August 22–28, 2022
Samantha Maren (she/her) is a poet and international educator raised in Boston with origins in Trinidad. Her work has been published in the Tenderness Project and samfiftyfour, and she is a poetry reader for Salamander. Samantha has received support from Cave Canem and this past fall was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow for study in Starr Davis’s Poetic Voice workshop. She lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Author photo by Sejal Soham
She once was not and then in an instant, she is.
To be, she must leave a wound that stiffens into a coerced grin sewn shut.
On her way out and away from the operating table
she grips a lasso of guts
aiming the loop at the singular question on their minds:
What is a baby girl’s worth anyway?
Every Friday morning they will take you to a basement chapel for Mass.
You will be a child bent over red leather kneelers facing the altar.
Because you are Black, you will have to pray twice as hard for half the peace.
Because you are a child, you will think the aching is your fault.
You will pray to the Father for your father’s kind eyes again.
Every night, you will hold your mother.
Listening to the familiar ocean sounds of her body
you will wait for the signal in your body that it is safe to run.
On Thanksgiving I lied and said I missed my parents.
Truthfully, I longed for the ocean’s bottom on my soles.
At the beach, I had taken off my shoes and waited to feel
a horseshoe crab’s barb
a slippery bunker’s head
something to ground me, while my partner sharply scolded me
that I would get sick and then readily posed for my aging iPhone lens
with a cigar between clenched teeth.
I had felt sad and free pressed up against the scruff of his irritation.
Then we walked by the perfect green wooden bench
just sized for one under a streetlight.
So uncanny was its resemblance to me
I ran up to it, took its picture and asked aloud,
What is a bench when there is no one to sit on it?
and wordlessly replied, A table where I would be grateful to eat alone.
Tell us about the making of this poem.
This poem started with meeting the green, single-seat bench on a pandemic-emptied beach on Thanksgiving and spontaneously asking myself a riddle about self-perception. I don’t find the words. The words and images find me. I worked my way back from that experience to explore my emotions around my positionality through time and space as a baby, then a girl, and now a woman.
What are you working on right now?
What’s a good day for you?
On a good day, it’s Saturday morning. I wake up at 9 AM, get dressed and tidy up to soca music. Then I make some tea to go and head to Prospect Park to go birding, walk around the lake and read. There’s a nook near the picnic house where I like to read. When it’s time for lunch, I get a roti on Flatbush Ave and head back home to eat it. Then I do something fun with loved ones, preferably involving live music and dancing.
What brought you to Brooklyn?
I finished graduate school in Boston and hit dead-ends professionally and personally. I decided to shake things up by doing an internship in Dakar, Senegal. The flight left out of JFK, so when I returned to the US, I decided I wasn’t going back to Boston. I moved in with my sister who lived in Flatbush.
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 live in Flatbush, specifically Prospect Lefferts Gardens. I never lived anywhere else in NYC and I can’t see myself living anywhere else. Although the gentrification is real and increasing, I love how Caribbean it still is. I feel extremely safe, seen and supported in my neighborhood.
What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?
My poetry community is hard won and precious. It took until late 2018 for me to accept that I am a poet and give myself permission to dedicate time to exploring a literary community. I found it with Brooklyn Poets and I’ve also found it during the pandemic virtually, where my workshop mates became friends and confidants. I’m so lucky that I have been able to continue to grow and contribute to my poetry communities in NYC and online. I’m so lucky that I have been able to learn and speak this language with others.
Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.
Patricia Spears Jones, Jason Koo, Shira Erlichman.
Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?
José Angel Araguz, Aurora Masum-Javed and Starr Davis have encouraged me, inspired me and supported me in so many ways.
Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.
Felon by Reginald Dwayne Betts. The speaker’s vulnerability and the layered meaning-making with the typography choices and erasure poems make this one of the most powerful and tender works I have ever read.
What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?
I want to dive into the work of Victorian-era poets, like Christina Rossetti and Thomas Hardy.
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 read multiple books at a time, dipping in and out. I prefer physical books and audiobooks. Right now, I’m reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and Citizen by Claudia Rankine, and listening to The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris.
What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?
A heroic crown of sonnets about my grandmother—a crown for a queen!
Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:
I celebrate every day
And what I am grateful for: you to watch me grow
For every budding me as good, a blooming you.
I am inspired every day by the tenacity and creativity found in Brooklyn. I learn something new here every day.