October 24, 2022
January 25, 2022
A few weeks ago I received an email from the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) that an occasional poem I wrote for the Emma Lazarus Project: Poetry Contest was the first of two finalists, along with a winner. I was most delighted due to the fact that my poem "Dear American Lady" will be archived with Emma Lazarus' original sonnet "The New Colossus."
In her acceptance email with the AJHS, Manager of Programs & Operations Rebeca Miller wrote, " Our judges had an incredibly tough time choosing from hundreds of incredible entries made from across the country. Only two finalists were selected for each category, and in honor of this accomplishment we have posted your poem on the AJHS website in our Poetry Gallery...[and] your poem will be placed next to the work of Emma Lazarus in the AJHS archive to be appreciated for generations to come." (italics mine)
I have to say those are pretty stellar digs for my poem to be archived with "The New Colossus."
And coming on the heels of my intentionally taking a break from writing/publishing the whole of 2021.
As defined by the Poetry Foundation, an occasional poem is one written to "describe or comment on a particular event...," and generally not considered the most pleasurable of endeavors to execute, as the subject matter is handed to a poet on a prescribed platter and while not distinctly uttered, a party line is courteously insinuated. That said, "I acknowledge" the latter half of the last line of "DAL" is a party line. I felt the need to wrap it up, and I was sorely limited to 14 lines, a truncation of my natural narrative poetic voice.
|Poet Lynn Melnick|
As it happens, the brilliantly soulful and accomplished poet, Lynn Melnick, was teaching a series of poetry workshops via Zoom about the Statue of Liberty this past fall for the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS). Lynn is also a friend of mine, and I was happy about three things: I would actually get to see her again (think Covid-culture), chatting, smiling, teaching, sitting at her now-famous perch window overlooking a Brooklyn avenue; she taught poetry workshops at Columbia so I was thinking, hey, let me get a listen up at what those ivy students are privy to; and what!, dealmaker! - all the workshops were free. The more I frequented Lynn's workshops, which were not many occasions but enough to warrant a serious quandary for me: Lynn had obviously prepared these polished, chock-full sessions filled with insight into the motivations of Lazarus, Jewish history at the time of the construction of the Statue/writing of "The Great Colossus," the obvious rifts in "the times" between then and now, poetic themes using contemporary poetry and the Lazarus poem, and the bigger draw of the contest the workshops were propelling toward. I knew I had to enter the contest.
I am glad that I did and that I wrote the poem I personally felt. This is an image of what was once a small green tree sapling. The Originals: Early Native Americans would bend these little saplings in dense forests to assist them in "recording" their routes to and from their journeys. If you happen upon them in your travels, they are considered rare good fortune.
|Native American Route Marker from Tree Sapling|
Many people are aware that poet Emma Lazarus wrote the famous sonnet "The New Colossus" in 1883 about the Statue of Liberty. Very few people, I am guessing, know that Emma Lazarus was Jewish. I did not know this. I was quite surprised at this fact. I am constantly surprised, as a half-Jewish woman, how little Jewish people are celebrated for their vast and myriad gifts. I want to see that rectified.
By Cynthia Schwartzberg Edlow
We acknowledge. Beneath the sun-spoked diadem
Encircling your celebrated head these two centuries plus,
You remain marvelously fair. Neither the heavy torch
Nor the massive, dated tablet have felled you. Still you hospitably
Offer greeting. Once you were a foreigner. Here is home where
Originals thrived. They toiled and feasted upon this land,
Trod many-hued dirt paths to reach five bejeweled
Great lakes, deciphered bird calls from bird cries,
Studiously bent tree saplings into route markers that stand
Today immense in the forests. To clear and cleanse the land
Fire was mastered. Reluctantly they gave way for others.
They continue to forge on. With iron muscle and copper skin
Across pitching cold waters you came shipped.
Your relations courted an ocean liner’s sterling upper decks
Expectant of fertile country. Three decks below in dank wishful
Steerage, a stew of languages sung out for ground that would
Grant trust. From cargo ships, by haunted hull despicable,
Multitudes in shackled chains. Yet, for all, their blood, their kinfolk, their
successors onward forge. All who witnessed the boats sail in long ago,
And sail in still. Under your golden flame, the promise ever cresting.
2021 Archival Finalist – Emma Lazarus Contest
American Jewish Historical Society
August 23, 2021
March 28, 2021
My first collection of poetry had about 85-90% of its poems previously published, or awarded, or something along those lines, but there were a handful of poems no one would touch with a ten-foot-pole, and now in reminiscing back on this particular poem, back when it was wending its way to a university journal or a new-ish press or a big famous magazine, for instance, I cannot help but be a- and be-mused over how unsuitable this headpiece was as their slush reading material~
Finally: after the battered, powerful red-and-white crane,
operated by a man called Maverick, whose huge hand
I personally shook, was raised seven stories high to the top
but scrupulously set on the roof to install higher space,
making room for even more of the unwell and terribly needy,
the sodomite prostate,
its ruffled capsule battered by voracious cancer
but not burst, and not spread to the thirsty lymph system,
had been yanked like a satanic thing out of there. By spidery robot arms.
The M.D. Ph.D. surgeon operated half a room away, fiddling
a joystick in front of a screen to burn death out of the trunk
of my husband. Yet his hands were small as a girl’s, the fingertips
tapered down like candelabra fine-drip wax. Earlier, he’d carried
a backpack to Pre-op like a high school kid on his way to first period.
Doctor doctor, I prayed and held my breath. When a terrible storm blew in
a nurse hovered over my husband, said to the medical team, If the electricity goes
I tell you that wife will be barreling through those operating room doors.
Doctor doctor, whom I could crush with one passionate hug…
five hours later he entered the little consult room
to tell me the surgery couldn’t have gone better. I swore
at the cancer, at the prostate, who we’d nicknamed Ernie,
Ernie the bad seed, and I made him tell me
three times how it had not spread, the nerves intact,
and I believed I would be able to make love to my husband again,
because he was there, alive, and his beautiful penis
might know erection once more, because I was selfish, and torn;
death had passed over this one day
our very house. I kissed the right hand of our surgeon
as if he embodied some mythical conception, the finite hand
that processed medicine and technology through the belly
of a simple man so that he could come home, and I
granted the privilege to shut the widow’s door, an empty room
with only a straight-back chair. The doctor then was up out of his seat,
would stay no longer, someone else was under anesthesia.
That person required attending.
This poem appears in The Day Judge Spencer Learned the Power of Metaphor.
November 23, 2020
The winter themed-issue of The Ilanot Review is called "Toxic." In it is a new poem of mine. When I posted a link to the poem on Facebook, along with it went a warning the size of a railroad crossing that went this way: "I have a poem in the aptly named "Toxic" issue of The Ilanot Review and a person tells me I am supposed to tell you a little thing about triggers. So if you have a trigger about mothers, or about metal, or bedrooms, or food, or dreamstates, or lipstick or toques or corners, you know. If you have a trigger about triggers you should most probably not read this poem."
If you've sidestepped the landmine and would still like to read the poem, please click its title: "Dream Poem of Mother Over and Above Her Kitchen-Skill Capacity."
If you just can't help yourself and you have to read where it proclaims:
Thank you for reading.
February 28, 2020
|Phillip H. McMath Post Publication Book Award|
- to honor the contributions of Phillip H. McMath to the Arkansas literary community;
- highlight, and promote stellar books by emerging writers;
- identify authors who can serve as role models for our students;
- to develop the Arkansas Writer’s MFA Workshop Resource Fund.
December 2, 2019
Contributors include really fantastic poets: Jeanine Hall Gailey, Sandy Yannone, Richard Jarette, David Rigsbee, Eileen Casey, and many, many more, and that's some of the roster in the second volume, alone. The first volume, too, is chock full of glorious reading! This is a beautiful journal in all respects. Hats off to Mark Ulyseas for his dedication and stewardship over a decade showcasing international poetry in his splendid journal. The entire LE Volume Two, December, 2019, 10th Anniversary Edition, at your fingertips!
August 9, 2019
It looked very much like this--
Because I knew, I knew it, just like Dr. Einstein knew about his bomb, they wouldn't be able to corral that thing back. Oh, to live in Mayberry with Andy.
March 26, 2019
March 2, 2019
|Publisher: Canisy Press|
You can order your copy of the anthology today at Plume Poetry 7. I am confident this anthology will excite and satiate your literary spirit.