Ask a Poet

Only the Lonely




Ask a Poet
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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, you will find that some of your experiences overlap with those of your peers. That’s sort of the way things work in social situations. The more you expose of yourself, the more others expose of themselves, and the more you can see how much alike other human beings you are.
“Danse Russe”

If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

(William Carlos Williams)
While reading my fortune from the leftover coffee grounds in my cup, a one-armed Azerbaijani woman recounted what I think was a proverb of sorts: “‘Good grief!’ the goat said upon seeing his reflection.” 

Just remember that people are people the world over — we all have something in common. • 28 February 2011



Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston. Send questions to poet@thesmartset.com.