Hello, there! My name is Josiah Gouker (pronouns: he/him/his), and I am a junior from Yucca Valley, California, concentrating in the Department of African American Studies with a certificate in French Language & Culture. I’m a relatively new poet and am thrilled to be a Peer Arts Advisor.
In many ways, I grew up a bit repressed—mainly by myself— both in my identities and in my creative pursuits. Navigating primarily white classrooms while also in the closet meant careful attention to the ways in which I was perceived by others. I focused hard on being a good student, throwing the arts aside as wasted time or less important than other parts of my academics. Towards the end of high school, I eventually decided to try out improv comedy and enjoyed writing poetry in my senior year English class. But I reverted back to my academically centered self after coming to Princeton, intimidated by the backgrounds of other students that put them ahead of me, a first-generation/low-income student.
Eventually, though, I ran into a problem that many students like me have had—the Literature and the Arts distribution requirement. Going into my sophomore spring and having fulfilled neither of the two courses, I decided I’d try to rekindle my interest in writing poetry by taking a Creative Writing course in poetry. That ended up being one of the best decisions of my Princeton career.
It was amazing to have an opportunity to explore a craft that I was interested in after having dismissed it before as something that wasn’t worth trying—it was to be done by those better than me. Through my class with Professor Susan Wheeler, though, I learned that anyone, even me, can be a poet, whether celebrated and famous or fledgling and in wait for their opportunity to shine. And I also learned how much of an outlet that writing a poem could be for venting in ways that you might not even imagine.
I am looking forward to continuing work on my poetry, getting myself to a place where I am able to write more freely, knowing what I like to do, what I dislike that I do, and what I want to try. Outside of the Lewis Center, I am a college application advisor to low-income high school students, a member of Club Archery, an airliner and flight simulator enthusiast, and a Star Wars fanatic. I am looking forward to meeting you in my capacity as a Peer Arts Advisor, I will be able to provide you advice whether it be my experience in coming into contact with the Lewis Center, selecting courses, poetry, or Princeton in general!