By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
A few days before Thanksgiving, Britt Melewski walked down to his favorite bar, Murphy’s Tavern in Rumson, and ordered his drink of choice, a Pabst Blue Ribbon in a can. It was a celebratory libation, he said, for writing his best work to date.
The thickest part of March
Will be a Monday drawn in snow
The simplicity of the poem, and its possibilities, is exactly what Melewski has learned in his years developing as a poet.
“There’s a lot more to poetry than getting drunk and writing something down,” Melewski said.
Those words, sneering and satirical, have something of a Dylan Thomas quality to them, and Melewski, after a retreat to the West Coast to study the art of verse, is back in Rumson and working his way toward what he hopes will be a career as a published poet.
The framework is laid for the 25-year-old.
Next month, his work will be read at the second annual writer’s festival in Asbury Park. In the spring, he’ll have two of his pieces published in Liebamour magazine, and is currently studying in an MFA program at Rutgers University the third college he’s attended. It’s this academic go-round that Melewski believes will prime him for the path he should be taking.
Although Melewski’s always had a passion for writing, it wasn’t until he left New Jersey to study poetry and literature at San Jose State University that he fell into a community of writers that gave him insight and a sense of who he should be as a writer. It also gave him a chance to be with his father, who divorced his mother when he was in high school.
“That was a big turning point in my life, to live with him and to see him for more than a week,” he said.
Then he got accepted to Rutgers. Melewski returned to Rumson in June, armed with more confidence and defined goals some big, some small.
“(William Stanley) Merwin used to say you have to write 70 lines a day. I try to write 70 lines a day, but I’ll be happy if I get to 30,” Melewski said. “It’s funny. Obviously it’d be great to make a career out of writing, but my goal is to stick to the truth everyday. If you stay true to your voice and the poetry inside of you, it doesn’t matter.”
Melewski is a simple guy with complex thoughts and ideas. He doesn’t subscribe to any particular fashion; he prefers well-worn jeans and a button down, wearing his hair just above his shoulders and perpetual scruff on his face. When he’s not at school or working as an aide at Monmouth Medical Center’s mental health association, he can be found at a local watering hole, and always with a PBR, talking Yankee baseball and is sure to pull a notebook from his back pocket to veer off briefly to the page before returning to ask the score of whatever game is on TV.
What really matters to Melewski is people, and specifically, understanding them. That’s where his writing comes in. It’s a daily process of learning and writing, re-writing and reflecting, he said.
“I deal with problems through writing and trying to understand. Some people try to hit you with their car. You deal with it in different ways,” he said. “I’ll try and write a book. You can hit me. That’s fine, I guess.”
As it goes with art, getting to where he wants to be is going to take a long time if ever, in the crapshoot of signing a book deal Melewski said. But if he strikes a nerve and connects to somebody else, then those written lines have paid off.
So long as they’re true.
“You’re not just writing to the wall. It definitely matters because even ancient writers, they had a certain audience in mind,” he said. “I don’t write to the audience. I’m not Danielle Steele, but you respect the audience, and you respect them by being honest.”