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.

Maternal Mitochondria’s “Book” Is Finished!

When Maternal Mitochondria was asked by a gallery for an artist’s book, we did not have one on hand. Our work over the past year has been mostly ephemeral installation in public spaces. But we were intrigued. After all, we often combine suminagashi and text.
     We are not traditional book artists so we decided to play with the form of a book– keeping the interactive and narrative elements, and evoking the sense of wonder that comes from opening a volume for the first time. A box, like a book, holds the unknown. Working with sculptural elements instead of a traditional printed book gave us the opportunity for the narrative to be carried through to the outside form, offering a tactile experience that serves as a link to memory.
     The poem came first. It is 36 stanzas of linked verse, in the tradition of the Japanese renga. As a homage to its origins, the renga opens with our translation of Basho. In addition, this renga is divided into thematic sections which include travel, home, the Gothic, astronomy, and the seasons.
     We wrote it collaboratively over a two day period, alternating stanzas or links. Each section of poetry responds to the previous one, both reflecting it and breaking away on its own. The sculptural element can be viewed as the first and last stanza in the poem, or even a kind of shadow that tags along, something that stays with the viewer while they are engaged with the text.
     The text was then printed on to two decks of 18 cards each. The cards follow the poem, and include suminagashi done in the traditional approach with black ink.
     The box is collaged with Japanese paper. It references boxes of cake found everywhere in Japanese train stations. The treat is taken home to share and the box serves as a memento.
     The title “Souvenir” evokes both memory and immediacy. How do we perceive and express the moment? Can that expression also be what reminds us of where we’ve been?

     The poem was written collaboratively by Miriam and Isabel. Concept by Miriam. Fabrication including printing, design, suminagashi, and collage by Isabel.

How fun!
this spring, again
the traveler’s song

songbird’s tiny egg
in chicken yard

under a cactus
psychedelic desert
skull, gently resting

a lizard
on petrified wood

four planets
hang brightly at dusk—
red lampshade

the door propped open
crickets chirp in the moon

Milky Way
separates the lovers,
you take my hand

waiting for the dawn
on the roof, trespassing

children move rocks
in the arroyo,
chamisa blooms

wish upon a penny
an eyelash, a sidewalk crack

woman in white
stares at us through the window
glowing red eyes

the grownups won’t believe us—
pinky swearing our secret

wears the canyon down
as time does me

a mushroom peaks through the snow,
no fairy rings this time

vast caverns
the drip drip
of patient water

cracks run through the earth
like memories, like words

too hot too soon
we sleep with windows open,
edge of the bed

wedding guests
chat about divorce

love in Ohio
spring storms, trees and wires
litter the streets

gentle rain
open mouthed kiss

black dog
under the truck, shadow
in the shade

traveling across my land
coyotes eat the berries

leave me some lettuce

a bull snake in the tree
is carefully relocated

is that
a woman wailing
or just the wind?

an old story
to scare bad children

a fox cooks udon
in mist, only the hungry
can find him

the witch’s house
turns on chicken legs

New Year’s day
everyone on the train
is going home

a single pink mochi cake
a celebration
the kami return
to the mountains,
cranes start flying

huddled in the kitchen
sustained by hot tea

a stranger
In a strange land
the rabbit’s ear twitches

car radios’ oldies
aren’t old enough for me

going nowhere fast
I feel limitless
who are you?

just another pilgrim
staff blooming in spring

Chicago by Laila James

Chicago by Laila James

His eyes were secretly beautiful
Bold and brown at first glance,
From near or far for the first few days together.
He lay on my couch at sundown and all the beautiful parts of him
Ricocheted off the gold honeycomb, bordering the black.
Sparks of green underneath the hombre to bold brown.
He grinned and charged with little boy glee of being seen
He saw my face light up and all his hope pulled me to him for a kiss

He sent a photo of his leg
Mid-thigh to the end of the foot
Shorts raised to reveal the leg of his Hanes.
An unremarkable knee on an unremarkable leg,
Laid flat on the recliner
No muscle tone to boast
No flexing for extra effect
Relaxed, silly, sweet flirt of a knee

In the morning his eyes went dark
He spoke of old loves and old responsibilities
And their current weight
He spoke of an understanding in the shower
That he needed to get away
The bold brown closing out light
Fear and anger setting in
Little boy’s heart reacting in a man’s body
His brow bone got heavier
He asked me to go away with him
My instinct was to mother him, but I knew I had to let him go


Laila James is an actor, writer, student at SFCC who recently studied at Santa Fe University of Art and Design where she graduated summa cum laude.

How To Submit To Literary Magazines

I’m reblogging the start of this from John Sibley Williams. To read the whole, click here.
I found this useful. Enjoy!

Submit. Submit. Submit.
• Submit continuously. Submit everything to everyone and wait until your pieces begin to stick. They will. You just need the right editor to read them, and you never know who will be the right editor for each piece.
• Look past rejection. Don’t worry if a piece has been rejected by countless magazines. if you believe in it and are diligent with your submission method, it will find publication eventually.
Editors call this the shotgun approach. They warn against it, and I don’t blame them. But the simple truth is, it works.
Having taught dozens of submission-focused workshops, I’ve found that the expectation inherent in the commonly accepted strategy actually deters emerging writers from submitting at all. It’s been drummed into them that “real writers” must carefully study every journal, and they have neither the time nor the industry knowledge to do so. So they feel like unprofessional outsiders and end up fearing the submission process.
Telling my students that they should simply submit, regardless of their familiarity with each journal, has met with such surprise and enthusiasm. There’s a freedom in recognizing submissions aren’t some black-and-white, ivory tower art form.
Many editors may react negatively to this strategy. As a journal editor myself, I understand why, not least because going through unsuitable submissions takes time. However, let’s consider the only thing that really matters: ensuring literature thrives. I’d rather have to look at extra submissions that obviously aren’t right for my journal (we know those works right away and reject quickly) than demand everyone study us before submitting.

The dress flew through the air

Here is a non-narrative from a long story I’m working on. Dress is from my collection.

The dress flew through the sky like a heavenly body. It was a white dress, for summer, sequined on the bodice. It flew off its hanger in the back of the closet and went high into the clouds and the summer constellations. It flew above the dome of the mosque and the spires of the cathedral. Streaking like a comet, it spread its arms like the wings of a swan rearing up and ready to slash with its ferocious beak.

The red of Mars dripped over the dress and like the maple trees along the river on the west side of the island it turned crimson as blood.

The dress was the color of mushrooms, buried up to its waist in the wet earth. It smelled of rain. Hem, ruffles, and petticoats were all hidden in the dirt. Long sleeves quivered in the wind. A crow pecked and pecked until a button hung by a thread, then snapped. The moon appeared in the day time sky, swallowing memory.

The dress has a huge skirt painted like a stage scene for a ballet. The bodice is designed as a large mushroom. Embroidered swans turn into women, and viva versa. You need to wear red boots with this. At the hem women are working in a factory line, their hair tied up. A girl buries her nose in the flank of a horse and starts crying. Although there are soldiers everywhere, in every village the world over, they are banned from this particular skirt.

Voodoo Child

In Patricia Pearce’s class we’ve been doing a project to line the hallways of Santa Fe Community College–altered egg cartons. Here is one of mine, part of a group named after the Jimi Hendrix song. It’s about an experience of trespass–coming across an altar in a park, burned down candles by a tide line, remnants of a ceremony or party I didn’t attend and know only by what is left behind.

Thanks to Judy Mosher for the photo.

Do I Have Enough by Miriam Sagan

Do I Have Enough?

The question of having enough came up in the interfaith torah study group I attend. It caught my interest, and I started asking a bunch of people the same question. What I found out fairly quickly is that one size of answer does not fit all. It depends in part on context.

1. From the spiritual perspective, the answer has to be yes, if only as an intention. Some of it is being content with what I have, and not driven by the materialism of consumer culture. Some is being at peace with the present, not too driven by attachment and desire. It feels good. And it might be a position to lean into rather than attain.

2. From the viewpoint of social justice, inequality makes it impossible for millions to have enough. Enough shelter, clean water, food, health, and even rights and freedom. If the fight for equality is about redistributing wealth, and about self-government, then there is a lack. However, #1 and #2 might be combined. The head of Solidarity in Poland once said that while the Polish people were likely to never get out from under the Soviet yoke they could still bring a utopia to earth by treating each other properly.
And then the Soviets fell.

3. Psychologically, or emotionally, many of the people I asked felt they settled for too little. Too little freedom, too little happiness, too little self-esteem. Some people wanted more potato chips or money. But most who said they didn’t have enough wanted something like love. It seems that this feeling of lack could be filled by questing and seeking for the missing part.
Can it also be solved by saying that what is is “enough?”

In my life today, at the age of 65, one of the things that worries me most is health. Also, the condition of our country. Let’s take the second. Do I have enough freedom, security, lack of fear, and social harmony? From one viewpoint, of course not, when detained immigrants are incarcerated beneath the overpasses of El Paso. However, if I build community, volunteer, donate, and fight the power in whatever ways are lined up with my character then indeed I do experience a lack of fear and more.
As to heath, I had the startling realization that perhaps I do have “enough.” I can walk and dance, travel, eat, laugh, even party from time to time. I have my mobility, although it can be a struggle. I once heard a disability activist say that able-bodied people didn’t seem all that happy to her. That really impressed me. I wonder if working on feeling “enough” health-wise might not calm me down and let me appreciate things more.

Passover is coming—my favorite Jewish holiday—the holiday of freedom. And the holiday of gratitude, where Jews say “dayenu”—it would have been enough—for each of God’s liberating actions.

It’s easy to challenge the notion of “enough.” Someone else looking at my funky house or somewhat eccentric career trajectory might say that I certainly don’t have enough. However, perceived lack fuels our striving and acquisition. I’m increasingly rejecting the notion of more.

Maybe the only thing I don’t have enough of is peace of mind.