In addition to helping students get their thoughts together as a writing consultant at the JFKU writing center, Joyce E. Young is also putting her own writing out into the world—and to much acclaim. Her debut poetry collection, How It Happens, was recently published by Nomadic Press as part of their Fall 2018 Chapbook Collection. The collection, released in Oakland on September 22nd, has received a slew of praise from the writing community. Copies are available at independent bookstores and online. Congratulations Joyce!

“The book documents how one walks in the world, perceives oneself, and is perceived by others,” explains Young. At times philosophical, observational, and reactive, “it explores what it means to walk in the world as a black woman and a person of color. It also explores what the speaker in the poems’ observations mean for all of us, the collective.” Indeed, Young’s poetry is not for any particular audience, but rather, for all readers, any reader, the collective as a whole. Young has found that all audiences, even youth, can hear something that speaks to them in her work. Sometimes she has even been surprised to hear the extent to which an audience member has been able to read their own lives into her poems—a testament to the universality that emerges from the personal in a rich piece of work.

Young’s powers of observation and the impulse to document her experience have been present since she was a child who recorded her world and what she thought about it in diaries. Nevertheless, Young never wrote poetry or thought she was a poet—that is, not until she was in graduate school, when something changed. As a student right here at JFK University in the Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies program (what is now the Consciousness and Transformative Studies program), Young was often tasked with writing reflective notes based on what she was learning. In writing her reflections, Young noticed a turning point where her notes and ideas started coming out in verse. Finally, she decided to take a poetry course, and that’s when everything opened up.

Curious? Here’s a sneak peak of the opening poem in the collection. To see where it goes from there, you’ll have to check out the book!




There are tender places

that are sometimes wounds,

soft, like an underbelly.

Like the front of the body that retreats,

led by the buttocks, covered by the

arms in front of the solar plexus.

The arms are guarding the treasure of the body.

Its juices ripen and flow downward,

to meet the earth.

There are dried leaves,

some broken by footsteps.

Others curled serenely in gutters.

The trees are undressing slowly.

Go from dabbling to doing it in just a few more courses.