A suggestion by his younger brother three years ago started Alexander Lazarus Wolff ’23 on a path to written expression that has led to remarkable success in the poetry publishing world.
Wolff, an English major, has more than 17 poems published or scheduled for publication in literary magazines. Recently, his work was featured or is forthcoming in some of poetry’s top publications, including The Best American Poetry website, The Citron Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, South Florida Poetry Journal, Main Street Rag and elsewhere.
“A few years back, my younger brother suggested I write poetry because of the way I spoke,” Wolff said. “I guess I would have these kind of poetic sentiments that I would say.”
At his brother’s urging, Wolff got to work and quickly wrote a poem called “Tomorrow’s Moon” that was published in an anthology called Yearnings.
Since then, Wolff’s poetry submissions have been selected by a variety of publications.
“It’s always good to get published,” he said. “It’s kind of like gambling when you’re sending off to these literary magazines. Because some get 200 submissions, and they can choose only one.
“I have a piece forthcoming in The Citron Review, which has an acceptance rate of 0.4%, according to (writing resource) Duotrope. It makes me more hopeful, particularly whenever I’m thinking about a (Master of Fine Arts) program at graduate school and how difficult it would be to get into one of those.”
Wolff has achieved much in his short time as a poet, and he hopes this is a sign of more success to come in the publishing world.
Wolff credits his English courses at William & Mary, including the advanced poetry workshop taught by Mildred and J.B. Hickman Professor of English and Humanities Henry Hart, for developing his writing through readings and assignments.
Wolff says Hart and poet David Lehman are two of his biggest role models.
“Alex is a very gifted poet and one of the most ambitious W&M students I’ve taught,” Hart said.
“It’s very unusual for an undergraduate to publish poems in national literary journals. Usually, students publish in W&M journals edited by other students. Alex, as his CV attests, has published in many reputable national journals. It was especially impressive that the editors of The Best American Poetry selected one of Alex’s poems for publication. I think Alex will have a distinguished career as a poet. I expect great things from him.”
Wolff, a Tallahassee, Florida, native recently did a Zoom reading of one of his poems for the South Florida Poetry Journal, which in the past has published pieces from Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as the United States Poet Laureate.
His poem, “The Tempest,” was published by The Best American Poetry website in November. It includes the following vivid description of a shipwreck.
Each shock and shudder pummels the ship
as it cleaves through the waves. The updraught
billows the sail, and combers flood
the storm-struck deck. Our crew, flayed by spray,
squint ahead through the onslaught
making way to that island of isolation
Wolff has a prose poem scheduled for publication in The Citron Review, three poems forthcoming in the winter issue of Black Fox Literary Magazine and one poem forthcoming in Main Street Rag, scheduled to be released in the summer of 2022.
“I would say it’s very validating in a way, and it definitely gives me a sense of confidence in my writing,” Wolff said. “I’ve sunk a lot of time into writing, and now it’s all kind of paying off.”