Monday, May 9, 2011

My First Time: Meg Pokrass

My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands.  Today's guest is Meg Pokrass.  She's the author of Damn Sure Right (Press 53), a debut collection of flash fiction, and "Lost and Found," a chapbook of eleven pieces from elimae magazine illustrated by Cooper Renner (Bannock Street Books).  Pokrass serves as Editor-at-Large for Blip Magazine (formerly Mississippi Review) and before that, SmokeLong Quarterly.  She designs and runs the popular Fictionaut Five author interview series for Fictionaut.  Additionally, she serves as Associate Producer for "From Ghost Town to Havana," a movie by Eugene Corr.  Her work has appeared in more than a hundred online and print publications, including Mississippi Review, Wigleaf, The Pedestal, Everyday Genius, Big Muddy, Keyhole, Annalemma, elimae, Gigantic, Gargoyle, Prime Number, Women Writers, Istanbul Review and 3AM.

My First Mentor

I am an out of work actress, lining up for cattle call auditions in New York City and I am in my mid-twenties.  I never get called back.  I am selling diet products to people who have already bought them, trying to get more product sold before they realize the stuff doesn’t work.  I do this four hours at night, in a large telemarketing call center in mid-town.  All of my fellow callers are actors, models, or dancers, and a few recently-divorced wanderers.

I’ve broken up with my gay boyfriend and I am between actor boyfriends.  I am living with two gay roommates in Hell’s Kitchen and it is a street filled with gray-skinned whores, shooting up and cursing.

My room is the size of a futon and the loft is where I sleep.  I send six poems in to the 92nd Street YMCA with a creative writing class application.  For the life of me, I can’t remember why I did it.  I've been writing poetry and reading Anna Karenina over and over, am in love with words and hating my life.  I'm not pretty enough to be a successful actress.

I am reading Ann Beattie and Richard Ford and Raymond Carver’s poetry and stories.  The actors don’t get me.  All the great men are gay.  Poems keep pouring out, but no agents seem to want me, they are disappointed in me the minute I walk in, and I don’t have the cushion of money to fail.

I’m accepted into the class.  A letter arrives which says YOU HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED--CONGRATULATIONS, which is stunning to me.  Nothing else has gone well.  More thrilling, a private note from author Molly Peacock, the acclaimed poet, memoirist, and then-President of The Poetry Society of America.  She offers to tutor me privately because she feels strongly about my voice.  She writes that she loves my poems.

I walk around the city feeling authentic.  I hate my telemarketing job suddenly and violently.  I cry for the fat women who I am selling too much diet product to.  I get fired, fall in love with a young man who loves me.  He is not gay, and he is a writer, too.  I work privately with Molly Peacock and I attend the 92nd Street Y classes taught by the poet Jane Flanders.  Molly Peacock and I share strawberries and cream and poems once a month in her flat.  She is a gentle, smart editor and a constant source of support.

Ten years later, I name my daughter and only child Molly.


  1. Such a beautiful memoir by a great writer.

  2. Beautiful. I am so happy for you -- to find Molly 1, to find words, to find poetry, to have Molly 2. Thank you for this glimpse into Meg-who-is-tough-most-of-the-time-but-soft-like-a-truffle-inside. Peace...

  3. Mr. Abrams, if you excised the malignancy comment made by some fellow named Chris that resided here yesterday, thank you. I enjoyed reading about Ms. Pokrass's "remembrance of things past". Your "My First Time" series is such a delight to read.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. David,
    I did delete that comment. Normally, I don't squelch comments here -- I take the good with the bad and the ugly -- but that particular snipe seemed to be without merit. It was ugly for ugly's sake. Meg's fine mini-essay deserved better than that

  6. Oh, I was hoping to read more about meeting her and the times you spent with her and what she taught you! Sequel?

  7. Surazeus,

    I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Meg in person, but I plan on getting acquainted with "Damn Sure Right" someday soon. Review will be forthcoming.