2008-07-25 / Community

Patrick Hernandez Remembered Through Poetry

By Miriam Rosenberg


The whole morning stumbled in,
and in the candlelight
I was alone, trying hard
to hold a little bit of belief.

"Star" is a poem put together in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of Patrick Hernandez, 18, earlier this month on Beach 15 Street. Former Brooklyn native Jim McGrath, who uses a process known as cut-ups - taking words from newspaper articles - to create poetry, explained how he came to do a poem about the young man's death. His source for "Star" was a July 10 Daily News article, "Star Student Killed on Rockaway Street."

"I try to read the Daily News, well, daily. It's the paper I grew up reading (The Post is also fun to read), and it's been the source of a few cut-ups," said McGrath in an e-mail. "I was reading through the paper's online site when I came across the article about the Hernandez boy. It was such a heartbreaking story, and I immediately thought of my own brothers when I read about Patrick's brother holding his hand as he died. I think everyone, like it or not, sometimes lets their mind wander a bit when they read such stories, and they inevitably put themselves in the shoes of the family being described. I don't know anything about the Hernandez family aside from what was presented in the article, but it sounds like Patrick was a terrific kid with so much to give the world. I can't imagine what his family is going through, and they have certainly been in my thoughts."

McGrath, 26, was born and raised in Mill Basin. Although he now lives in Boston, he still visits his parents in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

"I used to hang out in Rockaway a lot in high school, and my parents have a cabana at the Surf Club in Breezy, so I'm out there from time to time over the summer," added McGrath, who is going for a Ph.D in English at Northeastern University and teaches writing courses there. "It's hard to say why I chose which words [to use from articles]. I usually start with a title and try to create something that relates to it," said McGrath, who decided to experiment with the cut-up process this summer and posts his results on a blog called "The Loss of Hope and Love."

"There's so much tragedy that gets reported in the news each day, but I guess [the reason I chose the article was] the closeness of the neighborhood to one I grew up in, the fact that Patrick was close to following his dreams at college... the whole story just really stayed with me. And because I am doing this poetry project, and this was a news story, particularly one that provoked such a strong emotional reaction in me, I decided to work with it."

McGrath said he hopes "that readers take something positive from the poem.

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