The Bronx by Zee Zahava

I so enjoy Zee Zahava’s work. And it is one of the wonders of the internet that I can read about her creative process on Facebook, find her new work, and share it with you in a matter of hours.
When I first became aware of the potential of the web my first thought was–I’ll be able to find my whole small press community out there. Which mostly proved true, but I didn’t realize I’d also form international community as well. And “the bronx” is a lot of fun to read, and I think it also contains an implicit writing prompt–to take the name of the place you were born or raised and repeat and explore it.


The poet writes: “It is a cold grey wet day in Ithaca, New York. I took myself out for lunch at Diamond’s Indian Restaurant. YUM. While I was eating I started thinking about a series of small poems that would all begin with the words “the bronx,” my hometown, and I jotted them down in my purple notebook as they came to me. Now I am sharing them here. Perhaps you will read on . . . .”

the bronx …. small poems

the bronx
dad’s fear of the monkey house
he won’t take us to the zoo

the bronx
sweet smells from down the hill
stella d’oro cookie factory

the bronx
on the way to school a man
shows me his penis — i laugh

the bronx
my father is well-known
in every chinese restaurant

the bronx
1965 — blackout —
we don’t own a single flashlight

the bronx
van cortlandt park boathouse
my first and last cigarette

the bronx
i can sing two leonard cohen songs
before i get to school

the bronx
friday night dinners at grandma’s
we never say the blessing

the bronx
the first Burger King opens
dad forbids us to go there

the bronx
every time i leave the apartment
mom asks are you prepared?

the bronx
skating in the building’s hallway
the old people hate us

the bronx
i refuse to pledge allegiance
to the flag

the bronx
dad says
stop talking about Vietnam already

the bronx
just a short subway ride
to Yankee Stadium . . .
but we are not
a baseball family


Tremulous: Photograph by Isabel Winson-Sagan and Poem by Miriam Sagan

Isabel describes this image as a “failed” class assignment. But it seems perfect for the blog this season.


To follow her work, go to

This poem was written recently after a walk in aspens on the Norski Trail.


From a distance, the mountain
calls to mind a jigsaw puzzle
with so many yellow pieces
that are aspen—
up close, once in the groves
I see them, gangly girls
tossing their tousled selves
to dance before winter.
Slim, silver grey, leaves
falling like golden coins
out of a fairy tale
imagination. Closer
on the floor of the forest
another wood grows
moss making a tiny diploid
forest of its own, feminine and
masculine segments
like some woodland hold.
Clonal colony of
aspen sisters
must fear fire, yet
will die
without it—
I, with you, am tempted
to carve initials in the inviting
blank bark
but am too well behaved
a steward. Driving back down
from the ski basin
we pass that sad descansos
of the bus crash
where school children died
while behind us
the slopes glow
with the season’s
lovely imperative.
Just for a moment
I wish
upon a falling leaf
to live in the space
between this and that.

Steve Peters on a Shift in Creativity

I’ve long admired Steve Peters as a composer and sound installation artist. In response to my piece on process he noted an interesting twist in his own.
Steve wrote: Last year I was doing a residency in France and made a bunch of these drawings with crushed flower petals – really fast, no forethought. some were lousy, most weren’t. fun and liberating to work that way. so different than my usual long, painstaking process.


At the time he noted: “Having fun making these little improvised gesture drawings/finger paintings/rubbings/somethings. All are 4″x6″ and were made in less than 1 minute using only flower petals crushed directly onto the paper with my fingers. One kind of flower per.”


Quite a wonderful idea–I’m delighted to share it.

Poetic Process by Miriam Sagan

Poetic process isn’t always easy to engage with, no matter how long you’ve been writing. Mine changed in startling and unlooked for ways in the past year—and surprisingly it took me quite a while to notice.
Last October I was at Wildacres in the Smokies, working with my daughter Isabel Winson-Sagan. She taught me to do suminagashi—Japanese style marbling, which works as a kind of mono print of ink on water. In the week there, we worked at full throttle. I wore all the poems that appear in our collaborative book Spilled Ink.
Then, I didn’t write another poem for five months. This is unusual, as I try to write about 8 poems a month—even if they are bad, or off the cuff haiku that don’t quite work. I like to keep warmed up.
Instead, I was working on a novel, The Future Tense of River, entranced by the fun and difficulty of getting the first draft underway. I started another project, 100 CUPS OF COFFEE, a mix of poetry and prose, but the poetry was diary-like, not meant to stand alone.
In the spring, I had a horrifying “oops” moment. I wasn’t writing poetry. I was as startled as if I’d suddenly realized I hadn’t brushed my teeth in five months.
Experience has taught me not to panic about writing, so I figured—hey, just write some poems. I started, and these poems were really different. They were long and skinny (a form I’d been soundly criticized for as a Freshman in college and have avoided since.) They had no capital letters—something I usually think ill of. And they had very little punctuation. This last bit I’ve had to re-think, as editors keep asking for it.
They feel fast, impressionist, associative. They need one solid pass or draft. If that doesn’t work, they don’t seem revisable, I just throw them out. I can do detail edit, but the shape is fixed for good or ill by the first draft.
It’s kind of scary, but they seem to work just like mono printing or suminagashi.
I don’t know what to call them, but I’m writing a lot. And publishing. Editors seem to really like them, and most acceptances are coming in batches. Sometimes the poems cluster, or seem to make one larger poem. They might be a sequence, a book, or something else completely.

Here is an excerpt from a group just published in Apricity—a lovely e-zine.

the red neon SANTA FE
on the top of the Gothic Revival
railway building
across from my hotel room
on a rainy night in
Amarillo, Texas—
my love for you is pure,
an unusual
thing in this world,
and I’m perfectly happy
with you in my bed,
and although
the news of another poet’s
fame made me jealous
I count myself lucky
to not be translating
out of my native tongue.

Check out the rest at

And do explore the magazine— They are reading submissions and emphasize the visual arts, as you can see here:


Free Book!

We’re giving away free copies of Spilled Ink, a collaboration between Miriam Sagan and Isabel Winson-Sagan. Just ask! The book was designed purely as a gift–it has no price, no ISBN.
It can’t be bought or sold. But you may have to do something a bit radical to get one: ASK.


Simply send your name & mailing address to me at
A book will be yours, as long as they last. Not sure about international mailing, but we’ll try.



Preview poem:

when you were a baby
a Balanchine dancer
praised your sitting posture

now that you’re grown
I need to question you to understand—
a woman of another generation

I walk in the autumn hardwood forest
with my cane—elegant fungus
grows along a tree trunk

palmate leaves
bigger than any gloves I’ve ever worn
turn green, yellow, brown, red

you say the paper sculpture
should be just about
as tall as you are

an enormous spider web
seems dropped into these woods
by Chihuly

you blow the line
of ink
across the standing water

if autumn were a woman
she’d be undressing now
for her date with solstice

the koan asks: for whom
do you adorn yourself
and make yourself beautiful?