About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well (https://miriamswell.wordpress.com). The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

Active-Shooter Drills Are Tragically Misguided–From The Atlantic

Active-Shooter Drills Are Tragically Misguided
There’s scant evidence that they’re effective. They can, however, be psychologically damaging—and they reflect a dismaying view of childhood.
Our feverish pursuit of disaster preparedness lays bare a particularly sad irony of contemporary life. Among modernity’s gifts was supposed to be childhood—a new life stage in which young people had both time and space to grow up, without fear of dying or being sent down a coal mine. To a large extent, this has been achieved. American children are manifestly safer and healthier than in previous eras. The mortality rate of children under 5 in the United States today is less than 1 percent (or 6.6 deaths per 1,000 children), compared with more than 40 percent in 1800. The reduction is miraculous. But as in so many other realms, we seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/03/active-shooter-drills-erika-christakis/580426/

Personally, I feel educational institutions would be safer if there was stringent gun control, more extensive counseling services, and efforts to build community.

Abortion: Money in the Sock

This isn’t a subject I usually write about, but because it is on the legal table in New Mexico, I feel compelled.

When I was a young woman, abortion was illegal. Then, towards the end of high school, it became legal in New York State, just across the line from Jersey. Funny thing, but it was also illegal to prescribe birth control to a minor in New Jersey. So we were stuck. The girls in my high school who got pregnant had several choices:

1. Enter into a forced, often bitterly unhappy, young marriage. This was probably the most frequent.
2. Go to visit a remote “aunt”–give birth, give the baby away, and never know of that child again.
3. Go to Puerto Rico for an abortion.
And remain silent on all of this.

All of these choices involved confessing to your parents, and financial resources. All involved a lot of suffering. You could also try for an illegal abortion by a legitimate doctor, but this was somewhat beyond our knowledge. However, once abortion became legal in New York, we had a way out. And so we started a fund. A group pooled in and put together over a hundred dollars cash. We kept it in a sock and rotated it among us so we wouldn’t get caught. It was used once, replenished, and not used again before I graduated.

The lessons were harsh:

1. Boys/men won’t help you–either by using birth control or by paying for an abortion.
2. The “adult” world exists to punish or even kill young women who step out of line.
3. Sexuality is dangerous and self-destructive.

I know these are far from ultimate truths, and can be overcome. But it was the atmosphere in which I came of age.

There was another lesson: Depend on other women.

Miraculously, a clinic opened up in upstate New York where a gynecologist would prescribe birth control pills and contraceptive diaphragms, and even IUDS. You had to ride the local bus (many of us didn’t even have driver’s licenses or access to a car), cash clutched in hand. Go to the clinic, endure a pelvic, and trust a complete stranger. Lie about your whereabouts. Sleep over at a friend’s so as to not have to account for the time.

The doctor was obviously a wonderful person. He was kind, informative, and blandly professional. He had worked in a “home” for unwed mothers. He was the reason we stopped using the sock money.

The debate against abortion just tends to make me feel insane, so I am not going into any of it here. Just to say, abortion is still illegal in New Mexico. That was overridden by Roe vs. Wade, but if that changes we’ll revert. If you are in state, please note:

A special request: we continue to hear that calls from anti-abortion activists are flooding the governor’s office with calls 3 to 1 against HB 51. Please call the governor’s office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at (505) 476-2200 to support HB 51: Decriminalize Abortion.

How Do You Title Your Poems?

Some poets use numbers, while some avoid titles altogether. However, a title always has the potential to be a useful part of the whole.
A student recently asked for some tips, which I synthesized here.


None—this gives a sense of acceleration, getting in to the poem quickly. It is like entering a house without a foyer or mudroom. It loses the technique of title, but it can have a clean immediate feeling.

First line—the title functions as a first line or intro to the poem. This is a way to add a line to a poem–particularly in a fixed form.

Contrast—the title sets up an expectation that it fulfills (13 Ways of Looking At A Blackbird by Wallace Stevens or any list poem) or contradicts the opening in an interesting way.

Painterly—an imagistic title that might go with a work of art. This is among my favorite options–descriptive, associative.

Explanatory, but only in a poetic sense—don’t summarize as an editorial (A Private Calligraphy—a poem of mine about knitting in Japan)

From the form—don’t just call a poem “Sestina” but Adrienne Rich has “Blue Ghazals.”

Obviously rules are made to be broken, but this gives some options. I’d be delighted to have you share your own process as well