Opening my eyes at 72 by Cheryl Marita

Opening my eyes at 72These past posts have made me think about the idea of bucket lists, and how they focus on living.  And today I accepted a challenge from a friend to join Yoko Ono in her “Cleaning Piece III” – try to say nothing negative about anybody – for 3 days, for 45 days, then for 3 months.Does this include me?  Does it include politicians?  Does it include people I work with?  I imagine the circle spiraling.  Outward to include more people, inward to give me strength to be quiet.So here I am, thinking about a bucket list of endeavors that take me more inside than traveling to the Galapagos.  A bucket list that will challenge me to grow as I age.  Slowing down like a turtle in my life may be more productive than rushing to see one in the wild.Slowing down is what my interactions with patients tell me everyday.  Bearing witness to myself and others insists that I slow down.  Certainly, discussing hopes and wishes for end of life with a fifty year old, a ninety year old, a thirty year old all deserve softness and time.   And being quiet is part of slowing down.  Having time to think, respond, reflect.Urgency, accomplishments, checklists, twitter, texts all demand quickness in response.  Sitting silent with patients as they mull over information demands slowness in response.  It requires respect for the process, for the life that we are sharing at that moment.I think this is at the top of my bucket list at 72.  Slow down so I can share a moment of intimacy with my patients, slow down so I can not respond in haste with a negative comment about a person (even a politician or a president).Takes me to a thought I want to ponder this week.  From NIMO in the “Gratefulness” blogWe arrive empty handed and leave empty handed.  So then, how do we want to spend the time in between? Even this blog has slowed down as we amble towards our goal of advanced directives, of discussing with family and friends our thoughts about end of life care.  I think I will play the “Go Wish” game this week.  It’s a slow game, and it will help me add to my bucket list and help this blog bear witness to our contemplation.

I’m Finding This Very Inspiring

Fri, Jul 20, 2018 9:59 pm
She Gave Millions to Artists Without Credit. Until Now.
By Robin Pogrebin

The artist Carrie Mae Weems recalls sitting at her desk in Syracuse in 2014 “feeling very anonymous and misunderstood and trying to figure out how to make some new work” when she got the call.

“I was offered this extraordinary gift,” she said. “It was important, because I needed the money, but more than anything, I needed the encouragement and the support to keep making, to keep pushing — to continue to work in spite of all of the pressures.”

The gift is part of a grant program that has paid out a total of $5.5 million over the last 22 years to support underrecognized female artists over age 40. It is called Anonymous Was a Woman, in reference to a line in Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own,” to pay tribute to female artists in history who signed their paintings “Anonymous” so that their work would be taken seriously.

The donor behind the prize wanted to remain unknown. But now she is stepping out from behind the curtain: Susan Unterberg, herself a once underrecognized female artist over 40. In a recent interview at her Upper East Side home, she said she has decided to come forward so that she can more openly argue on behalf of women who are artists, demonstrate the importance of women supporting women and try to inspire other philanthropists.

“It’s a great time for women to speak up,” Ms. Unterberg said. “I feel I can be a better advocate having my own voice.”

Ms. Unterberg, who turns 77 this weekend and is based in New York, has her photographic work in a few major museum collections — including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Jewish Museum — and she had a career retrospective at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati in 2004. But she said she has experienced firsthand the hurdles faced by female artists all over the world.

“They don’t get museum shows as often as men, they don’t command the same prices in the art world,” she said. “And it doesn’t seem to be changing.”


Ms. Unterberg said she had chosen to keep her identity secret so that her art would be evaluated on its own terms — even her grown grandchildren were unaware she was behind the grant. “I was working really hard to become known as a contemporary artist,” Ms. Unterberg said. “And this I felt would have influenced the way people looked at my work or saw me.”

“I’m a private person,” she added, “and I didn’t mind being unknown.”

As the founder and sole patron of the grant program, Ms. Unterberg has supported 220 artists with funds from the foundation she and her sister, Jill Roberts, inherited after their father, Nathan Appleman, an oilman and philanthropist, died in 1992.

She was moved to start the program in 1996 when the National Endowment for the Arts ended grants for individuals, as a way to give fellow female artists the kind of support she knew they needed, especially in the middle stage of their careers.

She got the idea while brainstorming with Marcia Tucker, the forceful curator and founder of the New Museum. “Since I was a middle-aged artist and always wanted to support women — I’m a feminist — this seemed like the perfect vehicle,” Ms. Unterberg said.

Past winners — many of whom have gone on to present solo exhibitions at institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Venice Biennale — have included Louise Lawler, Tania Bruguera, Carolee Schneemann and Mickalene Thomas.

The artists who have received the $25,000 grant have long wondered about the person — or people — behind it. “It’s such a special form of generosity to do that anonymously,” said Nicole Eisenman, who received a grant in 2014. “The lack of ego and the pure altruism in this grant is a beautiful thing.”

The women are nominated and evaluated by other women in the field — curators, art writers and previous winners, who themselves are not identified. The five panelists on the selection committee — who have changed over the years — deliberate for a full day and are each paid $1,000 for their time.


Obvious from the testimonies, Ms. Hoptman added, “is the life-changing quality of a well-deserved, substantial grant that comes from nowhere.”

“The terms most often used in this sampling,” she said, “were ‘lifesaver’ and ‘miracle.’”

Indeed, going public is likely to elicit some messages of gratitude, but Ms. Unterberg said she never awarded the grants for recognition. “It’s thanks enough knowing I’ve helped people’s lives when they needed it,” she said, adding, “I’ll miss the secret pleasure of seeing people benefit from afar without my name being attached.”

Ms. Unterberg — who is also finishing a five-year tenure as a chairwoman of the board of Yaddo, the artists’ retreat — said she will continue to underwrite the award, though no longer as a voting member of the selection panel.

The need for this type of support, Ms. Unterberg said, remains as pronounced as it was when she started. “It’s still a political moment two decades later,” she said, adding that the National Endowment for the Arts “is still under threat and women are still facing challenges in midcareer.”

“I’m eager for the grant to become better known,” she said. “Women have been anonymous for far too long.”

Invitation To Join Me In A Yoko Ono Inspired Event

I was sitting in my garden this morning–apricots full of earwigs falling–reading Yoko Ono’s book “Acorn.” I’m finding it an unbelievable balm to my mental jumpiness.
Now I want to try one of her pieces–Cleaning Piece III.

Try to say nothing negative about anybody.
a) for three days
b) for forty-five days
c) for three months

See what happens to your life.

OK–I’m just doing the first. Care to join me? I’m going to start Sunday July 22 and run Sunday-Tuesday. Then, I’m going to write about it on Wednesday or Thursday, and then post on the blog.

If you want to join me–send me a note at

Please write up your experience and send it to me a day or two after the piece ends. I’ll add to the blog! I’m excited to try this.

Now That My Friend is Dead by Anne Valley-Fox

Now That My Friend is Dead

Now that my friend is dead, she couldn’t care less
that I’m wearing her red satin skirt,
treading on her Afghani rug,
lounging in her embroidered Chinese robe.
She isn’t concerned with life on earth
in the slightest—our dreams and schemes,
secret sex, bravery, mass murders.
What is consciousness then?
“I can’t explain it,” she says, eager to get away
(vaporize, or whatever spirits do). “Words have no
meaning here”—her final bequeathal.

How I Learned About Evil

How I Learned About Evil

There are things I like to write about—sex, death, love—and things I’ve had trouble writing about—being ill, my father’s gangster family. And then there are things I haven’t written about properly at all. I’ve made stabs, little forays, attempts. All have failed.
These things are connected, I realized, when once more I tried to address them. They all happened in the 1970’s. They all happened to other people—I was a bystander. They have overlapping casts of characters. And at the heart are some secrets of mine. Or, if not exactly secrets, things I have trouble…writing about.
Actually, they are about sex, death, and love. And evil.
Now, I live in a household when 50% of the people (my husband Rich) do not believe in capital E Evil. I probably mostly believe in the Jewish concept of the “evil inclination” as opposed to the good. I don’t think of evil as a personified force walking the earth (a traditional enough pursuit for the devil, though).
And when I say “evil” I see it through the lens of my own experience and society. I see it as racism, fascism, and violence. And I am willing to try and touch on one of these difficult to write about topics.
When I was twenty years old, someone I was close to lost her extended family in one night of the “dirty war” in South America. I’m not ready to elaborate and have the privacy of others to consider. Let me just say that decades later when I walked into SITE Santa Fe’s show on The Disappeared and saw the flag of Chile made out of human femurs, I blacked out.
As a result of the murders of the family by fascists I also witnessed the single greatest heroic act I have ever been close to. An individual, essentially unsupported by law or government, went into terrifying hostile territory to save some children who had miraculously survived.
As I begin to write about this, here and in my notebook, I see that I veer into fiction. A few details change. The narrative becomes more coherent and less messy—essentially less like life. I always experience this process, but here but seems more necessary. I’m not going to write a novel, but neither is this straight out confession.
I was raised to see the world as a terrible place. My father could mention Hiroshima and Auschwitz before breakfast. In many ways, I had to leave the east coast and go to California to learn that the world was also beautiful. In my family, the beauty was a secret, kept apart. I suspect that we were the reverse of others, who kept evil the secret.
This leads me to our current day. I may be easily upset, but I am not easily shocked. I could try and ignore my father’s obsession with the past, but I could not ignore what I had experienced, even if it was indirect. Actually I am grateful that I have spent my adult life trying to accept, explore, and understand both sides of our reality. This is not the time to stop.

How to Organize or Arrange A Poetry Book, GPS Style

I completely enjoyed this–an original concept full of useful ideas.


easton to pittsburgh

A friend who’s starting to put together a poetry collection asked me recently if I had any tips for how to organize a book. I suggested the standard practice of thinking about the book as having a story or arc, and organizing it around that. And while I still think that’s pretty decent advice, it’s also pretty vague. I also told her I personally like to end on a note of hope and look for the poem that will leave the reader with that feeling, and that’s when I realized what I actually was doing with my own organization strategy—I was creating a map toward hope.

So with that in mind, here are a few things I do or think about when organizing a collection of poems. I’m not much of an authority at this. I’ve only published four books, and I’m not a press editor, but here are principles…

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