Sam Cha: To Be Featured at a Rousing Student Day of Poetry

Poetry in Massachusetts has what seems to be the early signs of becoming an “in” thing with teenagers. The evidence is anecdotal but specific poetry events for high school students are being enthusiastically received. Not only is the Student Day of Poetry, sponsored by Mass Poetry, growing in numbers and excitement each year, but so are other programs, such as Poetry Out Loud, sponsored locally by the Huntington Theater.  Last year’s SDOP generated the enthusiasm of a pep rally as did a recent POL event at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School where friends were applauding and shouting from the audience to their poetry-reciting pals.

Sam Cha

Sam Cha: featured at this year’s SDOP

The year’s SDOP, which will be held at UMass Boston on March 21, is set to continue the trend. (Teachers, register here to bring your classes.)  This week we begin a series on the poets who will take their poems to the stage, stirring a passion in the lucky students who get to attend the event. One of those agents of enthusiasm is this week’s SDOP feature poet  Sam Cha.

Sam recently completed his MFA in poetry at UMass Boston where he was the 2011 and 2012 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Prize. He is a multi-talented and variously published writer whose work includes not only poetry but essays, fiction, and translations. You can also add to his resume that he is the poetry editor of the online journal Radius.

Sam’s Workshop

In addition to his on-stage performance, Sam is one of 28 workshop leaders who will be working with students during SDOP.  The workshop is titled “Write what you see: observation, image, and memory.” He describes the workshop this way: ” You’re constantly looking at things. And what you see–what you observe–says a lot about who you are, and what you know. In this workshop, students will read poems (by Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, and Jacob Rakovan) that make sharp use of the visual, turning observed detail into images that crystallize memory and emotion and sensation. Building on these insights (through a series of short writing exercises) students will write their own poems.”

A poem by Sam

To give you a picture of Sam’s depth as a poet, here is one of his works:

Aphasia Sonnet

They left it going. The timer? I mean tumor!
—which is how dying makes words. They float

in, out, mix, mash. Smash. I can’t tell time or
tomb from what or not. Can’t tell you the truth

without lying. “I drove past the police
steak house yesterday,” but I meant stakeout.

See? All muddled, all varieties of loss
or less, some in my voice, but mostly not.

This morning: wanted to write a painting―
was crooked. But this eye (left) wants to stare

at leaves turning. Red, unread. Fall’s something
like spring, but more ruined. See the world pared

down? No more words: I go. This body, my tree.
Mind never. No voice but ground. River? Sea,

Stay tuned for next week’s feature on poets at the Student Day of Poetry.


  1. […] by now–it’s time to get to know some of our brilliant workshop leaders, starting with Sam Cha, recent UMass Boston MFA graduate and two-time recipient of the Academy of American Poets […]