Poet Of The Week

Nora Rose Tomas

     June 19–25, 2023

Nora Rose Tomas is a queer interdisciplinary writer. She lives in Brooklyn and works in independent publishing. She holds an MFA from Columbia University. Her work has been longlisted for the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize and the Pink Poetry Prize, as well as nominated for the Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions anthologies. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Salt Hill Journal, ANMLY, Peach Mag, Lavender Review, Dream Pop and Mantis, among others. Last year, she was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow for study in Cindy Tran’s “Bad Behavior” workshop.

Radiator Noise


There is a woman in the walls of New York City.

I imagine you know this already,

but I will tell you about her anyway.

She is a busy woman, clanking her knuckles

against the pipes and tying the knots

at the ends of tampon strings.

When people say there is an energy in

New York City, they are referring

to the woman in the walls.

That halo-nosed hero, dripping from the

subway ceiling. She has so much fluttering

to do. That’s what you feel, the fluttering.

The woman does not intervene.

Sometimes people demand intervention,

saying that this should go hand-in-hand

with ever-presence. But the woman simply responds,

I am not in the business. Much like God.

Or the mayor. People ask lots of the woman,

but you know this too I’m sure.

It is the nature of women and questions

and existence. There are three she hears every day:

Are you flirtatious? they ask the woman.

No, she responds, I am New York City.

Will you give birth to me? they ask the woman.

No, she responds, you are already here. Then what

is the purpose of all of this witness? they

ask the woman. There is no purpose, she yells,

I am ancient, I am the sensation of a thousand eyes.


Brooklyn Poets · Nora Rose Tomas, "Radiator Noise"

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I was living in this old apartment with an extremely loud radiator. It was the winter, and I must have been heartbroken. I started to imagine the radiator as a creature living in my room. That apartment was on the second floor, with a window that faced the street. And I was constantly surprised by how much I could hear from outside. The apartment was across from a bar, and I overheard a lot of private phone calls and conversations—where it was clear that the people talking thought no one could hear them. The radiator was by the window, so the personification expanded, and I started to imagine it as this sort of all-knowing witness. And also, as a woman.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on two projects. The first is a book of poetry titled Everyone Is Looking at Me, which is about queer intimacy and cellphones.

The second is a novel titled Helga in the Final Night, which is about longing, violence and office work.

The novel explores the question: When does desire become disgusting? 

What’s a good day for you?

I wake up early and write for a few hours, then I go for a long run around Prospect Park. I take a hot shower and wash my hair. I read into the afternoon, then meet a friend and have a dirty martini (vodka).

What brought you to Brooklyn?

I had been living in Manhattan, in Morningside Heights, for a few years, but all of my friends kept moving to Brooklyn. I was spending too much time on the train.

Tell us about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?

I’ve been living in Prospect Heights for a year. I feel extremely lucky to be here. I find it to be a beautiful and generative place. As an outsider, it feels like a deep privilege.

My favorite thing about living here (New York in general) is that you can reasonably live without a car. I don’t have a driver’s license, but I grew up in the middle of the country, where the infrastructure really tries to corner you into buying a car. Brooklyn lends itself to walking, and I love to walk.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad, or in between.

I was walking down the street next to a mother pushing her toddler in a stroller. The child asked her where they were going and she responded, “This adorable craft brewery called Covenhoven.”

What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?

I have a lot of writer friends whom I love very deeply. But they are almost all prose writers. I got my MFA in nonfiction writing, which is where I met most of my writer friends. I’d love to have more poets in my life.

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

Hart Crane has really influenced me. I try to read “Voyages” once a year.

Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

My main writing mentor has been Jacob Slichter. I took a class with him in 2019, and we’ve stayed in contact since then. He is such a deeply generous and kind person. Writing can be so difficult to navigate, and it’s amazing to have someone to turn to who will always say, “You can do this, there is no need to retreat.”

Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

The last novel that I loved was Big Swiss by Jen Beagin. It’s so sharp, funny, strange. The last poetry collection I loved was Dispatch by Cameron Awkward-Rich.

What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?

Someday it will be time to start reading Proust.

Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?

I work in publishing, and I have to read for work. I’m always reading a few things at once, I find. I like to read in short spurts and switch between things. I love hardcovers, though they are an expensive thing to love.

What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?

I think that someday I’d like to write so many sonnets that they become a novel.

Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

I read on the train to work. And I love to go to the library. But mostly I just read and write in my room. I own a blue velvet armchair, where I do most of my work.

What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?

I love getting the almond croissants from Bien Cuit. My favorite bars in Brooklyn are Doris, Dynaco and the Coyote Club. I love Prospect Park, and I love the Brooklyn Museum.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate and there I was,

And what I in you and we were screaming inside love,

For every crooked shadow in me as good as every slant in you.

Why Brooklyn?

It is all here.