Yonah Korngold on Asking Questions and Avoiding Being Chased by Bulls

Noodle Expert Yonah Korngold discusses why he asks at least one question in every meeting and the advice he'd give students on avoiding getting chased by bulls.

Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?

When I first read "Howl" in college, I remember being completely captivated from the first lines wondering who these “best minds of a generation destroyed by madness” were and wanting to know everything about the “angelheaded hipsters floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz.”

I would choose Allen Ginsberg as my teacher for a year because by studying with him, I may catch a glimpse of other fiery literary figures of the past that often haunted his work. In many ways, Ginsberg’s poetry was a direct link to the fiery American literary thinkers of the past, like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman. He had visions of William Blake and collaborated with Bob Dylan and was mentored by one of my favorite poets, William Carlos Williams. Through studying with Ginsberg, I would hope to also meet all of these characters. I think the greatest lesson that Ginsberg could teach a student is how to unleash a writer’s honest voice and how to use writing as a form of discovery.

“Writing poetry is a form of discovering who I am, and getting beyond who I am to free awakeness of consciousness, to a self that isn't who I am. It's a form of discovering my own nature, and my own identity, or my own ego, or outlining my own ego, and also seeing what part of me is beyond that.”– Allen Ginsberg

What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?

Questions are more important than answers…

In elementary school, I was given the advice to try to ask one question in every class and that stuck with me through college. To this day, when I am in meetings or seminars, I feel an internal drive to ask at least one question, especially during times of awkward silence. Whether you are practicing the Socratic method, a Talmudic scholar, a law student, or trying to comprehend whether a hotdog is a sandwich, asking questions is the proven path to critical understanding.

Where would you send a student who hasn't traveled before?

I would either send them to the national park furthest from their home or give them a copy of "The Sun Also Rises*"and send them off to Spain. In both cases, I would first warn that getting chased by bulls or any wild animal for entertainment is a bad idea.

When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?

In college, I was taking a course called Literature and Psychoanalysis and we were reading Margaret Atwood’s novel, "Cat’s Eye." At the time, I was also putting together a lot of my own writing and went out on a limb and sent a stack of material to this professor asking for his thoughts and advice. A few weeks later, the professor sent me a folder with very thoughtful advice, analysis, and kind encouragement that I never would forget. Also included in that folder was my paper on "Cat’s Eye," full of red ink from the professor. I had embarrassingly thrown together the paper the night before it was due and as a result got a D. The professor did not have to tell me in words but his message was clear: I did not keep my end of the bargain. Great teachers are more than happy to go out of their way to encourage students, but students also need to meet them halfway and put some time and effort into their classwork.

Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?

I started working at a medical publisher as a part-time editorial intern while I was in a graduate creative writing program. After I graduated, I found that the job of curating content and information was a good fit and discovered that the office was full of creative and intellectually curious people. As an editor, I never expected that the writing and editing of content would be just one small piece of the media puzzle to go along with design, technology, marketing, and sales.

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