Yale College Voices Episode 05 Transcription

Harmonies of Belonging: Poetry and the Inclusive Verse at Yale College: A Conversation with Julia Bakes and Brian Robinson

00:00:00:27 - 00:00:20:06 

Darice 

Hi everyone! Welcome to today's episode of our Yale College Voices podcast. Today, I have two guests. I have Julia Bakes and Brian Robinson. Julia is an admin for the Richard U. Light Fellowship. 

 

00:00:20:08 - 00:00:20:21 

Julia 

That's right. 

 

00:00:20:27 - 00:00:24:02 

Darice 

Bryan is a manager for the Yale Symphony Orchestra. 

 

00:00:24:03 - 00:00:24:24 

Brian 

Yes. 

 

00:00:24:27 - 00:00:32:17 

Darice 

You're going to tell me a little bit about yourselves and then we're just going to have a great conversation. Welcome today and thank you. 

 

00:00:32:20 - 00:00:33:20 

Julia 

Thank you for having us. 

 

00:00:33:21 - 00:00:38:22 

Darice 

Whoever wants to start first, I don't know. We'll flip a coin. 

 

00:00:38:25 - 00:01:01:27 

Julia 

Well, I've been working for the Fellowship's department since 2011, so it's been quite some time. I am also independently a writer. I have a memoir due to be released in 2025 from Scholastic. 

 

00:01:02:00 - 00:01:38:15 

Brian 

I love that you say 2011 was quite a long time. I mean, you're 20. This is my 20th season managing the Yale Symphony Orchestra. Independent of that, I have a degree in music composition and have a rich musical life outside of Yale. One of the reasons why the both of us, Julia and I, are here is because I host a poetry reading at the Volume Two: A Never Ending Books Collective, which Julia is on the board of and is one of the founding members. 

 

00:01:38:18 - 00:02:04:17 

Darice 

Awesome, so welcome. Thank you for agreeing to do this with me today. It's just great to meet you and hear more about your backgrounds. I'd love to hear more about the poetry reading. Tell me a little bit more about the work that you do here at Yale. Then we'll get into some of the other exciting stuff that you have going on. 

 

00:02:04:20 - 00:02:58:08 

Julia 

I specifically work for the Richard U. Light Fellowship, which provides full funding for students who are interested in intensive language study in China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. It's a really unique opportunity and we're really proud of the work that we do. Obviously, during the pandemic, we hit some pretty unique challenges because of how impossible it was to go to parts of East Asia. Luckily, that is changing swiftly. We have more students going overseas again and things are kind of reaching a level of normalcy we’re really relieved about. It's been a real journey over the last, I don't even want to say how many years you already heard that. 

 

00:02:58:10 - 00:02:59:03 

Darice 

I can imagine. 

 

00:02:59:08 - 00:03:04:20 

Julia 

Again, we're really proud of this opportunity that we administer. 

 

00:03:04:20 - 00:03:55:17 

Darice 

That's amazing. If I'm correct in saying that, so you've been with the Fellowship since 2011? Which means you've been in 55 Whitney, for a while, right? We haven't met. It's a big building, but that's what's so funny about it. We could go years without crossing paths in the same building all these years, because I've been with the dean's office since 2012. Yeah, we haven't even had a chance to meet. That’s what's so great about having this opportunity. Bryan, do you want to tell me a little bit more about your experience with the Yale Symphony Orchestra? 

 

00:03:55:19 - 00:04:34:07 

Brian 

Yeah. I was just a young buck when I started. I was like 27 or 28. I know, it's like almost half my life I've been here, which is startling. Let's use, an interesting adjective. I'm the production manager for the orchestra. In the real world outside of Yale, my job would be split up as like, the personnel manager, the production manager, the development person, the marketing person, and it’s sort of I just do a little bit of everything. 

 

00:04:34:09 - 00:05:00:06 

Brian 

For over 20 years, it's been great. I've been all over the world thanks to Yale University and the symphony. We were just in Mexico in March and that's something I did not have the opportunity to ever do, which was great. We're currently, it's October, we are now prepping for the Halloween show, which I've done 20 of now. 

 

00:05:00:08 - 00:05:01:29 

Darice 

Wow. That's amazing. 

 

00:05:02:02 - 00:05:23:18 

Brian 

It's been nice. I mean, that Halloween show has really seen some pretty impressive changes over the past few years. It's thanks to one of our art directors in 2010 who recognized that James Franco was on campus. We now have regular celebrity cameos as part of the show.  

 

00:05:23:18 - 00:05:26:08 

Darice 

I need to hang out more with the YSO. 

 

00:05:26:11 - 00:05:32:27 

Brian 

Yeah, oh yeah. We're pretty cool. We're definitely very cool people, yeah. 

 

00:05:32:29 - 00:05:44:05 

Darice 

Tell me, that’s so cool. It's interesting that you say you came aboard when you were 27. What brought you to Yale? 

 

00:05:44:07 - 00:06:07:29 

Brian 

I mean, I have had a let's just say, a nonlinear path. When it came, I didn't just graduate high school and go to college and go to grad school and yadda, yadda and get a job. I had to drop out of college after my freshman year. I took like three years off. I had to like bum around Guilford, Connecticut, and work in a video store. 

 

00:06:08:01 - 00:06:39:00 

Brian 

Finally got sick of that and moved to New York, worked at FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue, and then got sick of that and went back to music school to finish my degree. By then, I mean, I was like in my mid twenties. So because I was in my mid twenties, I was pretty serious with my girlfriend and we got married while I was in school and had our first child my senior year of, like at graduation I carried a two week old in a big big yarn off to get my degree. 

 

00:06:39:02 - 00:07:33:04 

Brian 

I don't know if I carried him up to receive it, but I know I was rocking him in the church while we were all at commencement. Due to the circumstances, because of the reality of living in New York City with a child in a 300 square foot railroad apartment. I had to look elsewhere, I had to figure out what I was going to do. I kind of lucked out. I have family in Guilford, and we were staying there for a week just to get away from New York for a little bit. I just started job hunting. I went on the Yale's STARS site and just thought, oh, well, let me see what I'm qualified for. This administrative associate job came up and I was like, I can do administrative work, I've done it before. It turned out to be an orchestra manager job, which I was definitely qualified for. 

 

00:07:33:04 - 00:07:51:11 

Brian 

I'd already done orchestra management in New York with small contemporary ensembles and orchestras, and it just sort of was a weird kismet. I was like, this is very, very strange that this is the first job listing I applied for. I got the job and next thing I know we're here. 

 

00:07:51:11 - 00:07:53:19 

Darice 

20 years later. 

 

00:07:53:22 - 00:07:59:12 

Brian 

Also two more kids and I'm entrenched now. 

 

00:07:59:12 - 00:08:08:23 

Darice 

Yeah, I always say, Yale’s got me, I'm here for the duration. I have to put my kids through college. 

 

00:08:08:26 - 00:08:11:20 

Darice 

So Julia, what brought you to Yale? 

 

00:08:11:23 - 00:08:50:03 

Julia 

My story is also a little unorthodox. We work at 55 Whitney, I lived at 75 Whitney for a very long time in my early twenties. I used to work for Covidien. I worked in their health center putting together programs. I was laid off. For a while, I was working underneath my apartment at a Vietnamese restaurant that no longer exists for my landlord. He was helping me out. 

 

00:08:50:05 - 00:08:53:18 

Darice 

That's right at the corner then. 

 

00:08:53:19 - 00:09:25:25 

Julia 

Yeah. I think it’s steamed. I don’t want to say steamed. Tt used to be a restaurant called Pot Of Pho. I worked there. Don't tell anybody, but a little bit under the table. I'm sure nobody will find out. I waited on a gentleman who was having a meeting with a student, and I heard him say that they had just lost their administrative assistant. My ears went up. 

 

00:09:25:27 - 00:09:50:08 

Julia 

I spoke with him for a little bit, and he encouraged me to go on STARS and apply for the job. It wasn't on STARS when I looked, so I proceeded to be a little creepy and stalk him on the internet and I emailed him my resume independently. I ended up getting the job. So, shout out to Kelly McLaughlin, she was my hero. 

 

00:09:50:10 - 00:09:55:04 

Darice 

Oh, that's so neat. Kelly was the one who was in the restaurant that day? 

 

00:09:55:05 - 00:09:59:23 

Julia 

Yeah, Kelly was the one I spoke to. He was the director for the fellowship at the time. 

 

00:09:59:24 - 00:10:01:05 

Darice 

Oh, wow. 

 

00:10:01:07 - 00:10:06:26 

Julia 

He took a chance on me, and I will always appreciate it. 

 

00:10:06:28 - 00:10:18:17 

Darice 

That's amazing. That's a nice story, especially when someone takes a chance on you. And like you said, you had to stalk him a little bit. But yeah, that was probably, the perseverance was probably what helped. 

 

00:10:18:20 - 00:10:22:24 

Julia 

I think it could have gone either way but luckily. 

 

00:10:22:24 - 00:10:23:22 

Darice 

He could have been creeped out or. 

 

00:10:23:24 - 00:10:29:03 

Julia 

Yeah, yeah. You kind of toss a coin on a decision like that. 

 

00:10:29:04 - 00:10:48:09 

Darice 

Oh, that's, that's awesome. I'm curious, you've been here since 2011 and Brian for 20 years so that's 2003? Wow. How did you meet each other? 

 

00:10:48:10 - 00:10:49:12 

Brian 

That's a really good question. 

 

00:10:49:19 - 00:11:14:04 

Julia 

We inhabit a lot of the same social circles in New Haven because we're both townies, unabashedly. Brian is very active, as he said in the music scene and in general. So maybe it's easier to tell you a little bit about how Volume Two started. 

 

00:11:14:05 - 00:11:14:19 

Darice 

Sure. 

 

00:11:14:22 - 00:11:53:06 

Julia 

That’s the space that we're holding the Poetry Night, or Brian is holding the Poetry Night in. Never Ending Books is a little shop on State Street that for the last four decades or so has been a free bookstore. It was run in the eighties and nineties by a different collective. That set of people kind of gradually fell away from the project until it came down to a gentleman named Roger, who was running the shop for a very long time, just as a completely free bookshop. 

 

00:11:53:06 - 00:12:18:21 

Julia 

Donation based. A little chaotic. As you can imagine. It was also an event space. It was this really accessible space that anybody could come in and put on a little show, you just ask Roger. My friend group was often putting on little comedy shows, or music sets just kind of low stakes because he wasn't charging. 

 

00:12:18:23 - 00:12:52:10 

Julia 

You could get this really creative experience that you can't get really anywhere else in New Haven, aside from super underground like basement shows. When the pandemic hit, Roger obviously was facing some real financial challenges and he kind of decided that he wasn't going to run the space anymore. He was going to shut it down. Everyone who had a really emotional connection to that space was really upset. We didn't want to see it become a Panera. 

 

00:12:52:12 - 00:12:54:04 

Darice 

Yeah, Yeah. Right, Right. 

 

00:12:54:08 - 00:13:59:12 

Julia 

We got together. Sam Mashaw is the person who initially had the idea that maybe we could take it over as a new collective, and it seemed kind of far-fetched at the time, but it really came together and we were able to save the space, we really revamped it. We now call it Volume Two at Never Ending Books, just to kind of differentiate it from Roger's original project. We managed to keep the spirit of it alive. It’s totally donation based because thanks to Yale's Dwight Hall's finance or what's the word, they were our financial backer. Due to that, we were able to apply for and ultimately achieve legal nonprofit status. So that means we can participate in national fundraising efforts like the Great Give, and that helps keep us alive. 

 

00:13:59:15 - 00:14:34:07 

Julia 

We have a lot of really generous donators, too. People will come through and they'll throw five or ten bucks in the box, and everything is pay what you can. That means there are really low, it’s an easy place for anybody to have an event. It’s obviously completely volunteer run. A lot of us will have one night a week that we run the space and my night’s Tuesday. 

 

00:14:34:13 - 00:14:35:04 

Darice 

Oh okay. 

 

00:14:35:06 - 00:14:51:23 

Julia 

We didn't have a consistent event going on Tuesday nights. Brian had been talking about, Brian can give a little background on his really extensive experience. 

 

00:14:51:26 - 00:15:22:04 

Brian 

First, we knew each other cursorily. I mean, we have a couple of mutual friends too. I think Valmiki is the one who I think we knew closest. I think I met you through there. Yeah, my pandemic experience was probably just as interesting as everyone else's. A lot of self-discovery and a lot of free time to figure out what your life was about. 

 
 
 

00:15:22:04 - 00:16:00:05 

Brian 

Or not about. When I was living in New York and I think around the time I was working at FAO but before I went to music school, the cheapest way to make art was poetry because it's just a Rite Aid notebook. It's really, no, really, it's like a cup of coffee at a diner and, sit there with a notebook and look around you and write a poem. I mean, it's like the easiest thing in the world. It's like your lunch break. You go sit down somewhere, you write something, you come back to work. It's like Frank O'Hara, who is one of my favorite poets, he used to do that when working at MoMA. He would go to Park Avenue, sit on a bench and write his lunch poems. 

 

00:16:00:05 - 00:16:45:05 

Brian 

As a poor New Yorker, I mean, I couldn't afford to be a musician. That's expensive. Instruments are expensive. I started writing poetry and reading on the Lower East Side, eventually started hosting my own series. When a friend of mine couldn't host her series anymore, she passed it on to me and I did that for about a year, year and a half. Yeah, then life happens, and you move on. A friend of mine had a Sony Handycam for a lot of those readings and had been going to a lot of readings around the Lower East Side videotaping everybody's stuff. 

 

00:16:45:05 - 00:17:10:05 

Brian 

I had the presence of mind in 2005 or six to ask him for copies of those. He gave me just my stuff, which I'm a little disappointed. I wish I had more, everyone else's, too. During the pandemic, to bring it back full circle, I went to Milford Photo and had them digitized just to see what was on them because I didn't have a VCR anymore. 

 

00:17:10:05 - 00:17:44:05  

Brian 

As I'm going through them, I was like, oh, I should put these up on YouTube. The historian in me was like, hey, even if it’s the worst poetry ever, it's an archive of what the late nineties were like on the Lower East Side. You can see like this little craft coffee store, the weirdos, everything ,and the incredible kind of like freedom that we all had at the time. So I posted them up on YouTube and I got in a little itch and I turn to my girlfriend and I'm like, I think I want to host a poetry reading. 

 

00:17:44:05 - 00:18:16:06 

Brian 

She goes, of course you do. She knew me too well already. She was like, yeah, I know you're probably going to do it. I wrote Jules. I'm like, I know you just took on Volume Two, I don't know if you have one yet, but I was thinking about hosting an open mic poetry reading. Immediately she was like, we want an open mic poetry reading, but we don't have an MC yet. 

It was like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial. It was like, what I'm talking about too, right? In the eighties those Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercials. 

 

00:18:16:06 - 00:18:25:13 

Darice 

Yes, Yes. It's like they come together. The peanut butter, the chocolate. Yes. Yes. Good combination, right? My son always says, who invented itWho invented peanut butter cups? 

 

00:18:25:13 - 00:18:33:13 

Brian 

Frankenstein if I remember correctly, yeah, from that ad. He was like a mad scientist. 

 

00:18:30:13 - 00:19:07:07 

Julia 

I assumed it was Mr. Reese. 

 

00:18:34:13 - 00:18:35:13 

Darice 

Exactly. 

 

00:18:37:13 - 00:18:39:13 

Brian 

So, yeah, we started that in July of 2022. 

 

00:18:39:13 - 00:18:41:02 

Julia 

I was like, please, do Tuesdays. 

 

00:18:41:02 - 00:18:44:28 

Darice 

Yes, because that was your night. 

 

00:18:44:28 - 00:18:52:01 

Julia 

Yeah. I host that night with my best friend Barbara Wolfer, and so she helps us host as well. 

 

00:18:52:01 - 00:18:52:03 

Brian 

Yeah, Yeah.  

 

00:18:52:03 - 00:19:10:16 

Darice 

Oh, that is excellent. I'm curious when you started doing the poetry nights, did you have any issues attracting folks during, during the pandemic? 

 

00:19:10:16 - 00:19:38:15 

Brian 

It's hit or miss. I mean, it's a really strange ebb and flow. When I started it, I went to all my usual suspects that I knew in town. I mean, I have friends who are poets, so I reached out to them and said, I'm hosting this reading now. We're doing an open mic. I mean, I had Brian Slattery at the first reading covering the opening reading, and there were two other people there, it wasn't a big crowd. 

 

00:19:38:15 - 00:19:44:12  

Julia 

We've had a lot of coverage in the New Haven Independent. They've been really, really supportive. 

 

00:19:44:12 - 00:19:49:28  

Brian 

We just had a great write up this morning in the arts paper, a part of the Arts Council. 

 

00:19:49:12 - 00:19:52:17  

Darice 

Congratulations. 

 

00:19:52:17 - 00:20:22:02 

Brian 

Lucy Gelman just wrote a very extensive article about the best book and about the reading. So that's been lovely. Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, how much marketing do you do for free poetry reading. This sounds really hippie and hokey to me, and I like to think that I'm more grounded than this, but there really is this wonderful sort of like, if you build it, they will come kind of thing? I'm just doing eighties references today. 

 

00:20:22:02 - 00:20:24:13 

Darice 

I love it, I love it. I’m an ‘80s kid so. 

 

00:20:33:13 - 00:21:17:27 

Brian 

I'm of two minds, my very like virga where you like strict, oh the rules have to be the rules. I have to invite all my friends and they'll come because I've invited them because of that very strict, narrow thinking. Then what winds up ultimately happening is complete strangers I've never met before just amble into the reading and are like, oh, are you doing poetry? I have a poem on my phone, and then they'll just like, blow you away. They'll just blow your mind. Yeah, we've had this happen multiple times now where just because we're there, somebody will just stumble in and then they'll become a regular for like a month and then we won't see them ever again. That's kind of what I've noticed. Which is actually kind of a little sad because I've come to adore a lot of these people who have kind of wandered into our lives and I miss them. 

 

00:21:17:27 - 00:21:42:25 

Brian 

I mean, there are a couple like Amari, Matt Shore, Alice Prell, and I'm just dropping names. Maximus and there's all these people who sort of have shown up. They really just unleashed their hearts to everybody in the written word in front of everyone. I haven't seen them and I'm like, oh. 

 

00:21:42:25 - 00:21:51:17 

Julia 

We do have a couple members, I almost want to say, that are very dear to our hearts who have moved away. 

 

00:21:51:17 - 00:21:51:18 

Brian 

True. 

 

00:21:51:18 - 00:21:57:17 

Julia 

Specifically, Tom and Marilla. Marilla still stays in touch.  

 

00:21:57:17 - 00:22:00:01 

Brian 

She does and so does Tom. I have Tom on my Instagram. 

 

00:22:00:02 - 00:22:09:29 

Julia 

It's nice because you can feel the connection continue when people are no longer able to attend. 

 

0:22:09:29 - 00:22:25:19 

Darice 

That's awesome. It brings me back to one of the other podcast sessions I recorded a couple of weeks ago with Anita Sharif-Hyder who also writes poetry. 

 

00:22:25:19 - 00:22:26:15 

Brian 

Oh, she should come to our reading.  

 

00:22:26:15 - 00:23:13:25 

Darice 

Yes, what’s so funny about this. Anita and I had a conversation about, wouldn't it be nice to learn things I didn't know about you. I didn't know that you had poetry night and then I didn't know you have this community of folks who enjoy poetry night. We were thinking, wouldn't it be nice if we found more staff who were interested in this and wanted to come together to share. How it would bring that community you just mentioned into Yale College or Yale College staff, how interesting would that be. Just something to keep in mind. I don't know. Maybe we can all connect. 

 

00:23:13:25 - 00:23:40:04 

Brian 

There is a space already established, so anybody who's interested in coming down and testing the waters. I'm a complete dork about poems and I mean, if you see me do it, I get really excited. I will start beaming when I hear people read. That's the kind of environment, I mean, and really, the weirder, the better. I mean, we definitely appeal to you know. 

 

00:23:40:04 - 00:23:40:04 

Darice 

To everyone, right? 

 

00:23:40:04 - 00:23:45:10 

Julia 

It is still kind of a chaotic space, but in a really good. 

 

00:23:45:10 - 00:24:30:08 

Darice 

In a good way right? Like a family. It sounds like a family, really. That's what to me is the beauty of poetry. It's therapeutic to write, but then it's also that nervousness of sharing it with some. It’s one thing to get it on paper, but then to share it with whether, small audience or big audience. You're opening yourself up. You're being vulnerable in that part; I think it must be an amazing feeling to go to your space, then share with everyone there, and to have that welcoming feeling from the audience. 

 

00:24:30:08 - 00:24:53:06 

Darice 

That's awesome. I was like, wow, this would be beautiful to have amongst our staff. To have that connection that we don’t, we do our jobs, we come in, and do whatever we do. Unfortunately, we don't have that connection in the same way. Of course, great job or whatever it is that we do in our daily work. 

 

00:24:53:06 - 00:25:40:27 

Darice 

I was like, wow, that would be really interesting to have, staff who are interested in poetry night. Have either come to your space or, wherever on campus. Have that community building. I was wondering if you could tell me, you mentioned a bunch of things, because I know you have a bunch of things coming up with your space. I was curious, before we get to that, you mentioned Dwight Hall helping you out with funding. I wasn't even aware that that is a possibility. I was curious, if you don't mind sharing a little bit more about how that happened or how one goes about gaining support. 

 

00:25:40:27 - 00:26:30:23 

Julia 

Sure. Another founding member, Elena Augusewicz has a lot of experience with nonprofits. I wish she was here; she could speak to this a lot more in much greater detail than I can. I do know that in order to pursue nonprofit status, you do need aid. I'm still forgetting what the phrase is but it’s a financial support source, not a source of funding so much as like a backer. 

Again, I'm not the one who can speak to that, unfortunately. I do know we got assistance in that capacity from Dwight Hall, and we're obviously incredibly grateful for that support. That was the leg up that we needed. 

 

00:26:30:23 - 00:27:04:07 

Darice 

Wow. That's amazing. If you could tell me a little bit more about, so I know you both have this poetry night going on, but you both also have various projects that you both have outside of Yale. I'd love to hear more about the work that you're doing. I know that you also have the poetry book. Why don’t we plug the book and then you could tell me more about your individual projects. I have the book here.  

 

00:27:04:07 - 00:27:04:08 

Julia 

It’s so beautiful. 

 

00:27:04:08 - 00:27:26:17  

Darice 

It is. A Never Ending Poetry, a collection of poems celebrating the one year anniversary of open mic surgery, at Volume Two, a never ending books collective. So sure, tell me tell me more about the book. 

 

00:27:26:17 - 00:27:48:06 

Brian 

Sure. I was very impressed we made it all the way through a year. I mean really, because I mean, sometimes you start a thing, and it doesn't take off. This did and it kind of grew. I mean, by January, I started inviting featured readers from out of town to come and read. 

 

00:27:48:06 - 00:28:37:01 

Brian 

I've had poets from Massachusetts and New York come down and give featured sets. That was just to kind of grow the community and expose our local folks to other people and other people to New Haven. It's funny, two or three of our features, they were so nervous, they would tell me they were like a little nervous about what the space was like. The second they walked in they were like, oh, this is fine. It was almost, you could feel the sigh of relief when Simeon or John came in or Michael. They're like, oh, oh, this place is fantastic! They were very excited. So, it has a special kind of magic. I'm glad we get to share it. 

 

00:28:37:01- 00:28:37:04 

Julia 

The vibes are very good. 

 

00:28:37:04 - 00:29:18:21 

Brian 

The vibes are great. For a year we've been doing this, it's a really healthy life, and we've had some really amazing poets. One thing that I observed just as somebody who is inside, outside institutions, and the system as it were. Is that some people get very lucky. They have a chance, an opportunity to get published or to get to get seen and or heard. Yet here we are with this open mic where random people wander in with just beautiful poems that otherwise no one would know about. 

 

00:29:18:21 - 00:30:06:17 

Brian 

I thought there's something delightful and ephemeral and in the moment about an open mic reading. I wanted to give all our readers the opportunity to have something permanent, something more everlasting. I mean, Sofia and Barbara saying yesterday, they've never been published before? I mean, Barb didn't even start writing poetry until the reading. She said yesterday, I was like, oh, she's already gone from a complete kind of novice to this to being invited to be part of a book. I love that. I think sometimes it's like that Groucho Marx saying, I'd never want to be a member of somebody who, what was the– 

 

00:30:06:17- 00:30:09:13 

Julia 

I'd never want to be a member of a club that would accept me. 

 

00:30:09:13 - 00:30:09:14 

Brian 

Yeah. Yeah, something like that, yeah. 

 

00:30:09:14 - 00:30:53:10 

Brian 

I guess there's a weird corollary to that where sometimes you have to make your own club, you have to make your own space. I say this as a musician and as a writer, you can't wait for a record label to reach out to you and say, we want it. Sometimes you have to put your stuff out. 

That's really what's going on here with this book. In a very kind of, I don't know, anarchic way I didn't want to put a lot of rules behind it, except you just had to have read at the reading before. I just reached out to everybody that I knew that I had contacts for, and I said, I'm putting out this book. 

 

00:30:53:10 - 00:31:26:18 

Brian 

If you want to be a part of it, send me two poems. That was like the only, everyone is their own self-selecting. They've picked what they want to contribute. I thought we'd have like a 20 pager. I photocopy on an 11 by 17 paper, fold and staple it. We wound up with like 48 pages worth of poems. I thought, well we can perfectly bind this I think, I was very excited about that because I got to nerd out about doing layout and design. 

 

00:31:26:18 - 00:31:27:07 

Julia 

It looks great. 

 

00:31:27:07 - 00:31:30:12 

Brian 

I'm really excited about how it turned out. 

 

00:31:30:12 - 00:31:30:13 

Darice 

That’s great, yes. 

 

00:31:30:13 - 00:31:30:15 

Brian 

I'm kind of nervous about it. 

 

00:31:30:15 - 00:31:37:11 

Darice 

For those who would like to check out the book, where do they find it? 

 

00:31:37:11 - 00:32:30:00 

Brian 

I have an Instagram page called The Handler's Poetry, The Number Four and Poetry for Cowards. It's only because open mic surgery was already taken. Open mic surgery is the name of the reading and I was very upset. The internet has to solve this problem of people who have an account and then it dies. Then for three years, they're still holding on to the name. It's like, open mic surgery is not doing anything with that account right now. I'm here. Anyway, there's a link on that Instagram bio with the order form for it so you can preorder it. I've already submitted a print run. We're going to print like 200 copies of it, and then I'm going to see about placing it in stores around town. 

 

00:32:30:00 - 00:33:05:03 

Brian 

We're going to go to Best Video and see if they're interested in having a few copies, maybe Gray Matter books would. I have to be a salesperson for a while, actually pitch this thing to people, and kind of get them in stores. Some of the public libraries have expressed interest, which is great. The New Haven Public Library System, you might be able to pick it up there, which would be very exciting. If you're interested and want to guarantee a copy for yourself, order one through that link on our Instagram page. 

 

00:33:05:03 - 00:33:23:10 

Darice 

Oh, that's so awesome. Congratulations, that's amazing. Yeah, and we have to all take a selfie, by the way, before we leave the studio. Make sure I tag the Poetry For Cowards. I like that name. 

 

00:33:23:10 - 00:33:55:05 

Brian 

Thank you. It's a poem I wrote back in the nineties. I was, in my twenties. When you're in that lovely self, self-deprecating, self-hating but it's cool. I had a poem about how poets are just the worst. We are the worst absolute horrible human beings because we decide to express our emotions in writing and then read them at poetry readings instead of actually talking to people, having conversations. 

 

00:33:55:05 - 00:34:13:06 

Darice 

Yeah, yeah. That's amazing. Wow, see, I wouldn't have known until we had a chance to talk today about this, so this is great. Did you have more to share about the book, Julia? 

 

00:34:13:06 - 00:34:42:26 

Julia 

I mean just looking at the back cover where all the contributors are listed, I'm picturing all these faces and these people and it's hard to overstate what a gamut this runs. We've got like your standard Tonys, me, and Jeff. Yeah, you have Karen Ponzio, who's pretty famous around town. She’s works at the New Haven Independent 

 

00:34:42:26 - 00:34:42:28 

Brian 

You heard that Karen, you’re famous. 

 

00:34:42:28 - 00:35:02:14 

Julia 

We love you Karen. We also have Carlos, he's the beat poet laureate at the moment. He and Angel Martinez, who's also fantastic, will often come from the Bronx. That's not a short trip. 

 

00:35:02:14 - 00:35:04:27 

Darice 

I know, it isn’t and especially driving that. 

 

00:35:04:27 - 00:35:16:19 

Julia 

Yeah, it's just a really special collection. Janice Hall of King Missile who was one of the featured readers he contributed as well. So yeah, it's just really cool. 

 

00:35:16:19 - 00:35:17:28 

Darice 

Yeah, it is cool. 

 

00:35:17:28 - 00:35:19:02 

Julia 

Just really exciting to see. 

 

00:35:19:02 - 00:35:41:13 

Darice 

I love what you brought up about a lot of these poets have never been published before and didn't have that voice. Maybe, they didn't even think about trying to get themselves published at all and that you sort of provided that vehicle to. 

 

00:35:41:13 - 00:35:45:07 

Brian 

Oh, I forced them all. I’m like, you’re getting in this book. Yeah, that’s what I did. 

 

00:35:45:07 - 00:35:50:24 

Julia 

You’re strong armed. It was not subtle. 

 

00:35:50:24 - 00:36:45:17 

Darice 

I just find that to be amazing because people whether for whatever their reasons are, whether they're shy or just didn't have the opportunity. Yeah, that you created, you forced them. You created a way for them to have this permanent public document of their work which is awesome. I'm curious about, well actually going back to my other question, if you don't mind sharing more about yourselves and whatever projects you have going on? Or works? Things like that? So, Julia, I know that you mentioned earlier when we had a chance to chat that you have a memoir coming out and I'd love to hear more about that. 

 

00:36:45:17 - 00:36:55:20 

Julia 

It's a fictionalized memoir. It's going to be a graphic novel, which is illustrated by a good friend of mine, Nikki Smith. 

 

00:36:55:20 - 00:36:55:21 

Darice 

Wow. 

 

00:36:55:21 - 00:37:13:19 

Julia 

It's due to be released in 2025. It's about my experience growing up on a boat or about a girl's experience growing up. It was definitely not me. 

 

00:37:13:19 - 00:37:19:10 

Darice 

It's too late. I'm going to ask you about that now if you want to, if you don’t mind sharing. 

 

00:37:19:10 - 00:38:04:13 

Julia 

Sure, yeah. When I was seven to about 14, I lived on a boat with my parents. My dad built it. We sailed around, like mostly the Eastern seaboard, the Caribbean, and South America. Yeah, I was given a really, I mean, Brian was talking earlier about how some people are lucky enough to get an opportunity, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity, and it's been a real ride. This is the first thing I've ever had, formally published and it's really jumping in the deep hands. It's happening. 

 

00:38:04:13 - 00:38:15:00 

Darice 

So cool. Wow. See, I'm fascinated by it. I know that you mentioned 2025 is the year that it'll be released. 

 

00:38:15:00 - 00:38:18:00 

Julia 

Yeah. It's a middle grade book, so for younger readers. 

 

00:38:18:00 - 00:38:20:00 

Darice 

Yeah. This is awesome. 

 

00:38:20:00 - 00:38:24:04 

Brian 

You're going to be in the Scholastic Book Fair. That’s all that I’ve been thinking about. 

 

00:38:24:04 - 00:38:25:09 

Darice 

I know. 

 

00:38:25:09 - 00:38:29:20 

Brian 

All I can think is of those folding things that you open up and like there's Jules’ book. 

 

00:38:29:20 - 00:39:50:17 

Darice 

My son picks out like 30 books. We can get it down. Right? That's amazing. Of course, I want to ask more questions about what that was like to, on a boat or so basically you said from 7 to 14. 

 

00:39:50:17 - 00:39:52:01 

Julia 

About 13 or 14 yeah. 

 

00:39:52:01 - 00:39:53:17 

Darice 

Wow. 

 

00:39:53:17 - 00:39:47:27 

Julia 

There was a world of compromise. I had a lot of really fascinating experiences that I think most other kids don't get to have. At the same time, I was an only child. It could be very isolating, and reintegration was really difficult once we came back. Part of the reason I think this book is pretty well timed is because I think a lot of kids around that age right now have a lot of experience with very sudden isolation. Having difficulties reintegrating and just loneliness, but also experiencing something that most other kids in their age group have not experienced, just like being a child during a global pandemic. 

 

00:39:47:27 - 00:40:29:17 

Julia 

Something that earlier generations can't really relate to. I'm hoping kids will feel kind of seen when they read this. Actually, there are going to be two. The first one's coming out in 2025 and then the next one has not been scheduled yet. There's two of them coming out. The first one will be about leaving public school and going on these adventures. Then the second one is really more about returning and that kind of culture shock. 

 

00:40:29:17 - 00:41:08:03 

Darice 

That’s amazing. And I'm curious, do you find that your experiences growing up somehow ties into the work that you do with Volume Two? Then also your work here at Yale, how your experience with that isolation and how you worked through that? How do you or do you bring that into your work here at Yale when you're working with students in the fellowship or does that change how you relate to students? 

 

00:41:08:03 - 00:42:11:05 

Julia 

I think there are two layers to that. Pre-pandemic, the fact that I lived outside the country for a lot of my formative childhood means that I'm a very big believer in the power of cultural exchange. How vastly your perspective can be widened by just having experiences and seeing lives and ways of life that aren't yours. By that token, it was really important to me to help facilitate travel to East Asia where students were able to, by being immersed in another language. They were able to relate to people who are not like them. That sounds basic, but it is really basic, it’s very fundamental.  

 

00:42:11:05 - 00:42:45:22 

Julia 

That meant a lot to me personally because of the way I grew up. The second level, of course, is more recent, where students are coming in who are coming from pretty unorthodox educational experiences. They were interrupted and they really had to be flexible and learn a different way of learning in a different,  

 

00:42:45:22 - 00:43:40:11 

Darice 

Yeah, yeah. I mean,  it was such a shock, like a shock to the system and difficult. As we all did, our kids had to adjust to this whole strange way of learning, which was not, it wasn't easy. I can imagine what you mean by students having that exposure and figuring out how to work through that isolation. Then you have all the other stuff, right? Like the technology, being able to communicate with others and all of these things that really, some students really had a hard time connecting. Still, we're still seeing the after effects of all of this. 

 

00:43:40:11 - 00:43:44:25 

Julia 

I don't think it's an exaggeration to call it a kind of trauma. 

 

00:43:44:25 - 00:44:25:26 

Darice 

Yeah, I totally agree with you on that, because it was, for example, my own son was about to start his senior year of high school. All our ideas of, oh, here's your senior year of high school and all these things you get to do and it's like not happening. It was difficult and like still seeing the aftereffects of that because of the friendships that kind of started forming and then the abrupt like, yeah, we can't see each other.  

 

00:44:25:26 - 00:45:02:06 

Darice 

It's like the critical time for students just to have that community and relationship building and all that stuff. Yeah, you still see the aftermath of that not happening and now they're moving into college years. Now it's like the shock of oh my gosh, we're sort of going back to normal. What was normal? They didn't really experience what was normal. 

 

00:45:02:06 - 00:45:12:14 

Julia 

There's a level of confidence that seems to be kind of missing. It's going to take some really specialized catching up. 

 

00:45:12:14 - 00:45:32:28 

Darice 

Yes. Yes. That's amazing, though. I can't wait to see your memoir. You'll have to make sure when it's released to share it with us, because I can't wait. Like you said, I can't wait to see that Scholastic, that when they send home those things and to open it up and see your book there. 

 

00:45:32:28 - 00:45:34:26 

Julia 

It’s kind of a deep-seated dream come true. 

 

00:45:34:26 - 00:45:40:27 

Darice 

Really? That's awesome. Yeah, so congratulations on that.  

 

00:45:40:27 - 00:45:41:04 

Julia 

Thank you very much. 

 

00:45:41:04 - 00:45:59:24 

Darice 

That's really cool. I'd love to talk more about just your journey into, we probably won't have time on our episode, but just your journey into how did you even get that project started? Yeah it's a long story, right? 

 

00:45:59:24 - 00:46:01:16 

Julia 

It is. It’s also an unusual journey. 

 

00:46:01:16 - 00:46:14:03 

Brian 

Really? Maybe we'll have a part two episode, but yes. So, Brian, why don't you tell me more about your projects? I mentioned to you earlier about my YouTube page. 

 

00:46:14:03 - 00:46:20:26 

Darice 

Yes, your YouTube and I googled you and found all the awesome videos. 

 

00:46:20:26 - 00:46:22:16 

Brian 

I’m fired. It’s over. 

 

00:46:22:16 - 00:47:09:08 

Darice 

No, not at all. What was so cool about it, and I say this every single time, it's just seeing this other side of our staff. We do actually have lives outside of Yale. I may be speaking for myself, but a lot of what I do outside of Yale contributes to my work here at Yale and how I approach my work or the impact I'd like to have on my job. I'm just curious if you'd like to share more about your projects and also how those feeds into your work with the Yale Symphony Orchestra. 

 

00:47:09:08 - 00:47:16:27 

Brian 

I almost hesitate because I feel like if I share all the projects I’m involved in, I'm going to sound like a crazy person. 

 

00:47:16:27 - 00:47:16:28 

Darice 

Oh, no. 

 

00:47:16:28 - 00:47:17:18 

Julia 

There’s a reason for that. 

 

00:47:17:18 - 00:47:37:26 

Brian 

I guess there is some validity to that. It also sounds like a lot of the quote projects unquote, have spanned for years or decades of like putting them on the back burner. I revisit them for a little bit, then put them away, and revisit them until they materialize. 

 

00:47:37:26 - 00:48:32:03 

Brian 

When I was in New York, I went to Mannes College of Music. I got my undergraduate degree in music composition. My impetus was that I wanted to write rock music, but I wanted to know what I was doing. I thought that might be my edge, my little thing. I'm the guy on the rock scene who can do counterpoint and I can do figured bass. I also learned a lot about writing for other instruments. I was terrified of the strings because I was not a string player, I was a singer. I fell in love with string quartet writing in such a way that I started a string quartet rock band. Yeah, called The Tet Offensive. 

 

00:48:32:03 - 00:48:33:04 

Julia 

That’s great. 

 

00:48:33:04 - 00:48:34:09 

Darice 

Is it?  

 

00:48:34:09 - 00:48:34:11 

Brian 

Thank you.  

 

00:48:34:11 - 00:48:35:01 

Darice 

That’s awesome. 

 

00:48:35:01 - 00:49:33:21 

Brian 

It's basically replacing the guitar and bass with a string quartet. It’s drums, a string quartet, and I sing over that. I almost started it as a challenge because poetry kind of taps into this. My friend David Kirschenbaum, who's a publisher in New York, used to host these readings/music events, and he was short an act covering Nirvana's Nevermind. He said, well, you're in music school. Why don't you get like a string quartet together, cover one of the songs, and you can do it all like slow. I realized that the preconception of string quartet music for people who aren't as involved as I was, was that it's very peaceful, very Valdy. Valdy is actually pretty kick ass. It’s like very peaceful background dinner music and I'm like, oh, no, no. 

 

00:49:33:21- 00:49:34:16 

Darice 

That's not what we are. 

 

00:49:34:16 - 00:50:08:28 

Brian 

These people have not heard Ligeti or Bartok or Shostakovich or any of these people who for me like this is visceral, gut busting, completely rip your heart out music. I took it as a challenge, I started a string quartet rock band where we did not do anything nice and peaceful. Everything is very, very edgy, very hard. It's almost like my punk music is through a string quartet, really. I have a whole, thing about that which we don't have time for. 

 

00:50:08:28 - 00:50:09:04 

Darice 

I think we need a part two. 

 

00:50:09:04 - 00:50:25:06 

Brian 

I've been doing that since, 2000, gosh, 2003 or so. I started writing originals in 2009, playing around. Life keeps happening, I keep having kids. I don't know where they come from or how that happens. It's just, this weird thing. 

 

00:50:25:06 - 00:50:27:29 

Darice 

They appear. 

 

00:50:27:29 - 00:51:36:07 

Brian 

My job is very involved. I'm working very odd hours on the weekends and late nights. I have to put things on pause and revisit. The pandemic was great because of that available time suddenly at home. I booked a recording studio, we cut an album, and it's sitting on my hard drive waiting for it, just waiting to be distributed. That's one project. The YouTube page you found is my other personality, Brian Ember. I put on an album right before the pandemic of very, very sad songs that were about my divorce. I did it a way keeping in mind artist I grew up around such as Queen, Beatles, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, and sort of Pink Floyd that influenced the sound. I created a very weird, like late seventies album with a contemporary spin and then started making music videos. 

 

00:51:36:07 - 00:51:37:14 

Darice 

Yeah. 

 

00:51:37:14 - 00:51:51:09 

Brian 

Very weird music videos that I hope none of you see. Don’t go to Youtube, don’t go to Youtube and look up Brian Ember. You’ll see me in a way you maybe did not expect. 

 

00:51:51:09 - 00:51:52:04 

Julia 

You’ve also been on stage. 

 

00:51:52:04 - 00:51:53:04 

Brian 

Oh, I’ve been on stage a lot. 

 

00:51:53:04 - 00:51:55:04 

Darice 

Yes, I saw some stage clips. 

 

00:51:55:04 - 00:51:59:29 

Brian 

Oh, I loved the opera. Yeah, I started singing opera. 

 

00:51:59:29 - 00:52:01:23 

Darice 

That’s amazing. 

 

00:52:01:23 - 00:52:02:29 

Julia 

Just casually drop that. 

 

00:52:01:23 - 00:52:08:17 

Brian 

Yeah, it sounds like I'm a crazy person. Like, you can't do all these things in a quality way. It's sort of what's happened post-pandemic and, in my forties, too. More than anything else is just that, I kind of have nothing to lose anymore. All these things that I've put on the back burner for all this time. I'm just going to do it. 

 

00:52:24:25 - 00:52:25:11 

Darice 

Just do it. 

 

00:52:25:11 - 00:52:41:06 

Brian 

I've written all the music. It's already done. It just needs to be made. It looks like I'm having this huge thing creatively, but it's not, it’s like 30 years’ worth of material that I've been like sitting on. I'm finally just tired of sitting on it. 

 

00:52:41:06 - 00:53:19:25 

Darice 

So cool just like Julia, having a story or having something you captured yourself in time over the years. Just packaging it and putting it away for a while. What's really interesting is pulling it back and like you said, hopefully soon, you can share it with the world. Wow, that's really interesting. What I did love about the YouTube channel that you don't want anyone to go to. 

 

00:53:19:25 - 00:53:20:18 

Julia 

Don't do it. 

 

00:53:20:18 - 00:53:45:29 

Darice 

Don't do it. The visual, it was really cool. The color, the combination of just the colors, the visuals, the lyrics to the songs, and pulling that all together. I thought it was actually really cool. 

 

00:53:45:29 - 00:53:46:18 

Brian 

Thank you.  

 

00:54:17:20 - 00:54:22:14 

Darice 

Yeah, absolutely. So now we only have a few more minutes, believe it or not. I wanted to hear more about how you feel that you have your experiences outside of Yale and your journeys with your book coming out soon. Well in the next year and a half, basically. Brian, with your projects that at some point you'll decide to share with the world. Then also the poetry book that you have here.  

 

00:54:22:14 - 00:56:05:07 

Darice 

I want to get a sense of your thoughts. How do your stories tie in to creating that community here for Yale College and not necessarily for students, but more for staff? For example, doing this whole podcast, the goal is just to get to know our staff, highlight what we do, and show our human side. Just talking to you two today, I'm amazed by all the stuff that you do. We have a DEIB initiative that we want staff or one of our ultimate goals is that staff feel more like they belong or included. How do you see all these experiences tying into what can you do to bring that together for staff? That was a long question. Ultimately, based on your experiences, do you see yourself sharing that more with Yale College? How do you see yourselves applying all these different things that you've learned along the way to sort of bringing the community together for staff? 

 

00:56:05:07 - 00:56:44:03 

Julia 

Well, I think Darice what you're doing here is the greatest illustration of that. If you remember, we all gathered during the summer at a Yale College event, and I was introduced to you by Maya, who's my director, who also appeared. We were all sitting at a table together and just that conversation, occurred. Now we know each other. Now we get to talk about this and who knows who's going to hear it? Who know who’s going to feel compelled to talk more about their own journey, story, projects and lives? 

 

00:56:44:03 - 00:56:45:14 

Darice 

Yeah, thank you. 

 

00:56:45:14 - 00:56:50:23 

Julia 

Yes, I think you're like the pinpoint. 

 

00:56:50:23 - 00:56:51:27 

Darice 

Oh, thank you. 

 

00:56:51:27 - 00:56:52:19 

Julia 

In this particular conversation for sure. 

 

00:56:52:19 - 00:57:32:26 

Darice 

That was part of my goal just, opening up opportunities for conversation and hopefully, we get to learn more about each other. I think at least for me anyway, when we're just constantly having meetings remotely and we're doing zoom nonstop all day every day. We don't get to know each other. I think a lot of times some of the challenges that were mentioned. I don't know if you attended this staff meeting when Maya and I presented the results of the service? 

 

00:57:32:26 - 00:57:34:06 

Julia 

You guys did such a good job. That was amazing. 

 

00:57:34:06 - 00:57:55:19 

Darice 

Thank you, I appreciate it. Sometimes I feel like it could be so simple. Certain things can be so simple, and it's just our interactions that can make a difference. The difference, not only how staff feel, but how people feel. 

 

00:57:55:19 - 00:58:05:23 

Brian 

The same way this book, I kind of like I forced a whole bunch of people to come out of their shells, to be published in a book. You're kind of doing this with this podcast. 

 

00:58:05:23 - 00:58:06:19 

Julia 

Yeah, it’s the same impulse, right? 

 

00:58:06:19 - 00:58:09:06 

Brian 

It's the exact same impulse. Yeah, there's your metaphor, we closed it.  

 

00:58:09:06 - 00:58:11:25 

Darice 

We closed it, full circle.  

 

00:58:11:25 - 00:58:12:26 

Julia 

Circle complete.  

 

00:58:12:26 - 00:58:14:23 

Darice 

Circle complete. My work here is done. 

 

00:58:17:16 - 00:59:03:15 

Darice 

What's so amazing about it and again, that was my goal. It's just I want people to feel recognized and I know that we have some shy folks who may not want to sit and do a podcast. Even if they don't do a podcast with me that in some other way, they're more open to sharing. Someone will be more open to really listening and recognizing staff for who they are. It's about making everyone feel more welcome, making people feel more at home, and more like they belong. 

 

00:59:03:15 - 00:59:30:15 

Julia 

In an environment like this, it can be really easy to forget that people are not just what's on their resume. Any reminder we can receive of how everyone else's basic humanity and how fascinating everyone is really important. It's such an easy thing to do, but it often just doesn't happen. 

 

00:59:30:15 - 01:00:16:12 

Darice 

It doesn't happen and it can be easy, right? We just want to get to know people and open the door for conversation. I learned so many things from all of my guests, including you today. In terms of the work that we do outside of Yale and how that can kind of tie into what we do every day. Some folks may feel like, well, I can't really do that because my work here at Yale is different. I feel as though as staff, we can create our own little community of poetry readers. I'm telling you; I already know a few people who would totally have a staff poetry night. 

 

01:00:16:12 - 01:00:58:20 

Darice 

That would be interesting. Right? Staff poetry? Yeah, we should do it. We should schedule it. 

Yeah, we should talk and really should try to put something together. We're running out of time, and I just want to thank you both again today, because this was amazing. I loved getting to know you more, and I hope it doesn't stop. I really look forward to hearing more about your projects, even after the podcast is published. Keep in touch with us and just thank you. Thank you for being willing to meet with me today. 

 

01:00:58:20 - 01:00:59:08 

Julia 

Thank you, Darice. 

 

01:00:59:08 - 01:01:00:28