How Grey Held ’75 Became a Poet at MIT

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on August 6, 2015 · 0 comments

in Alumni Life, Authors, Remember When...

Held sprays varnish over the press-applied letters of 14 poems.

Held prepped the rough stones with clear epoxy, applied sticky-back letters, and, pictured here, sprayed many coats of exterior clear varnish over the poems.

An encounter with an MIT poetry professor during his student days changed the life of Grey Held ’75. Diving into a poetry workshop, he found a new aspect of himself. Although his professional work has kept him busy for decades, he has published two books of poetry and recently he created an innovative Poetry in the Park project in his Massachusetts town.

“The poetry professor was Betsy Sholl, who later became poet Laureate of Maine,” says Held.  “The workshop was intimate—maybe 10 or 12 students and we’d bring our own poems to read and we’d sit in a circle and Betsy would listen and give feedback. Some of the feedback had to do with craft, yet what I remember most was her knack for helping us find the emotional center of our poems. The class was so unique in my experience of MIT—and I really thrived in that environment.”

His Poetry in the Park project is located in Edmands Park in Newton MA, a patch of wild nature at the heart of a leafy but dense suburban city of 85,000. The 14 poems attached to Depression-era stone pillars were chosen from the many submissions he received from his call to poets across the country. He chose selections that spoke to him of the place.

Held poetry-08-06-15

Published by permission of Grey Held ’75

Now he is moving from a business career to a new phase. Mostly recently, Held worked for Forrester Research in client services specializing in data insights. Earlier he worked in research and analysis management and international marketing.

“The common denominator I’d say between my professional work and my poetry is the writing and the ability to tell a story. In my professional work at Forrester I managed a consumer data team and coached them on how to tell stories with data—people don’t remember the data, they remember the story you tell about the data.”

After MIT, Held earned an MFA from Temple University. His first book of poems, Two-Star General was published in 2012; his second book, Spilled Milk, in 2013. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Writing, and he has taught poetry writing workshops for prisoners.

Among his current projects is a third book of poetry. “I’ve got a poetry manuscript I’m trying to get published, entitled Workaday, that is based on my experience of working in a corporate environment.”

Read some poems and learn more about his work on his website.

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