Written by Chloe Hawkins
The year is 2003. Gas is $1.83 per gallon and there is no such thing as an iPhone. Americans are breaking up with AOL for Google. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek have come to an end but PCC’s student-run literary magazine is still going strong. Welcome to the 58th volume of Inscape! Our 2003 full-color issue was undoubtedly one for the history books. This is one of our most rare and coveted issues because it featured original serigraph artwork hand printed with silk screens by the Graphic Communications Technology students at PCC.
In addition to over fifty poems and short stories, ten original fine art prints, and a few literary award winners, this issue featured a “Poet of the Year” chosen by Inscape’s seven student editors from 2003. His name is T. Cole Rachel: a writer, teacher and ceramic cat collector from Oklahoma, now living in Brooklyn. Over the past sixteen years his career as a writer has really taken off. Since being selected as our Poet of the Year, Cole has published his second poetry book entitled Bend Don’t Shatter, interviewed countless music legends like Madonna and the B-52s, and is a current contributing writer for cool contemporary publications like The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Interview and V Magazine. We had the privilege to catch-up with Cole this Spring and and see what he’s been up to since being awarded ye auld 2003 Poet of Year title.
Since 2003, society has come a long way technologically speaking. Some writers still love clacking away on a good ol' fashioned typewriter, or the romanticism of pen and paper. Now that we have so many options for how to write, it's really more of a personal preference. We asked Cole to bring us up to speed on his 2019 methodology.
Inscape: Ideally... pen, typewriter or computer?
Cole: Pen for poems, computer for everything else.
Inscape: Who are some of your favorite writers?
Cole: I love Sharon Olds, Ada Limon, Albert Goldbarth, and Taeyoon Choi. I love music writers like Jessica Hopper and Hanif Abdurraqib. I adore Hilton Als.
Inscape: We love music writer's like you! t’s so exciting to be able to have a chat in 2019 with you, our 2003 Poet of the Year. Could you catch us up on what’s happened in your life since then?
Cole: I’m still in NYC, though the past two decades of my life have mostly been consumed with my work as a journalist. After publishing Bend, Don’t Shatter, I started writing about music full-time. Having spent so much time deeply immersed in the culture and writing of poetry, I started to feel kind of burned out on that world and eventually turned my attention to doing other kinds of creative work—doing music supervision for films and for brands, writing about art and culture for magazines, screenwriting, and painting. I had all but given up my poetry writing practice until about 4 years ago, when I was asked to teach a writing workshop here in NYC through ICP (the International Center for Photography) called “Poetry & Photography.” Being back in a workshop setting and working with people, most of them artists, who were interested in writing poetry for the first time, soon reinvigorated my own practice. In the time since I started teaching the class (which I’ve taught now over a dozen times or so), I’ve put together a new manuscript of poems and essays that I’m currently shopping around and I’ve started to send out poems again on a regular basis. I found that I had to step away from poetry for a while until I truly felt like I had something to say again. I’m currently serving as the Senior Editor at an art and culture website called "The Creative Independent", which is a job that nicely dovetails with my own creative pursuits.
Inscape: How does living in NYC influence your writing?
Cole: Oh, NYC influences me in a million different ways, both good and bad. Everything that has ever happened to me professionally, every job I’ve ever had, every writing assignment I’ve been given, has happened to me because I was here. There is something about the proximity factor—being so close to where everything in culture is happening— that makes it feel both possible and plausible that you can also be a part of it. Most of my most important and fruitful professional relationships originated as casual friendships, most of them born out of just being a part of the culture here—going to readings, seeing lots of shows, and hanging out in arts spaces. In that sense, NYC is great—a sort of an inexhaustible resource. The flipside of that is that NYC is also exhausting, expensive, and a frequently punishing place to live. Nothing here is easy.
Inscape: What is your favorite time of day and place to write?
Cole: In the morning at my desk in Brooklyn. Or on the subway, usually in the form of making notes on my phone.
Inscape: Can you recommend any writing resources?
Cole: Not to toot my own horn, but people should check out the site I work for, The Creative Independent. We describe ourselves as “a growing resource of emotional and practical guidance for creative people. Our goal is to educate, inspire, and grow the community of people who create or dream of creating.”
Inscape: As a professional interviewer yourself, do you have any advice for our beginning
writers learning the art of interviewing?
Cole: I teach intro to music journalism at NYU in the summers as a part of the summer journalism program there. I always tell my students that interviews should be conversations, not interrogations. The more you can approach and talk to someone like a normal human being, the better the result will usually be.
Inscape: How has writing helped you as a person?
Cole: In so so so many ways. The only way I’ve ever been able to understand anything is by writing about it. Writing has made me a kinder, more generally empathetic person, particularly my journalism work. Poetry has helped me understand myself, being a journalist has certainly helped me understand other people...or at least come to grips that most people, despite what they do for a living or where they are in life, are basically grappling with the same kinds of issues that I am. None of us are all that different.
Inscape: If you could give your 2003-self some writing/career advice, what would it be?
Cole: To be more self-confident and less fearful of trying new things. And I’d tell myself not to worry so much about trying to forge a career. As it turns out, your career kind of just happens while you are doing other things. I’d say to just focus on chasing after the kind of work, both personal and professional, that makes you happy. When you are doing that in a really honest way, truly following your curiosity wherever it leads you, the career stuff kind of just falls into place.
T. Cole Rachel featured as our 2003 Poet of the Year in Inscape Vol. 58, available at
Pasadena City College’s Shatford Library.
Chloe Hawkins is a student at Pasadena City College fulfilling her last few degree requirements. She will graduate this June with a B.A. in Psychology and Studio Art with emphases in photography and creative writing. She says, "My passions are traveling and self-reflective writing. I hope to channel these passions into a one-woman traveling writing show this summer."
PCC Inscape Magazine housed at Pasadena City College is following Coronavirus protocols. At this time our staff continues to read submissions and publish web content. Our Spring 2020 issue is at the printer! Our Fall 2020 issue is coming soon!
Blog Posts reflect the opinions of the writer and not the opinions of Pasadena City College or Inscape Magazine Editorial Staff Members.