To me writing in South Jersey means getting your head together and looking at the sea. It means the mist passing between you and a lot of neon. It means a marsh popping up next to a field someone has left alone. It means finding out what happens when you put yourself in absolutely unknown territory, who will be there when you say hi and what is making the present chock full rather than empty. The sea running alongside the region can be the abyss, or it can be the cool fullness at the edge of your restaurant, even if it’s just an imaginary daydreamed restaurant. Poet Kathy Graber refers to its lonely seaside towns in winter as something she needs and loves. I can understand that having lived in Margate for three years. Stockton graduate Jenna McCoy and I have agreed it’s easier in South Jersey to hear the sound of eternity.
Having spent a lot of time walking around in the small towns of Absecon Island and Brigantine and in Absecon and Galloway, and having spent a good amount of time sitting in Atlantic City, walking down through motels, shops and casinos, I always wondered about the lit houses versus the dark houses, especially in winter. The mystery of the lit houses, the lit windows. The Dante Hall World Above poetry series offers me a chance to sit down for a few hours and meet the local poets, chat with them, sit in a beautiful auditorium and hear the latest they’ve written. It’s getting to know people individually, and dip into community, and also to find out a little more what is at the heart of these towns, that draws me back.
Cynthia Arrieu-King will be our Featured Poet on Wednesday, March 26 at Dante Hall Theater in Atlantic City.