Does the Muse Dwell in Suburbia?

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” – William Wordsworth

What do we imagine when we think of poets or poetry? I think immediately our minds wander to images of coffee shops in the city. You know, the ones filled with people dressed in black who snap their fingers after someone performs an interpretive dance? The other popular image that comes to mind looks like a scene from Dead Poets Society where rich youngsters learn about the human experience through the works of Keats or Browning.

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I have to ask, though: Is this real? This is what the movies tell us. This is what our stereotypes look like. Well, I don’t buy it. Poetry is not reserved for Manhattanites or preppy academics. Poetry is for everyone, and the muse dwells wherever life thrives. 

This “wherever” also includes suburbia. Lucky for those in New Jersey, there is in fact a thriving poetry scene. I had the pleasure of talking with a local poet about his experiences in New Jersey, and I think he emphasized a point that Wordsworth brings up in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads. Essentially, any powerful emotion that is later contemplated is great inspiration for art, and there is no limit on where those emotions stem from. Sadly, as many from New Jersey know, the state is currently plagued by a terrible heroin epidemic. There are also so many areas still being rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy.

“I know that I grew up in a single mother household, and I knew poverty and adversity and loss as more than just far-off concepts, but real life challenges,” said Damian Rucci. “I know a lot of poets who are growing up in this world and there is dark inspiration everywhere, but there is also beauty. New Jersey gets slagged by a lot of people who haven’t been here and seen the vastness of the Pine Barrens, or the crisp crimson of the setting sun on the Bayshore, or the white sands of the beaches along the shore. There is a lot of beauty in this state still, too.”

Damian Rucci
Damian Rucci

Rucci is a local poet from Keyport, New Jersey. He founded the “Poetry in the Port” gatherings, and manages the new “Street Poet Review.” He will soon be publishing a collection of poems called, Poor Poems for Poor Souls. If you’re interested, check him out on Facebook.

Suburbia is not just rows of cookie-cutter houses and housewives. There is life in suburbia — real, powerful, painful, beautiful life — and people are writing about it. 

So, now what? If you’re interested in poetry or the arts in New Jersey there are tons of opportunities for you to check out. I wrote about “Poetry in the Port” and a few other spots to check out a few months ago, here. Also, the “Street Poet Review” will be hosting a launch party on March 22 at Espresso Joes in Keyport. 

Check out these great poets and art from New Jersey. If you have any questions or could recommend an event, as always please contact me at!

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