Poetry in a heartbeat: Eric Hochberger

Heena Srivastava, Reporter

ERIC HOCHBERGER: I’m a paradox like free chains. I’m out of mind and yet insane. Like power walking, I’m stressed leisure. I’m an epileptic detective, search and seizure. I’m an antiseptic in-law. My pure relatives are irrelevant.

HEENA SRIVASTAVA: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Heena Srivastava. Thanks for tuning in. The Daily is collaborating with members of Northwestern’s Slam Society, the campus’ forum for performance poetry and spoken word. While Weinberg junior Eric Hochberger is double majoring in math and economics, he expresses his creative side through his poetry. Here is an excerpt from his piece titled “Sentence.”

Present a sense of me and indefinitely ending it see my essence, see? My essence is sensed to be an outlet of entropy. From the outset my senses seemed in doubt of a sentencing. My tastes were vindicated. My touch was liberated. My sight, invigorated. I smelled incinerated. My words burned hot when scrawled in melting pavement. Cops were called and crawled to me to drag me to the bay. Cementing my legacy was all that was left for me, so being so definitely indefinite was deft for me. To stand up and effably construct my own effigy. You can imprison my nouns, incarcerate my verbs. You can convict my adjectives. You’ll never sentence my words.
In my mind, the crowd is dazzled by my arrival.
They are entranced by the entrant’s entrance.
They say the pen is more mighty than the gavel.
So I might just pen this sentence.
I always wanted my life to ring
in minor consonances.
I’m the white kid that always wanted to be black without the consequences.
If I commit the same crime,
as I’m arrested and left defenseless,
I can say twice as many words
and get half as long a sentence.
I can reach into my pocket and know I’ll come out with my senses.
I can know I will be spoken of
in not past but present tenses.

I sometimes pray God grants me travel
to a time built on repentance.
To an era that’s unsaddled.
To a period that could end this

SRIVASTAVA: Hochberger said he wrote “Sentence” over the course of six months.

HOCHBERGER: It’s sort of me trying to express my views on racial justice without overly making it about me kind of thing, which I understand that it, it kind of does. But the main thing I wanna do is sort of shed a new light from a white perspective on how we can view these issues in a way that might make someone be more empathetic. Some of it’s hackneyed, but some of it, I hope, is me providing a unique perspective or at least framing it within wordplay in such a way that maybe it’ll hit someone differently.

SRIVASTAVA: When it comes to Hochberger’s writing process, he jots down free-writes and eventually pieces them into poems.

HOCHBERGER: It’s a writing process that worked for me, but it’s definitely a little bit disorganized and some have very wide-ranging themes because they are all crafted together from wildly different free writes. The reason I do it is just making jokes through wordplay and puns. And always trying to come back to, to some sort of message that means something to me. But it really does start from a place of just trying to make a sequence of word-related jokes.

SRIVASTAVA: Hochberger has been writing poetry since high school.

HOCHBERGER: We would have assemblies every Thursday where the entire school would come together and there would be either a speaker or some sort of theme and there was always a poetry assembly every year. And the majority of the work was slam poetry or spoken word poetry. And as sort of an avid fan of rap and hip hop, it seemed like something I could do that wasn’t as constrained by the limits of writing a rap. So that’s sort of just how I started, and I performed at that my sophomore, junior and senior year of high school and just kept writing.

SRIVASTAVA: To Hochberger, poetry is more than just a form of expression. He said that poetry holds an important societal role and the presence of the poet laureate, or an official appointed poet for the nation, is proof of that.

HOCHBERGER: So it’s important for me as an artistic outlet. But I think its broader importance is usually in framing an era. The fact that we have a poet laureate, someone who, their position is to frame events and periods in time in terms of poetry, I think suggests the power of the art form.

HEENA SRIVASTAVA: Thanks for listening. Make sure to check out the other podcasts featuring student poets. This has been Heena Srivastava, and I’ll see you next time.

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Twitter: @heenasriv