Fellows Friday: Q&A with Poet Ryan Eckes

Our “Fellows Friday” series focuses on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

This week, we speak to Ryan Eckes (2016), whose narrative-driven poetry is, in his words, “a possible form of history:” a way to document the voices and conditions of urban life. In his latest book, Valu-Plus (2014), Eckes examines his hometown of Philadelphia, as he imaginatively makes use of corporate language, workplace correspondence, and other non-poetic texts, “in search of free expression and experience,” he says. An avid labor organizer in education, Eckes is currently at work on a book about the influence of public and private transit on the conditions of city life.

Ryan Eckes FF Q&A: Content Block 1

How did you become an artist? Is there a particular experience that drove you to this choice?

College got me into reading fiction intensely. I took a class during my first year called “Existentialism in Literature”—I had no idea what that meant, but it was at 4 p.m., which was a good time for me then. That class pretty much opened the door. Soon after, I started writing my own stories. And in my last year of college (this was at Penn State, 1999) I took a poetry class with C.S. Giscombe and made a couple of close friends who loved writing as much as I did. I haven’t stopped writing poems since.

Ryan Eckes FF Q&A: Content Block 2

Ryan Eckes FF Q&A: Content Block 3