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Poet couple ready to share work with Victoria community

EDITOR'S NOTE: This event has been canceled because of medical reasons.

Although their individual methods are different, Tom Mandel’s and Beth Joselow’s poetry begins with a focus on language and words before a topic takes shape.

Charles Alexander

“Sitting down and writing about a specific topic happens from time to time, but it’s not common,” Mandel said. “I have the good fortune to be able to write every day, so I often have several projects in the works at once.”

Mandel and Joselow will offer a poetry reading as part of the UHV Downtown Arts Series at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 in the UHV Center for the Arts, 204 N. Main St. The event is free and open to the public.

“Mandel and Joselow both begin with words, allowing immersion in them to lead to ideas,” said Charles Alexander, UHV poet and designer in residence, and co-curator of the series. “Yet both of them often end where language and the human rise to a spiritual level, a spiritual investigation. The readers of their works experience their own immersions and transformations.”

For Joselow, inspiration begins with words. That became increasingly apparent when she was writing papers in school.

Beth Joselow

“At one point, I chose a research paper topic dealing with osmosis,” she said. “As I wrote it, I was wondering why I chose such a boring topic. Then I realized it was because I was inspired by the word ‘osmosis,’ not by the subject itself.”

Poetry has been a constant part of Joselow’s life since childhood. Her grandfather used to write little poems and send them to her, and one of her great aunts gave her books filled with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s and Walt Whitman’s poetry. Those gifts became important materials that shaped her interest.

She carries a notebook with her at all times so she can keep track of the words that come into her head. At times, she’s even included snippets of conversations overheard when using public transportation.

Her work often has displayed a political emphasis, Joselow said. She’s spent a lot of time writing about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how people’s lives are handled in inhumane ways.

“It’s not so much a call to action as just a look at what happens in those situations,” she said. “It’s a way of trying to understand how people behave in the world. I really wanted to let people know that there are ways they can do something even if it’s just raising the alarm when something isn’t right.”

In addition to writing poetry, Joselow works as a psychotherapist. Although she loves her work, the process of getting her degree almost brought her writing to a standstill, she said.

“When I was studying psychology, my mind became full of psychology questions that I have no interest in writing,” she said. “I had to work hard to fight my way back to poetry.”

The importance of constant writing is something Mandel knows well. He sets aside time every day to sit down and write.

Tom Mandel

“If I go two or three days without writing, I become a little nervous,” he said. “I start to wonder if I’ve lost the knack and my work is done for. But once I get back to it, everything is better. The trick is to always have something I’m working on.”

Mandel often is working on several projects at once. One of his current projects is “Simple Syrup,” a compilation of short, simple poems.

“They’re very different from my typical work,” he said. “A lot of my poems have been complex in structure and nature. At one point, I wondered if I could just create something simple, and I found that I can.”

Although his work doesn’t often begin with a set topic, relevant subjects usually emerge as the poem is created, Mandel said.

“Topics such as love, politics, experiences and other things emerge in poetry similar to how calories are part of cooking food,” he said. “A cook doesn’t set out to make some calories. They want to make food, but the calories inevitably are involved.”

For more information about the Downtown Arts Series, contact Alexander at 361-703-5147 or alexanderch@uhv.edu.