Patricia Cherin: Long Day’s “Journey” Into Poetry
As coordinator of the Humanities External Degree M.A. Program in the College of Extended and International Education at California State University, Dominguez Hills, Patricia Cherin oversees students from all over the world, many of whom will earn their degrees without ever setting foot on the Carson campus.
Over the years that she has helped her students on their journeys to a college degree Cherin has been on her own journey to becoming a writer. After a career that includes featured works in more than 100 publications and two chapter books of her own titled, “Familiarities” and “Park Quest,” her first book-length collection of poems, “Journey in Flagrante,” was published last month.
“For me, it’s a journey through poetry to poetry,” says Cherin of her book, which she debuted at a book signing at Borders in Long Beach on April 19. “The first poem has to do with what to do in order to become a poet. The last poem has to do with poetry being intellectually clear and satisfying.”
Cherin says that poetry chose her, rather than her choosing it.
“I would, in an ideal world, preferred to have been a novelist because I like the grand sweep, the complexity and elaboration that a novel allows,” she says. “But that isn’t the genre that chose me. I like odd associations, discordant images, and that swift moment of clarity that comes when two images coalesce.”
Having taught creative writing and poetry at CSU Long Beach and CSU Dominguez Hills, Cherin says that it is “joyful to work in a community of poets.” She is most interested in what she calls a “writer’s metabolism,” or temperament.
“I ask students in creative writing classes to write about their writing metabolism,” she says, “and whether or not they work well in the mornings or in the evenings, or in quiet or in noise, if they need direct stimulation or if they need retreat space. Some people can write a little bit every day on a regular schedule, and some people write fervently for short periods of time – bursts – then have time off, sort of writing seasons. Every writer is different.”
Cherin, who tends to work on several poems at once, says that the writing of a poem is “never over unless you’re done with it – or bored with it.”
“I do mull over [things] and every time you mull over an event or an image or an association, then it is new,” she says. “I think it’s only when you hold on to the same memories or the same images and just recirculate them without a new association or a new thought or image that it’s maybe not useful. In this book – I was reading it after it had been completed – I saw two spots that I had been thinking about for months, and in one case, years. Now that it was too late, I saw the perfect revisions. So sometimes it can even come years later. I obviously wasn’t bored with those poems yet.”
Cherin will be hosting an evening of readings at Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro on Tuesday, May 19, at 7 p.m. The event will be presented by Martin Bax, the editor of Ambit magazine, a leading literary journal in Great Britain that has featured Cherin’s work.
- Joanie Harmon