It was a long way from New York to Missouri for Monica Hand.
Hand, a 59-year-old graduate student and published poet, left her managerial position at the United States Postal Service in May 2011 to attend MU. Hand said she knew she wanted to be a poet, but she couldn’t find doctoral programs in New York that focused on creative writing.
Hand participated in an MU-sponsored writing retreat in June 2011 in Greece where she said she was told about the university. Hand said it took her awhile to decide on MU because she did not want to be far from home.
Hand said she has been writing since she was 10. She wrote mostly short stories based off books she read.
She was an avid reader, constantly getting lost in books and fantasizing about another life, she said. Her mom volunteered her to read verses at church, where she grew to have an appreciation of poetry.
Hand’s mother died in July 2011. She said it felt like she did not belong anywhere.
“(My mother was) the root of the Earth,” Hand said. “When you lose your mother, it’s almost like someone has pulled up her roots.”
A year later, Hand said she loves Columbia and has found belonging at MU. She teaches an introduction to poetry course and finds time to volunteer at Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School, where she talks to second graders about poetry every once in a while, particularly poet Langston Hughes.
“I really feel like I’m getting into the groove of being here, even more than last year, though people wouldn’t know it,” Hand said. “This year I feel more balance.”
Hand released her first book of poems, “Me And Nina,” in 2012. It received positive critical reviews and made it on Coldfront Magazine’s “Top 40 Poetry Books of 2012” list.
Hand said she does not always have time to sit down and write every day, but she writes by editing poems or coming up with ideas for a future poem.
“Us writers are processing things in our heads all the time,” Hand said.
To keep from forgetting her ideas, Hand said she writes down ideas on the sides of newspapers. She said the morning is the best time for her to write, especially between 3-5 a.m.
Hand also said she believes in making to-do lists to get things done, and she loves the sense of accomplishment she feels when crossing something out.
“I might think that I didn’t accomplish anything if I didn’t make lists,” Hand said.
At the end of the year, Hand makes a list of things she has accomplished instead of making New Year’s resolutions.
Hand said she always wanted “a writer’s life” and feels like she is getting close to it now. She said she sometimes does not know how much she wants to expose in her writing, but she does have a tendency to lean toward father and gender issues.
She said she has recently focused on the idea of home and homelessness, particularly from the point of view of people from African descent. Hand herself is of African descent, but she said she does not know enough about the continent.
“How does one define home, and what does that do to your sense of belonging?” Hand said.
For now, Hand said she has found a home at MU.