Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight: Justen Ahren

Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight is a monthly installment from Mass Poetry. Each month we will be shining the spotlight on a poet affiliated with, and nominated by, one of our poetry partners. If you are a partner with a poet to nominate, email laurin@masspoetry.org.

Highlighted by Noepe Center for Literary Arts

Justen Ahren

Justen Ahren

Justen Ahren, Poet Laureate of West Tisbury, Massachusetts, has published poems in numerous literary journals including, most recently, Fulcrum, BorderSenses, Borderlands, Texas Poetry Review, and Comstock Review. A graduate of Emerson College’s MFA program in creative writing, Justen is founder and Director of Noepe Center for Literary Arts and the Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency. He teaches poetry and writing workshops on Martha’s Vineyard and in Labro, Italy, and recently published A Strange Catechism, his first book of poems.

Poetic Profession

“Routine is vital to my output. I write best when adhering to a schedule: walk the dogs, some physical activity–lately I’ve been rebuilding an old stone wall bordering my property–then sit down at my desk for a few hours of concentrated writing. I like to keep a stack of books next to my computer for inspiration. When I run out of music, this is one way I’ve found to keep myself writing.” -Justen Ahren

Crawl Inside the Trees to Sleep

The souls from which
atmosphere is fashioned appear,
project their stories on screens
of air, their little houses, this dirty valley,
showing me how they live. Some are poor.
Their homes with crooked windows sit
on little turns in the creek with fields and rows
of gardens going out from them.
Some sit removed, alone among spruce
or in hollows where chained dogs bark
at the mud and drizzle. I see them huddled
by the gates of the mills, mowed down
by teams of beasts and men
harnessed to machines, and finally, robotically,
how they were wagered and traded and sold
as ballast on seafaring vessels, and shoveled
into furnaces. But some grow doors
in their chests at this time, portals
in their hearts to safe havens, closets
with deep interiors and lovely dresses,
where they hide from the Great Impatience
rifling the world’s house.

NoepeNoepe Center for Literary Arts is a non-profit literary arts center on Martha’s Vineyard that seeks to foster an appreciation of and passion for writing and literature. They provide writers–both emerging and established–with time, space, and community in which to write, learn, and commune.They also offer writing residencies and craft workshops between April 1 and October 31.

Masspoetry.org has also featured a poem by Justen: Gone