Meet NJ-Native Poet, Joe Weil

by Alice Magdziak • November 12, 2010 • Entertainment, Jersey Folk, Literary NJComments (0)2089

New Jersey PBS station NJN runs a weekend show called State of the Arts which covers artists and their works throughout New Jersey.  If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it.

It runs Thursday night on NJN and then several times over the weekend on NJN2.

This week’s episode was a homerun (watch it here) where all the main stories were fascinating and I wanted to share one with you because I was so moved by Joe Weil’s story and his poetry.

Joe Weil, Poet

Joe grew up in Elizabeth and worked as a tool maker for many years which he described as a time for him to work from muscle memory and keep his mind clear for thinking and writing his poetry.  His poetry covers life in Elizabeth, his work and his family life.  After retiring from his factory job, he became a poetry professor at Binghamton University in New York.

Read more about him here and read one of the poems presented on the show below.


In my odyssey of dead end jobs,

cursed by whatever gods

do not console,

I end up

at a place that makes

fake Christmas trees:


some pink, some blue,

one that revolves ever so slowly

to the strains of Silent Night.

Sometimes, out of sheer despair,

I rev up its Rpms

and send it spinning

wildly through space–

Dorothy Hammill

disguised as a Balsam fir.

I run a machine

that spits paint

onto wire boughs,

each length of bough a different shade–

color coded– so that America will know

which end fits where.

This is spray paint of which I speak–

no ventilation, no saftey masks,

lots of poor folk speaking various broken toungues,

a guy from Poland with a ruptured disk

lifting fifty pound boxes of

defective parts,

A Haitian

so damaged by police “interrogation”

he flinches when you

raise your arm too suddenly near,

and all of us hating the job,

knowing it’s meaningless,

yet singing, cursing, telling jokes,

unentitled to anything but joy,

the lurid, unreasonable joy

that sometimes overwhelms you even in a hole like this.

it’s a joy rulers

mistake for proof of “The Human Spirit.”

I tell you it is Kali,

the great destroyer,

her voice singing amidst butchery and hate.

It is Rachel the inconsolable

weeping for her children.

It goes both over and under

“The Human spirit.”

It is my father

crying in his sleep

because he works

twelve hour shifts six days a week

and can’t make rent.

It is one hundred and ten degrees

in the land of fake Christmas trees.

It is Blanca Ramirez keeling over pregnant

sans green card.

It is a nation that has

spiritualized shopping,

not knowing how many lost

to the greater good of retail. It is Marta the packer

rubbing her crippled hands with

Lourdes water and hot chilies.

It is bad pay and worse diet and

the minds of our children

turned on the wheel of sorrow–

no langauge to leech it from the blood,

no words to draw it out–

a fake Christmas tree spinning wildly in the brain,

and who can stop it, who ‘

unless grief grows a hand

and writes the poem?


Copyright, You Don’t Know Jersey, LLC (2010-2022)

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