Breaking Bread with Poet Sam Hoffman

Sam Hoffman is a fourth year studying Statistics and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

What about a moment inspires you to write a poem, and is there something specific you hope to accomplish with that poem?

Poems for me are something that are really inspired by a specific moment. When the time is right, I can just sit down and the poem will almost write itself. My poetry is really a crystallization of specific moments in written form, and once the poems are written down, it is rare for them to be substantially changed. I usually write poetry when I’m either feeling strong emotions about something that recently happened or when I’m really sleep deprived (which happens more than I would like at UChicago).

Is there a poem about something that you’ve always tried to write but have never been able to find the right words for? If not, how would you describe your writing process?

There are a lot of things that strike me as intensely poetic in the moment but that I’ve been unable to translate onto the page. Just like my writing process, this depends quite a lot on the moment that I’m living in at the time. I don’t really have an ideal poem that I’ve been chasing for a long time - it’s more of a momentary sadness that I can’t put something into words. For example, I spent this spring break in the Nevada desert, and it was this intensely literary place that deserved to be honored in poetry, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen.

If you could live in or design any fictional world as described by a book, movie, or TV show, in what world would you choose to live and why? 

The forest of the elves from the Inheritance series. The series itself went downhill, but the description of the landscapes and people inhabiting them stayed beautiful and imaginative.

The Fall by Sam Hoffman

that first time i tasted you when
your tongue was bit through,
stitches grasping and curling

like little spiders
wounded by your own teeth as well as
gravity and things to be expected.

eyes opened to the cold,
we were naked and exposed
skin diamonded with goosebumps.

out of the garden,
bright switchblade in hand on secure
well-lit streets but
it took only the threat, no more.

you see, mouth-insides are the first to
heal and
i was always afraid of grasping things.
thank God you pulled away

taken from our Winter 2018 edition