Melville resident Geneva Hagar is taking the Long Island poetry world by storm. She was accepted for inclusion in the 2019 editions of the Suffolk County Poetry Review, the Bard’s Annual, and the Long Island Quarterly, while also authoring three books: The Folk Art Poet, Moon Flowers, and The Silver Tree. Her next book, I Am Here, is in the works.
These achievements usually take a lifetime to amass, but for Hagar, now 88, these poetic recognitions largely emerged at once. This is in part because Hagar only recently connected to her inner poet. “Over the years I wrote poems on and off when the mood hit me,” Hagar said. But, as time went by, Hagar said she called on her creativity less and slowed down. “It wasn’t until three years ago when I started to take my writing seriously.”
Hagar’s poetic re-emergence began when she rediscovered a file filled with poems written years before. She showed those poems to an English teacher, who encouraged Hagar’s writing. “I started to write poems then, and never put my pen down,” Hagar said. “I fell in love with poetry. It fills my need, my drive to create.”
Hagar was born in Brooklyn, and lived on Long Island most of her life, also getting her degree here—a BA in Fine Arts from Stony Brook University. Hagar finds herself inspired by her surroundings, saying, “I ponder everything in my environment that catches my eye.”
Hagar’s poetic process is simple: she writes what strikes her. “I have a folder with blank printer paper,” she said. “If I get an idea, I got it down in a narrative.” She later returns to her writing to shift around words, phrases, and sentences to create versus. Then, “I rework and rework and rework.” This part of the process can take anywhere from one day to two weeks, whatever the poem needs until it feels right. And if things don’t come together? “I’ll discard a poem if it isn’t working.”
One of the key things for Hagar is communicating her stories and ideas to her audience. “I try to make my poems understood by the average reader,” she said. “[I hope] to capture their interest in the wonderful world of poetry.”
Hagar lists Emily Dickinson, Omar Khayy’am, and Edgar Allen Poe as those among her favorite poets. She admires their poems’ philosophies, styles, and strong voices. Hagar encourages poets to find voices of their own. “Don’t let the poems of other poets influence yours—learn from them, don’t copy them,” she said. “Write for yourself, write what you want to write about.”
Though being a part of the poetry world is new to Hagar, she finds it supportive and rewarding. “I never really felt recognized in the world of poetry, but I think it might be on the horizon,” she said, adding, “I feel pleased when someone says, ‘I like your poems.’”
Those looking to own copies of Hagar’s writing need only look toward another great Long Island poet: Hagar’s books are available at the Walt Whitman Birthplace.
- November 11, Long Island Writers Guild: Join writers at Book Revue for a monthly writing workshop. This two-hour workshop is free and open to all. The workshop begins at 7 PM; all levels and genres welcome.
- November 12, Long Island Poets: Join local poets to discuss various topics and styles, and participate in workshops to build your poetic voice. Group meets at 7 PM at Book Revue.
- November 17, Amateur Writers of Long Island: Join writers of all genres and abilities in the back room of Panera in Huntington Village from 1-6 PM to give and receive feedback.
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