I Remember 2014

This was written in response to Irene Zahava, who created a wonderful communal poem–
http://lostpaper.blogspot.com/2014/12/i-remember-2014-collective-list.html

Here is mine in its entirety. Try your own!

I remember turning 60 at Monument Valley among red rock monoliths, infinitely older than human life.

I remember my left-handed friend with whom I shared a name dying slowly in hospice.

I remember my demented stroked father saying: it’s so unusual that we get on; but he didn’t mean him and me.

I remember watching a Tibetan monk in sneakers begging and a woman in rhinestone trimmed chiffon purdah on Miami Beach.

I remember how I knew my daughter had named the little chocolate lab “Faye” for the fairy folk.

I remember my student comparing his pueblo to King Arthur’s court.

I remember how mad I was when you pointed out my neck is wrinkled.

I remember sitting in box seats for the first time in my life at “Madame Butterfly.”

I remember staying up all night reading the Tarot cards next to my account book when I got a 4% cut in pay.

I remember turning a corner in the autumn wind and not caring about the headlines or my own story.

The Blog Is On Vacation and so is The Editor!

Miriam’s Well is on vacation until January 1, 2015. Enjoy the winter holidays!

We’ll be back, with a bunch of interviews with poets, an essay on poetry on sand, a review of the best Baba Yaga novel ever, a visit to a sustainable adobe art site, more from contributing writers and new-to-us writers, a preview of Kathleen Lee’s forthcoming novel about China in the 1980’s, and a continuing look at habits—good and bad.

As always, I welcome contributions from you, the blog’s readers. Particularly interested in haiku, tanka, haibun, and personal essay. Also on the lookout for quirky musings and images. And coverage of local events, calls for submissions, small press, and views of land art.

I will be reading and responding to email during the break at msagan1035@aol.com.

Thank you—it has been a great year.

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Eccentric teapot,SFCC

When I Was Young, I Put Myself in Harm’s Way: Poem by Miriam Sagan

When I Was Young, I Put Myself in Harm’s Way

hoping to get hurt
or at least
fall off the back of a motorcycle
and break my heart

how, now past sixty, I’ll still
go out of my way
and travel some cardinal direction or other
saying, I just want to see
(volcano, glacier, Miami Beach)

before it is too late
for me, or it,
and put myself in the way of beauty
and let her have her way with me.

International Interview: Nalini Priyadarshni interviews D. Russel Micnhimer

 
What prompted you to begin writing poetry?
 
Being in love. I was in the Marine Corps and she was 1500 miles away so we exchanged innumerable letters, long letters and I found myself expressing my feelings in more, let us say, flowery ways. I’m sure the poems then weren’t really any good but I was getting my feelings across and that was the idea. I think something similar prompts many people to start writing poems—and some of us don’t have the sense to stop.
 
You have traveled all over the world and continue to travel around US. How does it affect your writing?
 
That is a difficult question. There are still many places in the world I have never been to, of course. I think the thing that travel does is expand one’s ideas about what is the norm. I have lived in jungles with only a hammock for a bed and flown in jets to some of the most highly populated cities in the world. Each culture and the people in it are different. I guess that having experienced a broad range of differences in real life opens me up to a broader range of language use and meaning that presumably percolates down into my poetry sometimes.  Each language has it’s own rhythms and even if I don’t know the language, if I am immersed in a culture those patterns are automatically incorporated into my language producing engines and sooner or later appear, usually well incorporated into my poetry.
 
What does it mean to you to be a poet?
 
It is one of many labels that I might apply to myself if I were to try to define who it is I have been during my life. It would certainly be one of the more gratifying descriptions I might wish my memory to be associated with. But I am proud of the work that I have done in the field of archaeology, specifically rock art also.
 
As a poet it means that I have a degree of ability to communicate with language that is more advanced than most folks who are not called poets. Some would call poetry art and if one agrees with that then it means I am an artist.
 
I guess at the base it means that I enjoy playing with language much like others might enjoy a sport with a ball for instance. It is a pastime that pleasures me; and it pleasures me most when I have done it well. If I communicate what I intended to with my words then I have succeeded.
 
Do you have any parting words for budding writers or any words of wisdom to share?
Anyone can profess to be a poet or a writer. The thing that separates the real ones from the rest is that they write. Write, write, write and then write some more. That and study the craft. It is a craft and many have practiced it before, seek to learn from them. To not do so deprives the poet of a huge arsenal of useful tools that may be employed. Sure, there may be a select few who really do not need education in order to write decent poetry, but they are few and far between. At least that has been my experience. Reading and listening to other poets is something I include in that process of learning. Take note of what you like. Few find their own voice over night; some never do but if you don’t keep writing it is guaranteed you never will. Remember too that there is not an editor who is going to come around and ask if you have a box of poetry under the bed that you would like to share. So share it at every chance you get in as many ways as you can.  Have faith that simply by doing and doing and doing, your work will improve.  And with any luck, some day you will be writing poetry in a manner that matches the voice you hear in your head–your voice.  And then you can get busy and write some more poetry.
 
You have lived a very unique life, a life really individual and fearless.
 
True that. Though there are times I’ve been scared shitless!  I have always chosen my own path.  Like I have often said, there is the right way and the wrong way and then there is the Micnhimer way–that’s the one I can not help but follow.  By doing that one comes to accept the entire responsibility for the out come.  Accepting that responsibility gives me the freedom to be who I want to be and who I am.

***

D. Russel Micnhimer has been writing poetry for forty five years while working at a variety of jobs and traveling through much of the world pursuing his interests in the archaeology of ancient civilizations and rock art they have left behind. He is author of several books on rock art, fiction and poetry including his latest collection Notes to Be Left with the Gatekeeper published by Global Fraternity of Poets for which he was recently bestowed the honor of Poet Laureate by The Poetry Society of India. His collection of ghazals, Lotus Mirage and another collection of his early poems are due later this year. He holds a degree in English from the University of Oregon on the west coast of the United States. 

Nalini Priyadarshni is a poet, writer, editor and amateur photographer. Her work has appeared at Up the Staircase Weekly, eFiction India, Mad Swirl, Crescent Magazine, The Riveter Review, Writes & Lovers Café,The Gambler, Camel Saloon, Earl of Plaid,CUIB-NEST-NIDO, and The Open Road Review besides numerous anthologies including I Am Woman, Awakening of She, Art of Being Human etc. Her forthcoming publications include Maelstrom Journal, Undertow Tanka, 52 Loves and Phoenix Photo and Fiction. She lives in India with her husband and two feisty kids. 

Hugging Mom Emoji: An Ongoing Mother-Daughter Lovefest Via Imagined Emojis by Bibi Deitz

Hugging Mom Emoji: An Ongoing Mother-Daughter Lovefest Via Imagined Emojis

My mother has a flip phone. Some, like me, might say she’s caught in another time—say, the year 2000. I have a brand new, gold iPhone 6, but I can hang with the neo-analog. A few months ago, when my mother was visiting me in Brooklyn, I introduced her to emojis. She loved them so much that she considered upgrading to a smartphone for a moment—but just for a moment. We can’t exchange them, of course: In this modern era, different generations of technology come with their own languages; we create new iterations of communication so quickly that a years-old phone cannot talk to a new one dexterously, like someone speaking Japanese to an Italian. So instead we started making up our own emojis, which I call imojis, for “imagined emojis,” or, more specifically, momojis, for obvious reasons. Here are some of them:

From my mother:
“Little drawing of a sock” (accompanying “I found my socks!”):
The imoji that started it all. I can’t remember how or why this was important enough to send a text about; but, then again, these days just about anything is important enough to send via text.

From my mother:
“Little picture of a mom hugging and kissing her daughter”:
The genius thing about a describe-your-own-emoji, much like a choose-your-own-adventure, is that one can visualize such an emoji without having to use the same hackneyed picture over and over. Don’t get me wrong: I adore emojis, and the news that 250 more are to be released soon is some of the best news I’ve heard in a while. That said, there are only so many times that one can send the two girls in leotards holding hands emoji before it starts to lose its luster.

From me:
“Big grin on pretty woman’s face”:
This was in response to my mother’s long-standing variation on the ancient smiley face (the classic colon followed by a close-parenthesis), which is, simply, “smile.”

From my mother:
“Honorable mother smiles beneficently upon honorable daughter”:
This was in response to my “Big grin on pretty woman’s face” emoji. Another great thing about the tailor-made emoji is that the process allows for personality to shine through. While it is true that the way in which one chooses to use emojis shows character—am I sending obvious emojis all the time, such as smiley faces and hearts, or do I go the distance sometimes with, say, a saxophone or an pot of honey?—emojis are inherently prefab. The difference between my imoji and my mother’s response is plain, and that’s part of what makes these little technological gems so precious.

From me:
“A post office on fire, as in fiery hell”:
This pretty much speaks for itself. I was at the post office near my apartment in Brooklyn. It’s notorious for the length of its slow-moving lines. I had to wait, because I needed postage for a letter to London. Come to think of it, though, why isn’t there an picture of a post office on fire in the existing emoji lexicon? This seems important, and universal. Aren’t most post offices akin to insufferable infernos?

From my mother:
“Emoji of mom, hoping no lasting effects will accrue”:
Here is a little bit of a sad one. After my mother came for a visit, during which we marveled over the Brooklyn leaves red and orange and yellow in their mid-autumn coats, she sent a photo of the tree outside of her house in New Jersey accompanied by this text. It was a mostly lovely visit, with the exception of a difficult half hour in which we couldn’t decide whether to go to the Met or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and somehow this transposed and garbled to become a feeling of not being welcome in my home for my mother. I’m not sure how this happened, as is the case with every argument—the teacup isn’t washed or the window is carelessly left open and, without a roadmap back, two people start fighting about who is more to blame for an antediluvian injustice—but we were able to let it go quickly and enjoy the yellow-rumped warblers and the acme of leaves in full color. Later, once my mother had returned home, this sweet sentiment came through, on the wings of satellites.

From my mother:
“Emoji of a mom standing looking lovingly at her dear daughter from afar, eyes soft and arms slightly outstretched in a gentle, almost hugging shape”:
By far, this was the most elaborate momoji to date. No further elaboration necessary, but can’t you just see it so vividly?

From me:
“Emoji of a daughter throwing hands in the air excitedly and sticking tongue out to taste snow falling next to emoji of mother clapping hands and smiling wearing big blue down coat and large winter hat”:
In response to: “It’s snowing!” I mean, hey—why not?

From my mother:
“Hugging mom emoji”:
I think this is my favorite. Simple, direct, charming. And full of love.

From me:
“Daughter frolicking in the snow emoji”:
The New York tri-state area’s first real snowfall of the year provoked quite a flurry of momojis, ending with this one, sent from a cozy restaurant on Union Square while snow fell, soft and insistent, outside picture windows. I was not, in fact, frolicking—rather, I was eating burgers with three girlfriends—but I could not send four hamburger emojis, so I was forced to be creative instead.

Made up emojis—or, as my mother sometimes spells them, “emogis” (because, you know, she’s my mom. Also, she’s 60.)—are so much better than actual emojis. I love emojis, and I use them, sometimes a little too liberally, to express the gamut of emotion within a medium that is stark and bare-boned and often cryptic. I am grateful for emojis. But sometimes, when the right one doesn’t exist (I’m looking at you, Unicode Consortium—where’s the post office on fire emoji? The hugging mom emoji? The wolf emoji, the clam emoji, the motorcycle and bassinet and ice skate emoji?), imojis are germane in a way that lexical emojis are not.

Postscript:
After I wrote this essay, my mother and I exchanged a series of texts about the phenomenon of liking the way one looks in a photograph after the fact, but in the moment thinking one looks crazy/awful/like a dead rat. “Perhaps later we are released from whatever critical thoughts we had of ourselves at the time, because we have forgotten them,” my mother wrote. I agreed that that was part of it, but pointed out that later we still harbor critical thoughts of ourselves. A moment later, she responded by saying, “Yes, but now they are new critical thoughts, and the old ones have faded a bit to make room for the new!” And then, folded into the crevices of the text like chocolate chips into cake batter, a new momoji: “Mom smiles softly, and a bit wistfully, as she sits in her chair with her stripey nightgown on, thinking of so many examples of this.”

It hit me then that the best part of imojis is that they occasion an opportunity to describe our feelings and actions in real time—a new frontier in the cascade of fresh opportunities for communication as provided by the phenomenon of text messages in general and emojis in specific. Sometimes, to be sure, a smiley face with hearts for eyes or an umbrella with raindrops or a helicopter or bicycle or palm tree or alligator or Statue of Liberty is all that we need. But when emojis fail—when a lone mushroom or caterpillar or slice of cake is not sufficient, there are imojis. And they unleash a fount of expression that is often closed even in face-to-face dialogue, because imojis afford the opportunity to express real and deep emotion in nonthreatening and adorable way.

“Daughter sits pondering momojis and imojis and emojis and life at large at a desk in Brooklyn, thinking of her powerful and astonishing love for her mother while snow melts in New Jersey and already-melted snow evaporates in New York, as James Blake plays and wind blows and someone somewhere is having the best day of their life.” Daughter, out.

Bibi Deitz lives and writes in Brooklyn. Recent work has appeared in Bookforum, The Rumpus, Berfrois and BOMB, and is forthcoming from Marie Claire.