In late February of this year, fourth-year student John Brogan self-published his second book, which combines narrative-driven poems and poetic short stories about his personal experiences. “St. Augustine and the Piano” took “around eight months to write,” said Brogan, “so not like with my first book, which I kind of hammered through in about two months.”
Brogan’s first work has since gone out of print, something that Brogan had wanted mainly because “basically everyone that I knew had read the book, and they were the people I most wanted to have read it, so I took it out of print soon after.” Brogan intends to do the same with “St. Augustine” eventually, and he both continues to write and plans to publish another book. On his website, he posts recent poems alongside images that help illustrate his writing.
Brogan’s main inspirations for the book included “writers like Charles Baudelaire and E.E. Cummings, and also St. Augustine, who is seen as an influential figure in biography.” St. Augustine played a major role, hence the title of the book and the way it follows Brogan’s experiences. The book is only semi-autobiographical, as “I did take liberties obviously, since some of the things that happen in the short story segments did not actually happen in the ways I wrote them,” said Brogan.
Writing allows for greater mobility due to its power and malleability, according to Brogan, and his poems flowing freely on the page. Brogan wanted to make the book relatable for anyone who chooses to read it, writing with some sarcastic, comedic tones but not offsetting the seriousness of the writing itself. This balanced tone “is kind of what I do,” said Brogan, “since I am always serious in my writing and all my writing does come off as serious, but also with subtle comedy as highlights to my personality.”
For Brogan poetry is “personal, to the point and is a way of living and articulating myself.” “St. Augustine” contains short story segments at the beginning of each chapter, which always end with a slight cliffhanger as he allows his readers to move between the poems and stories. Brogan said that he doesn’t plan to commit to long-form fiction anytime soon, since he feels more in tune with poetry, which he compared to making music. “Writing and music are one and the same,” said Brogan. “Poetry is like music and music is like poetry, where they are both assisted by visuals and interpretations in unison.”
In his latest book, like on his website, his writing is accompanied by images. “St. Augustine” was a labor of love not just for Brogan, but for the other fellow Cleveland natives and close friends who assisted him by adding their own interpretations of each chapter in the form of black-and-white illustrations. The cover art of the book, illustrated by Brogan’s good friend Zach Martin, helps communicate what the book will be about—a journey through badlands on the way to a shining cityscape. This fits a book with “an awareness of a journey, a personal journey, and my take on the road trip genre,”said Brogan.
Ultimately, Brogan said that he will continue with his writing, feeling that it is a means of being able to connect, directly or otherwise, with people. With “St. Augustine,” it does feel that Brogan has managed to do just that; through his poetry and stories in the book, I felt connected and enthralled by his work for all the right reasons.