Jeff Sirkin

UTEP Creative Writing professor Jeff Sirkin’s first collection of poetry, “Travelers Aid Society,” drops this month. His work has appeared in the publications “Mandorla,” “Forklift” and “The Volta.”

Sirkin, who holds a doctorate in literature from the University at Buffalo, will read excerpts from his book at the release party at 501 Bistro. What’s Up talked with Sirkin about borders and poetry.

Q. What’s the theme of your book?

Thinking about the possibility of finding a home in a world of displacement.  There’s a lot about traveling and history in the book and trying to find one’s place in the midst of a world sort of awash in media images and false representations of the world.

Q. Why “Travelers Aid Society?”

I think about my own travel in relation to larger issues about travel and what that means. What it means to cross borders, who those borders are for, what those borders are meant to keep in and out, et cetera.

Q. I dig the idea of examining borders. Is that from your experience in El Paso?

The oldest poems in the book are about 12 years old, from the time that I moved from Cincinnati, my hometown, to Buffalo, New York. Those poems were already thinking a lot about displacement. Once I moved to El Paso, I think that those themes and ideas started to emerge more strongly in the work that I was writing. It allowed me to reflect on what home meant.

Q. If some of those poems are so old, how did that editing process go? How do you know they’re finished?

The older poems in this book I really haven’t tried to get published before. I wasn’t exactly sure what they were doing or how they fit with the larger idea of what my poetry was. But as I was writing over the last three or four years, when I wrote the majority of this book, I started seeing connections to the older poems and started understanding them in relation to what I was writing more recently.

“Travelers Aid Society” release Party

With country-folk music by Michael Duncan

Friday, March 25

501 Bistro, 501 Texas Ave.

7-9 p.m.


More info at 915-351-6023 or