Poet lives by the mantra ‘Stronger Every Day’

Rich Gordon wrote the poetry book "Stronger Every Day" based on his struggles with addiction.

SAYREVILLE – With the publication of his first collection of poetry, a Sayreville resident recovering from heroin addiction looks to spread a message of meditation over medication and – the title of the collection – becoming stronger every day.

“Stronger Every Day” is the first poetry collection from Rich Gordon, 28, a native of Jackson Township who has resided in Sayreville for eight years. Published this year, Gordon describes the collection as personal and therapeutic poetry.

“I feel I have a message that needs to be said,” he said in describing the creation of ‘Stronger Every Day.’ “I wouldn’t be the person I am now if it wasn’t for the mistakes I’ve made.”

Gordon performs the poetry alongside fellow Sayreville resident Wayne Cupo, a Perth Amboy native and retired teacher who taught in the Perth Amboy School District for more than three decades. In their shows together, Cupo provides guitar melodies while Gordon reads his poems to the audience.

“It’s a way to connect the audience and the author,” Gordon said. “It’s interesting to see how therapeutic poetry helps other people.”

Now in recovery from heroin addiction for eight years, “Stronger Every Day” was written when Gordon began experiencing anxiety for the first time. Involved in writing since he was 10, the start of the panic attacks led to the start of the new poems for Gordon.

“Every line was written during the darkest time of being sober,” he said. “And I didn’t want to go back to where I was. I knew I wouldn’t return from it.

“Poetry has always been with me and it’s my medication for the soul. I want to help people meditate instead of medicate. I want to show them that all you need is a moment of clarity. You don’t need to be medicated to be happy.”

The first poem written by Gordon was “Through Hell and Heavens Gates,” which depicts the narrator’s experience with an angel and a devil.

“After writing it, the rest of the poems started coming naturally,” Gordon said. “It was like turning on a faucet and the water started flowing.”

As Gordon continued to write poems, he began to share them on Facebook before compiling them into “Stronger Every Day” for more audiences to read and experience. The collection is now the first of four planned poetry collections from Gordon, with each representing a season. “Stronger Every Day” represents autumn with winter- and a spring-themed collections to follow and a summer-themed collection to conclude the series.

“We live in a world that’s chaotic and people are closing themselves in,” Gordon said. “We wear so many masks and try to be someone that we’re not.”

To further reach out and help others, Gordon initiated live performances of his work. Originally performing the poems by himself, he teamed up with Cupo whom he met while they were working together at ShopRite.

“I saw Wayne’s picture when he was Employee of the Month and I said to him, ‘Hey, Mr. Employee of the Month,'” Gordon said. “Then I saw him playing guitar at the open mic night at the Sayreville library. He was intrigued by me and I was intrigued by him.”

Following their encounter at the Sayreville Public Library, Cupo, who has played guitar since he was in second grade, would offer guitar melodies to Gordon, including original songs, finger exercises and classical pieces, which Gordon would then match up with one of his poems.

“Not too many people are doing this,” Cupo said. “Usually, they just read the poems. Some read their poems with drums, but the drums can get too loud and too distracting. My goal is to not distract from the poem with the guitar, but to try enhancing the poem. I want people to look into the words.”

For their shows together, Gordon will read certain poems like “Leaving Town” alongside Cupo’s guitar, while other poems such as “Invincible” will be sung by Gordon. Some poems will performed without any musical background and there are also segments where Gordon and Cupo will perform songs of their own.

Having played in bands before, Gordon is no stranger to performing on stage, but he noted that his current performances are very different from the ones he previously took part in.

“This is more personal,” Gordon said. “It’s putting a part of me into the world. I try to interact with the audience and it’s interesting seeing how the poems affect them. You might laugh. You might cry. You might feel uncomfortable. But you become a family with everyone around you. And like a family, you get through it together.”

With a new year approaching, Gordon hopes that audiences will go by the three words of his collection: that they are “Stronger Every Day”.

“I want those three words to be motivation,” he said. “It’s helped me and I’ve become stronger. One day at a time, I am stronger every day.”

Contact Matthew Sockol at [email protected].