself, ‘What’s on the other side of this?’ And I wonder ‘what’s on the other side of the other?’

These poems, which Hoch says never really end, can now become important reading for writers following Hoch’s path. “Radio Static” can be found through Green linden pressand “Last Pawn Shop in New Jersey” on Amazon and LSU Press.

“I am happy that these two books are coming out. They are both very important to me personally. It feels good to know that they took their time and were necessary for me to write and create,” Hoch said. “Nobody waits 10 years, 12 years for useless work. It was a lesson in perseverance. »

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Scott R. Banks