Reflection: Laura Cronk

Jamaica Kincaid recently came to the New School as a part of the Pen World Voices Festival. She was asked why she writes.  She said that she wants to tell the truth.  Somehow this answer didn’t quite suffice and she was asked, several more times and in different ways, why she writes.  She answered again that she wants to tell the truth.  This exchange made me think of our students, our exceptional students, and why it is that they write.

Our students have been many things before coming to the Riggio program.  I can think of  a student who was a ballet dancer, two who were  house cleaners, one who is prison guard, one who was DJ, many who are activists, several who are journalists, one who is a landlord, one who was a preschool teacher, two who were paralegals, two who were models, one who was a doula, quite a few who are parents, one who was a hotel manager, several who were restaurant managers, three who were nannies, one who is a yoga teacher, one who just told me he had been homeless and living in Washington Square Park, and more than a couple who are accomplished actors.  They add new identities after graduation, but all, each one who has been accepted into this rigorous liberal arts program, was a writer before attending.  Each one leaves more fully the writer he or she was when coming in.

The thing that strikes me about the projects that each student submits for the honors thesis, is that the stakes are high.  The stakes are high because our students want to accomplish as much as they can as quickly as they can.  The stakes are also high because this is a group who has thought deeply about the moment that we are living in.  They have thought and read about and discussed the culture – how they fit into it, what urgent problems trouble them about it, how it relates to their own stories, what there is to celebrate in it, and how writers who have come before them have responded to the same questions.  The defining characteristic of our students’ work is that it is not frivolous. They are each working, in different genres and modes, towards a complicated truth. It is a privilege to watch them work.


Laura Cronk’s first book of poems Having Been an Accomplice won the 2011 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize from Persea Books.  Her work has appeared in the Best American Poetry Series and in many journals such as Barrow Street, Ecotone, RealPoetik, and WSQ.  She coordinates the Riggio Honors Program: Writing & Democracy at The New School in Manhattan and is the poetry editor for The Inquisitive Eater: New School Food.  For many years she curated the Monday Night Poetry Series at KGB Bar.

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