Frank Messina visited Drexel on Thursday, reading his material and giving advice to students on how to make it as a writer. Among his tidbits of wisdom? Use all of your senses when studying your subject matter: look at it, smell it, even taste it! We like this guy’s dedication!
The group of Drexel students and faculty at the Intercultural Center hung onto every word as this incredibly accomplished and down-to-earth poet talked about his experiences and work. We were touched when he shared how his father’s illness had inspired a poem, amused when he explained how embarrassed a former neighbor was upon learning one of Frank’s poems is about him, and in stitches when he read the “love poem,” “Psycho Chick.” Through his words he showed us that poetry is never what it seems, never with just one interpretation. His poems about baseball (Frank is a die hard Mets fan, for which us Phillies forgive him), were not just about the sport, though he does express how simultaneously rewarding and crushing being a sports fan is. They encompassed family, coming of age, loss, love, among so many other themes.
He did not just speak his poems, they flowed from him, into each and every person in the audience. There was an indescribably smooth rhythm to his poems, at once intense and soothing. As he read from “Lead Me Not Into Temptation” from Disorderly Conduct, his line “Non andare dal diavolo!” had the opposite effect, drawing us into some sort of devilishly poetic place. At the end of the poem, upon, “go away, go away/I mean/Come here!” we wanted to jump from our seats and into his outstretched arms, which finally folded inward, an embrace.
After reading selections from both Disorderly Conduct and Full Count: The Book of Mets Poetry, Frank took questions from the audience, many of whom were young aspiring writers. Besides the aforementioned advice on experience the subject matter through every sense, Messina gave advice on how to get past writer’s block, namely to go to something else. Getting out of your routine, he assured, would inspire creativity, if even just subconsciously.
He talked about his work with an impressive array of musicians, such as David Amram, Courtney Love, and Mike Gordon, as well as his work with the Kerouac Project, which is a residency program that allows writers to spend three months at the Kerouac House, developing their craft. By the end of the afternoon, their was not one member of the audience for whom that did not sound like artistic heaven.
We are so thankful to Frank for inspiring and moving the young writers in the audience, to whom the future of the craft will fall.