Recently by Kristen Hoggatt:

I recently finished college and a competitive, labor-intensive internship. I’m going to be starting a new job in a couple of weeks, but instead of feeling proud or relieved to have completed my studies, I feel nervous. Why does The End seem so ominous? — Patrick E.

 

Well, as the old adage goes, the end is the beginning of something else. It is the beginning of the unknown — that’s why it can be so scary. That’s why it can fill us with unease, but remember that we would get bored if life were predictable. We love the unknown in books, for example. We love movies that shock and awe, stories that end with a twist. We love poems whose endings make us hoot in delight:

“Endings”

Part II

Setting the V.C.R. when we go to bed to… More…

Something weird keeps happening to me. I order one book online, then I get all these email updates — “Maybe you’ll like this book…”  These online marketing tactics generally work. I think, “Wow, I would like that book,” and so I order it, and I LOVE IT. So now I’m afraid that these marketing tools have tapped into some secret of my soul. What else do these online gods know about me? — MW

 

I don’t think the book recommendation tool is any cause for alarm. The recommendations come after an author, subject, and keyword search, so really the recommendation has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the books you’ve been ordering electronically. My Kindle recommends books that I like all the time. Now, it does get a little creepy when Gmail syncs its… More…

My daughter is in a coma. She’s non-responsive. Her brain damage is extensive. Her doctors aren’t hopeful. Since you have relevant experience in this area, what do you think I should do to help her? What can I do to help myself, to keep thinking positive? — J

 

Wow. From my experience, I think you should read to her; who cares if she’s not responsive right now? Something immeasurable could be going on. Keep reading to her, talking to her, surrounding her with language and the soothing cadence of your voice. She probably has a valve inserted into her brain that monitors the pressure, and I think you’ll find that her brain pressure will decrease when you read to her. That’s what my parents did for me when I was in a coma. I think this… More…

Is there a particular poem or collection of poetry you’d recommend for 2 bookish types, carefree in spirit but both simple and practical in their daily lives, who are getting married? I am also contributing to a Crate and Barrel gift card for them but I think marriage demands something a little more meaningful than a salad bowl with matching spoons. Any recommendations? — F

 

There are many poems on the theme of marriage (take a look at the anthology Wedding Readings, edited by Eleanor Munro) but I’ve been trying to find a poetry book for you that “two bookish types” probably haven’t read. I think I found one that’s appropriate:  Stephen Dunn’s Everything Else in the World. The poems contained therein reflect the wisdom that is gained through age, but one poem in particular leads me… More…

I’m depressed by how 2011 is going. It’s been one bad thing after another, starting with the car bomb at the Coptic Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve. Now there’s the war in Libya. Is world peace a happy delusion that we inscribe on greeting cards and nothing more? Can you help restore my faith in humanity? — MJ

 

I hear you. You would think that with all our advancements, we would finally learn how to make peace with one another.  Sometimes I think we really haven’t moved forward at all, like we’re stuck in the Middle Ages where corrupt leaders slice off people’s heads. But I always try to remember that earnest individuals have tried to make world peace a reality. By establishing peacekeeping organizations and conferences, we have tried to rise above violence. And we… More…

I’ve never been much of an exerciser but I’m trying shed some of my winter weight for the summer. I hate gyms with a passion. Could you please make me up a workout routine that doesn’t involve going to the gym, preferably involving poetry? — Sara

 

OK, but you should consult your doctor before starting this or any exercise routine. I’m going to recommend that you exercise at least three times a week — that is the only amount of time I can take a break from my responsibilities to exercise (sorry trainers, yogis, and other health nuts). This plan can easily be doubled, of course:

Day 1:  Jump rope for 15 minutes with the neighborhood kids. If you don’t have neighborhood kids, or all the kids are perennially parked in front of the TV, ask some friends… More…

Why do poets drink so much? Does it help them write better poems? – Nick S.

 

I’m not so sure drinking and writing poetry go hand in hand these days as they used to. Most poets write at the top of the morning while their wits are sharpest, maybe while drinking coffee, which I’m pretty sure is not the “drink” you are implying. As far as alcohol being able to help poets write better poems, I can only say that it doesn’t help me. Maybe it can lead to experiences that will wind up somehow in one of my poems, but I can’t say for sure. Indeed, alcohol helps me do a lot of things, but writing good poems is not one of them.

I doubt that poets drink any more than anyone else in the Americas or… More…

I can’t write poems anymore. I’ve lost all my inspiration, which has been dwindling steadily since I’ve gotten older. When I sit down to write, I think, What’s the point? There’s so many other things to do. Can you help? — Uni

 

It’s hard to measure the value of writing a poem versus the more immediate value of taking out the trash, but I think writing a poem would be greater, in most respects. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take out the trash, that there’s no value in performing such a task. Life is all about balance and…

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m going through such a phase, too. I think all poets and writers go through them. In the meantime, try some poetry exercises so you don’t lose your training — imitations, or translating an existing… More…

I’m trying to eat healthier food. Specifically, I’ve never been big on veggies and I’m trying to eat more of them. I’ve noticed that there are lots of veggies in salsa, I eat a lot of salsa, and so I think I’ve lucked out. My wife thinks I’m nuts, but what’s a poet’s take: Would salsa count as one of my five daily servings of vegetables? — Tim S.

 

I’m hardly a nutritionist, but from what I recall of the food pyramid, there’s a category called “Other,” a gray block with a rain of unwholesome-looking granules instead of pictures of plump animal and vegetable matter. It is located at top of the food pyramid, suggesting, I think, that you should eat these foods only after you’ve accomplished a physical feat, such as climbing a pyramid, when you’re especially… More…

I just started a new graduate program in a new city and I’m feeling lonely. I don’t have anything in common with my colleagues. I started a semester later and most of them are good friends by now. – J

 

The fact that you are in the same graduate program in the same school as your colleagues shows that you all have more in common than you realize right now, but I understand: Entering a program in the spring can make you seem like the odd man (or woman?) out. From my experience, graduate students are pretty eager to see a new face in their classes, so once you get over your fear and start opening up, you’ll realize that you have quite a bit in common with them. By sharing more jokes, hobbies, and stories of turbulent youth,… More…