Diving into Practice

By Sarah Key
Writing Center Tutor


As an Emily Dickinson admirer and imbiber of her words, I am often “inebriate of air.” How do those mere letters, lines and squiggles, assemble like a puzzle to make meaning in our minds? Language relies on metaphor to carry us to the place where words make sense. The ability to understand and use metaphor is like mastery with a bow and arrow. We have to know where and how the arrow is aimed, the dynamic of the load, and how to sharpen (or soften) our points. In my new post as Poet-in-Practice, I hope to inspire the Hostos community to re-examine the poetry we love and to unlock the mysteries of metaphor and form, looking at the poems we don’t know with new wonder.


I adore words like “practice” that do double-duty, as both noun and verb. Practice the practice. About fifteen years ago, that is what I did, studying and writing poetry at such places as the Unterberg Poetry Center, Frost Place, and Cave Canem. Dozens of my poems have been published in literary journals (from The Georgia Review to Tuesday; An Art Project) and anthologies (including Nasty Women Poets and Poets to Come: Walt Whitman’s Bicentennial) with several winning poetry prizes.


After I received a Masters in Communications from USC, my professional writing life began when I joined an entertainment public relations firm. It was the perfect training ground for creative writing, as I wrote press releases that were pure fiction for clients ranging from the Harlem Globetrotters to Michael Jackson. Eventually, I followed my heart back to the East Coast (where I was raised) and began work in New York at Abbeville Press, an art book publishing house. As the lowest-ranking member of the editorial department, I waded through the slush pile of unsolicited book proposals, spending most of my hours proofreading galleys. Surviving that, I ended up writing six movie-themed cookbooks, called the Hollywood Hotplates, and editing others, including a James Beard nominee. After the birth of my first child, I moved to freelance work and wrote two cookbooks for the iconic NYC ice cream parlor Serendipity.


Hostos has been my work home since February of 2015 when I started at the Writing Center. Since then, I have served as one of the pilot SIP tutors, conducted one-on-one tutoring several days a week, given one-time poetry seminars, and judged numerous Hostos poetry contests. It is hard to believe that five years ago I knew nothing about Hostos or the South Bronx, other than it was a short commute from my Harlem apartment. Now I tell everyone Hostos is the best place I have ever worked and the place where I learn the most.


My first poetry seminar this year for the Hostos Writing Center will be on March 6, from 3:30 to 5:00 pm, called “Diving into Metaphor,” in B-511. Please join us and encourage your students to come.


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