From Glendale to Austin to Jersey and Back — It’s all in a Day’s Work

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Who leaves for Chicago on Monday for poetry readings and returns by Friday to teach a class? For professor and poet Bart Edelman, this is just something he has to deal with several times a year.

“I’ve been very lucky to have the opportunity to fly to these colleges and give readings and do book signings,” said Edelman. Instead of focusing on one career like most adults, Edelman is lucky enough to have two that he enjoys.

By day Edelman is a professor of English and poetry at Glendale College but he also lives a second life as a published poet on the road.

Ever since his first collection of poems, “Crossing the Hackensack” was published in 1993, Edelman has traveled all over the country, from local bookstores in Glendale and Los Angeles to Austin, Texas to his home state of New Jersey.

“I think that this is a good combination to be able to go out and perform and come back with that experience that I could share with students,” said Edelman. Edelman did not originally enter the working world as a poet. He first became a teacher after he earned his degrees in 1973 and 1974, but even before that he was still unsure of what he would do with his future.

Edelman was born in Paterson, NJ in 1951 and was raised in Teaneck which is about 20 minutes from Paterson. By the time he had reached high school, Edelman had thought about becoming a sports announcer but his father encouraged him to pursue a field of work that is more practical. After high school, Edelman attended Hofstra University in where he first received a bachelor’s in political science and afterwards a master’s in English after he realized he wanted to pursue a career in teaching.

“I was ecstatic when I got the job in New York because I realized it was a real opportunity to start teaching,” said Edelman. Edelman taught at the Kinsbourough Community College of the City University of New York for one year until he decided to move to the west coast. In 1976 Edelman settled into his teaching career by becoming a professor of English at GCC. In the early ’80s, Edelman was also rewarded with several grants and was allowed to conduct literary research in India, Egypt, Nigeria, and Poland.

Up until this point in his life, writing was only a hobby for Edelman. Before focusing on poetry, Edelman wrote in many fields varying from fiction to song lyrics. In 1990, Edelman decided to take his hobby one step further and began submitting his work to publishers.

“It was really my first time to work without having to collaborate with somebody else.” said Edelman.

Eventually he struck success and by 1993 “Crossing the Hackensack” not only became Edelman’s first published work it was also well accepted in the poetry world.

“Edelman has written movingly about the cultural and emotional limbo of living abroad,” said Susan Heeger in a review in the Los Angeles Times. “His poetry appeals not only to the intellect but also to the emotions.”

With his name on the rise in the poetry world, Edelman continued his work and published “Under Damari’s” Dress in 1996 and “The Alphabet of Love” in 1999. Both were also well reviewed. His most recent volume of poetry, “The Gentle Man” which came out in 2001 was a sign that Edelman’s work was maturing. Throughout the past eight years, Edelman’s name became synonymous with some of the modern world’s better known poets and has taken his work to the road. Edelman has been all over the country for poetry readings, teaching classes and workshops and book signings, but never has he forgotten that he will always be a teacher too.

In 1990 Edelman took it upon himself to help students publish their work and started the “Eclipse.” “Eclipse” started out as a small collection of students poems only available on campus, but in 2000 “Eclipse” became so much more.

“We became a well recognized national literary journal,” said Edelman. “The goal of ‘Eclipse’ is for GCC to publish a national, reputable, literary journal that showcases our students and their writing as well as the best of national writers as well.” Students and aspiring writers can send in their work to Edelman who is also the editor of “Eclipse,” and hope that their work will be published in the latest volume. “I go over thousands of entries every year,” said Edelman. Only a small percentage of the submitted poems are selected but 25 percent of the book is reserved for GCC students.

It sure seems like Bart Edelman is a very busy man because he has to balance two careers at the same time, but he sees no reason why he should stop or even slow down anytime soon. Edelman recently finished his work on “The Last Mojito,” his latest collection of his poems is due in bookstores by the end of 2004 or early 2005. In terms of what he has planned in the future, Edelman could only say, “Of course I would like to put out more books and be included in anthologies.”

Edelman recently finished his work on “The Last Mojito,” a collection of his latest poems that is due in bookstores by the end of this year or early 2005.