Meetings With Remarkable Poets: in which Peggy Pond Church holds my hand

It’s funny how and when certain memories surface.On Friday, I was honored to be interviewed by Lynn Cline on KSFR. She is very knowledgeable about New Mexico literary history, and mentioned Peggy Pond Church.
In 1985 or so, soon after I came to New Mexico, I had the remarkable experience of giving a poetry reading with Peggy Pond Church in Taos. Already blind and quite deaf, she sat right next to me when I read, holding my hand. She seemed like a darling old lady, but her toughness was also in evidence. I don’t think I had even yet read her masterpiece “The Woman At Otowi Crossing.”

An excellent article about her life appears at

Her death was also to have meaning for me. As the Taos profile says: “Eventually, however, her eyesight and hearing began to decline and diminish her quality of life. She died October 23, 1986, a date of her “own choosing.” In a letter left for friends and family, Peggy explained her decision.
‘It has long been my belief that in old age when the body fails we should be permitted to lay it down at a time of our own choosing and allow the spirit to go free. To a poet, death is another phase of life. In this age of vociferous right-to-lifers, I feel that death has rights too and needs to be made a friend of.’ “
I remember discussing this with my friend Elizabeth Searle Lamb. As a young person, I was somewhat shocked. “Now dear,” Elizabeth began. That “dear” always signaled to me that she was about to impart something important. And she explained to me why she was sympathetic to this way of thinking.
Elizabeth died many years later of natural causes, but as I am now 60 and looking forward with some of the same focus and trepidations I feel grateful to have known of Church’s decision.
And I’m amazed that I held her hand.

Mythic Tanka: Call for Submissions

Submit to: Send submissions to with the subject line: “Submission – “Myths and the Creative Imagination.” Complete information below.

IN CONTEMPORARY TIMES A MYTH IS PERCEIVED AS A FALSEHOOD, SELF-DELUDING, SOMETHING THAT IS NOT TRUE. However, myths have been a part of human civilization from the earliest times.

The Scottish anthropologist James Frazer saw myths as pre-scientific attempts to explain the natural world.

Mircea Eliade, a historian of religion and myths, took a wider perspective. He defined myths as stories of origins, of how the world and everything in it came to be. Therefore, myths are basic tools humans use to make sense of our world and who we are.

Joseph Campbell extended this creative aspect of myths, when he said that the first function of a myth is to reconcile waking consciousness to ‘the mysterium tremendum et fascinans of this universe’. In other words, myths point people to the metaphysical dimension of their existence – the origins and nature of the cosmos.

The psychoanalytical interpretation of myths as expressions of the human psyche in the works of Freud and Jung was one the most influential theories of the 20th century.

Freud focused on the ritual significance of myths. In his study, Totem and Taboo (1912-13) he compared taboo beliefs to neurosis and concluded that individual neurosis and social taboos have psychological roots.

Jung’s interpretation of myths has particular significance for the creative imagination. According to him an individual is on a quest for self-realization. He called this the ‘individuation process’. Myths provide the blueprint for this quest. Myths emerge from the unconscious and contain archaic truths about existence and are our fundamental source of inspiration.

Jung argued myths contain messages to the individuals, not the group, no matter how many people are involved in retelling and listening to them. ‘Myths are first and foremost psychic phenomena that reveal the nature of the soul.’

The power of myths to open up the world of imagination (Samuel Taylor Coleridge) is undeniable. However, the fate of myths has not been a happy one. Ironically, the critique of myths began in Greece, where myths inspired epic poetry, tragedy, comedy and visual arts. The Greeks subjected myths to a long and penetrating analysis as a result of which myths were radically demystified. This was influenced by the rise of schools of thoughts like Ionian Rationalism and the Materialists. Democritus criticized the gods in the works of Homer and Hesiod as being “capricious, unjust, immoral, jealous and vindictive”.

Christianity continued this demystification to undermine paganism. However by destroying myths as pagan falsehood, Christianity damaged the belief in the interaction between the cosmic and the natural world.

The steady disjunction between myths and the individual took a particular turn in modern times as disenchantment. It forced poets and writers to create their own private imaginative worlds and present it to a frequently uncomprehending public.

Rilke was one such disenchanted poet who resurrected the myth of Orpheus in his 55 Sonnets to Orpheus (1922).

WB Yeats similarly turned to the ancient Celtic myths for inspiration. TS Eliot drew on James Frazer’s study of comparative religions and myths, for his Waste Land.

How important are the religious/sacred aspects of myths to your own inspiration?
Do you think that these are relevant in our times for poets and writers?
Do you draw on any mythic traditions to write?

Myths and the Creative Imagination will be published as a Special Feature on the Atlas Poetica website at: The general guidelines for Atlas Poetica apply. Myths and the Creative Imagination will publish spring, 2015.

Please submit up to five of your tanka about myths that have a special resonance for you. Only one tanka per individual poet will be selected, so please send us your best poems. The poems must be original, previously unpublished and not under consideration by any other journal. Poems posted in social media fora like twitter, facebook or personal blogs will be considered.

Send submissions to with the subject line: “Submission – “Myths and the Creative Imagination.” Please send your tanka in the body of the email and include a brief (not more than 5-lines) bio-note about your writing. Do not send attachments, which will be deleted.

Submission deadline: 1 December —28th February 2015.

Acceptance or non-acceptance of submissions will be notified as soon as possible after the deadline.

Poem by Rudy Rios

Mile 293
Dry crisp cutting
Blow East windmill

Pissin behind
Skinny fencepost

Seagull life
Stock tank

Call liquor
Bovine shots

Tan weeds fight
Barren prairie

Desert trees
Not existent

Weary feathers
What shade

Rusted Iron
Wave wind

Weather beaten man trees
Fragile form held

Rattlesnake share
Intersections clad

Steel hoofs beat
Forward Paths

Soup Revisions and Recipes

Irene Zahava put out a call for soup pieces. I wrote one:

I cut one leek and sautee it in oil as I was once a hippie. I cut carrots chunky the way my first husband did with a Zen knife, knuckles folded in.I add parsnips because my daughter is grown and a turnip because my second husband works for a farmer’s market. I add potatoes for my Yiddish speaking grandparents. And then I put in a bullion cube or two because we once made soup in a writing class I taught and it was surprisingly delicious—a French student had secretly slipped in bullion. Bring water which travels from the mountain reservoir to my tap to a boil, then cover and simmer. While it simmers, all the yellow leaves on the apricot tree fall off, there is frost on the windshield, I bring in the last basil plant, and you return to me.

But it was over word count. Cut it and like the result better.

I cut one leek and sautee it as I was once a hippie. Cut carrots the way my first husband did with a Zen knife. Add parsnips because my daughter is grown and a turnip because my second husband works for a farmer’s market. Potatoes for my Yiddish speaking grandparents. A bullion cube because we once made soup in a writing class—surprisingly delicious—a French student had secretly slipped in bullion. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer. Yellow leaves on the apricot tree fall, frost on the windshield, I bring in the last basil plant, and you return to me.

You can read about soup at

Then Angelee Deodhar added an image. It has been fun!


Pretties in the Neighborhood

The weather has been gorgeous. Cold, but not a real freeze, so there are still help yourself tomatoes on the neighbor’s vine.
And a great deal on beads, Saturday and Sunday, in good weather, at 524 Franklin Street. 10 am to around 3 pm.


This is a great Pop Up (my new favorite idea) sale.


Why am I buying beads? I have no idea. I don’t bead. But I’m worried about some sort of apocalypse that wipes out craft supplies. Then what will I do?

Check out

Native New Yorker: Part 2 by Bibi Deitz

This is the second part of a longer essay on being a native New Yorker who lives in New York. More to come over the coming weeks.

My by-birth New Yorker friend and I found ourselves discussing Bowlmor Lanes, a bowling alley across University that served as a hub for the pizza parties of my childhood. These days, I hear it’s a hotbed for hipsters, NYU undergrads and the occasional celebrity. I would say I don’t know what happened, but I do. I know exactly what happened. Rents rose at a vertigo-inducing rate, and it became a total publish or perish situation: What was once an unsafe neighborhood in an area full of artists and drug addicts turned into tony real estate for the finance types of the world. Those who cashed in, like Bowlmor, via tweaking their profiles or catering to the right demographic or a stroke of luck, stayed afloat. The others? Like I said, most places in the neighborhood are less than seven years old.

One of the best anomalies of the neighborhood is Dinosaur Hill, my favorite toy store when I was a kid. It still exists. I don’t have any idea why. It’s still chockablock with cooperative board games, wooden trains and blocks, and nontoxic watercolors. The till is still nestled at the back of the shop, which is four hundred square feet, tops. It’s on a quiet street near Veselka (another old-timer, but they rebranded their little Ukrainian asses off and now feed the elite and old-neighborhood types alike, as well as everyone in between). It’s unassuming, with a hand-painted wood sign. More of a shingle, really. I haven’t been inside for several years—the last time was with an old boyfriend, to show him the scene of my youth. He wasn’t impressed, but that was because he wasn’t impressed with anything.

Even some of the buildings themselves haven’t survived the gentrification. Really, it’s The Gentrification, capital T, capital G: New York is unrecognizable to itself twenty years ago in a way it never was between, say, the 1960s and the 1980s. Sure, everything has sped up since then—we’ve come a long way from LSD and the Model T, and in such a short time—but this is something else. It’s so odd that it’s a common topic of conversation for those of us who were here to see the difference.

The change in architecture is especially disorienting. Sure, the place that used to be Ben & Jerry’s is now a boutique vintage shop, but you get used to that. Pretty soon, I stop thinking of the storefront on St. Mark’s as being The Space Formerly Known as Kim’s Video and accept that it’s a bubble tea joint or whatever it is now. But walking by the spot an old building used to occupy only to see its futuristic, fancy replacement is strange. It’s like winding up in Oz at last only to find that it’s just a shitty little town that looks just like Paterson, New Jersey.

One of my closest childhood friends and I walked the neighborhood recently and talked about how everything up and down the street is clearly a front. The seedy dry cleaners? A front. The shits-inducing Chinese place on the corner? A front. Momofuku? Obviously a front. We jested, but our jokes were based in truth. How many of these little bodegas pay the rent selling up-priced toothpaste? Certainly some, but there’s more than meets the eye around here.


What’s happened is that we’ve all wound up in Brooklyn. My friend from lunch lives in Williamsburg, and I am in Prospect Heights. I can’t afford the city, and, quite frankly, I don’t want to right now. I thought I did when I first returned: I stayed with my one childhood friend who still lives in the West Village, and though there is a certain allure to whisking oneself from one place to another without having to deal with the C train and its flakiness, I love Brooklyn. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Brooklyn is the Manhattan of yore.

That comes with its own set of problems. One can’t dash home to take out the dog, or touch up makeup, or take a nap. So I don’t have a dog, and I carry blotting paper and lipstick in my bag, and as for the nap—well, there’s not much napping in my life right now.

There are definitely more verifiable New Yorkers in Brooklyn than there are in Manhattan. Most of the holdouts in Manhattan are rent-controllers, which means they’re old; there’s also the occasional diehard, as it is with my friend in the West Village. But, for the most part, we’ve emigrated. We’ve grown beards and wear clogs. We have to: Call it urban armor. With all the commuting back and forth, who has time to shave? And who, pray tell, can wear heels all the time?

Every time I see a familiar storefront with an unfamiliar logo, I think—there goes the neighborhood. The nice thing about living in Brooklyn is that I don’t do that. I can’t do that. I came here plenty as a kid, sure—we even lived in Brooklyn for two years before my mother flew the coop with us to New Jersey after she left my father—but I don’t know whether the laundromat on the corner used to be a deli or not. I have no idea what formerly occupied the space that will soon be an artisanal bread shop nearby, and I don’t care. I leave that to the lifers. They exist, for sure—I’d put money on the guy I saw puffing away on a cigar the other day in his tiny “front yard” in Carroll Gardens, on a bench near a white alabaster-y statue of the Virgin Mary—and they, I’m sure, have their own things to say about the Brooklyn version of The Gentrification.

Truth is, it’s happening everywhere, in all five boroughs—I just notice it most in the downtownmost part of the city, because those are my stomping grounds. That’s where I’m from, so that’s what I care about. I’m a New Yorker, so I’m unapologetic about that. I care about what I care about, I don’t give a shit about the things that don’t catch my interest, and I’m just downright not going to pretend, to your face or anywhere else. I take up the space I need to take up. That’s a direct effect of growing up in the city, and I am grateful for it. I don’t want to apologize for who I am, or what I do, or what I think or need. If I have children, I’d like to raise them here, and I imagine they’ll have the same worldview. It’s not entitled; it’s honest. I don’t believe in hiding our basic instincts. This opens room for the important things: space for our art, our breath, our thoughts. Psychic claustrophobia? I think not. Not for me, and not for any of my fellow locals. We’re from here, and we’ve figured out a way to make the city work for us—not the other way around.