Interview with Garrett Hoffman

This is one of an ongoing series of interviews with contributors to The 3288 Review.

Garrett Hoffman is a 24 year old writer from New Jersey. He has been writing for over eight years. His poem “Drink of Life” was published in issue 23 of Instigatorzine, and “Science Lesson” was published in the Fall 2015 issue of Sheepshead Review. His poem “Moist Earth” appeared in our third issue.

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3288 Review: Your author bio says you have been writing for over eight years. How did you get started?

Garrett Hoffman: I knew I was going to be a writer when I was ten years old, it’s always what I’ve wanted to do but I didn’t know how that would take shape. What got me started seriously writing over eight years ago is a funny story. I had just gotten home from wrestling practice, this being my sophomore year of high school, and the sky had looked particularly beautiful. The sun was just setting and the colors were transitioning from orange to blue. When I got home I hopped on the computer and opened up AIM. Yes, you didn’t read that wrong. I started a conversation with my cousin Paige, just talking about random stuff. Now back then, for whatever reason, I lied all the time! Almost constantly. During a lull in that chat I told her I wrote poetry, no idea why. Naturally she immediately asked to see some of my work. I told her to give me ten minutes. On the spot I wrote about the first thing that I could think of. That sky. I’ve been writing poetry ever since.

3288 Review: Your poem “Moist Earth”, while on the surface free verse, has an underlying rhythm that feels like it was written for reading out loud. Is that deliberate? And do you do any spoken word/slam poetry?

Garrett Hoffman: I am crazy particular about structure in my poetry. I don’t write in just one form but once I start a piece I typically strictly adhere to whatever pattern I feel the piece deserves and best represents the flow. That doesn’t mean I don’t go all e.e. cummings from time to time though. I would say 96.7% of my work is free verse and most it is written with that “begs to be read out loud” feel. Poetry is born on paper but very rarely stays there forever. I love slam poetry/spoken word! I was good friends with several of the lead slammers who were part of Montclair State University‘s Slam Poetry group (I graduated from MSU in 2014). I’ve never performed either type but I have written some in that format. Often I’d get inspired after going to one of their shows.

3288 Review: What’s the poetry scene like in your part of New Jersey? Do poets get much support or recognition?

Garrett Hoffman: I submit to a large amount of literary journals here in the Northern Jersey area plus it also helps being so close to NYC for the same reason. I am aware of a lot of conventions, workshops and classes one can look into (mostly in NYC) but I don’t actually involve myself in any of them. I do go to the Brooklyn Book Festival every year though, found and met some pretty cool sources there. The support is there if one chooses to seek it and I don’t look for recognition unless I earn it. A lot of authors who get included in the journals I follow seem to get a good amount.

My personal “poetry scene” lies within a few close friends of mine. Both my roommates are fellow alums of MSU and are both writers. We often set writing goals, workshop sessions and constantly push each other to write as often as possible. I make a point of staying in contact with several of my former professors as well in order to stay in the loop and catch an possible opportunities.

3288 Review: What is the story behind “Moist Earth”? What was the inspiration?

Garrett Hoffman: When my twin brother Kyle and I were born we were several weeks premature which led to many medical complications. Long, sad story short, my brother died just 3 weeks after our birth. Now, I’ve lived my entire life wondering what it would have been like if he had survived, how incredibly different everything would have been. Along the same vein, I’ve always had an idea of what he would have been like: great with his hands, funny yet sophisticated and amazing with numbers, science and architecture. “Moist Earth” is about a visit I made last summer to his grave with our mother. We cleared away the overgrown grass and cleaned the headstone. Then I told my mom I wanted some time alone with him so she went back to the car. I just talked, I don’t know for how long. This poem involves that visit and how I imagined he would have been as an adult. It’s actually only one of two times I’ve been able to write about him and our relationship. This piece is very important to me so I’m particularly proud that you guys at The 3288 Review were willing to publish it.

288 Review: From where do you draw the inspiration for your poetry? Is it more family and friends, or larger world events?

Garrett Hoffman: I pull it from everywhere. “All human activity lies within the artist’s scope” as the character Chaucer says in A Knight’s Tale. I write a lot about nature, words, the act of writing, animals, I’m not picky. But I would say a large majority of my work is based on my own personal experiences. The people I encounter, daily life events, For example my first publication was about a spider I watched take a drink from a fountain and my most recent was about my working the 4:00 am shift at my job. My twin is actually one of the only family members I’ve gone out of my way to write about. Past relationships have gotten some serious attention; pets, interesting strangers, mythology. I’m all over the place.

3288 Review: How has your family responded to your work about your brother?

Garrett Hoffman: Honestly, when it comes to sharing my work with my family I typically only show my mom or my older brother. My dad isn’t much a poetry lover. As far as “Moist Earth” is concerned there was no way that I wasn’t going to share it with mom, being that we are the two most connected people to my twin. She really enjoyed this piece, because she loves seeing my ideas and interpretations on what Kyle would have been like; plus she was there that day. We’ve talked about it at length a few times, well before I wrote this.

3288 Review: What are you working on at the moment? Do you have anything coming out in the near future that we should look for?

Garrett Hoffman: The poetry is a constant thing, I’m always analyzing and envisioning things that I could in turn take and rework into pieces to write. I’m zeroing in on my 200th poem mark and am hoping to reach it by my 25th birthday at the end of August. I’m currently sitting at 193. I’ve also been very slowly working on a novel for little over a year now but that is such a daunting task that I’m slacking badly. I need to get a routine going I guess . I’m also working out a short story based on a hiking trip I took recently.

I’ve got a bunch of work floating out there through Submittable at the moment. I have a piece, “Interpreting Madness”  coming out in Sadie Girl Press’s first issue of Incandescent Mind in August and I just got my poem “Sunrise Shift” published on, under the poetry section.