In 2007, Brad Aaron Modlin won second place in The Pinch's River City Writing Award in Poetry with his poem, “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade." The poem recently went viral, so we asked Brad a few questions about his writing, his views on social media, and his connection to poetry.
Q: What have you been up to since publishing with The Pinch?
A: I’m an assistant professor at Missouri Southern (not to be confused with Southeast Missouri/SEMO Press, who run the Cowles Prize and published the book). In my job, I’m lucky to get to talk about three genres of creative writing with great workshop students who give me new ideas. I’ve been reading some wonderful books as well.
Q: How has the writing been going?
Writing keeps us all busy. My short collection of short stories, Surviving in Drought, won The Cupboard’s annual contest and came out earlier this year. I’ve been working on both a nonfiction manuscript and a new fiction one.
Q:How did your poem gain momentum, and how does it feel to have a poem go viral?
A: I don’t know how that happened. I do know the poet Pádraig Ó Tuama took the original photo of the poem from the book. Then I was on airplanes and in mountains for a couple days—and not plugged in to the Internet much. My social media use didn’t include Twitter, so when I returned, I created an account to get a better idea of what was happening. It was quite a surprise.
I’m glad this poem seems to resonate with people. I know we aren’t supposed to have favorite children, but this one is important to me. As a reader and a human, there are certain pieces out there that I frequently return to because I enjoy them or because they help me live. A writing goal of mine has always been to pay that forward.
Q: Is this a viable opportunity to bring poetry back to the masses?
A: I used to have, taped to my office door, a bookmark given out by members of our English student honors society (Sigma Tau Delta). It featured a quote from a biopic of C.S. Lewis: “We read to know we are not alone.” I think we sometimes join social media for the same reason. And so it makes sense that folks share literature there. Because social media is a place where we share news—good and bad, personal and societal—it’s a place where we ask a lot of questions. Whatever our questions, literature has a response. Social media gives us a chance to remind each other of that, too.
Brad’s poem can be found in his new book “Everyone at This Party Has Two Names," and for more information about the talented poet, visit his website. Discover other great poems with a back issue of The Pinch, and if you're interested in submitting to The Pinch, click here. Submissions reopen August 15.