Wednesday, January 28, 2015


I'm looking forward to teaching a poetry class at the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center in April and May, 2015. The four-session class will feature four traditional poetic forms that students will learn by understanding their patterns. Each week I will introduce a new form and a writing prompt designed to illuminate it. Students shall have an opportunity to understand and practice the villanelle, the pantoum, the sonnet, and the very short tanka. 

Writers will discover that although these names may sound new or daunting, the patterns inherent in each form can help them create the best work they have ever produced! We are planning an adventurous course with gentle sharing and easy models to follow.

We will also start with some ice breakers to help students think like poets. The following poem (with Spanish original) by the Mexican poet, Alberto Forcada, is an example of one that pushes the imagination to new heights.


The trees are birds bewitched.
They can't lift their feet from the ground.                                                                                  
Again and again they beat their wings
furiously, pluck at their feathers, weep.

How can I break this spell?
What words should I say?

How many times must I kiss them?



Los árboles son pájaros hechizados.
No pueden despegar la pata del suelo.

Una y otra vez aletean con furia.
Se arrancan las plumas, sollozan.

Cómo romper el maleficio?
Qué palabras deberé pronunciar?

Cuántas veces tendré que besarlos?

Thursday, January 22, 2015


            I, for one, love reading about the magic and majesty of winter. Deep in frigid January I glance outside to white on white, pale sky dipping into snow on a twelve degree day. I don’t love winter, but I am one of the strange breed who prefers this season to the months of dripping humidity. And so it was with great pleasure that I came upon the gorgeous photographs by Evgenia Arbugaeva in Orion magazine of a town surrounded by tundra, where the average temperature in January is -29 degrees Fahrenheit.    

            Journeying to the far-north Russian town of Tiksi on the Arctic Ocean where she grew up until she was eight years old, Arbugaeva wanted to recapture the enchanted memories she had of a childhood before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Her photographic journey really came to life when she befriended a young girl, Tanya, who served as her model in this place of desolation and wonder. There is Tanya with her husky dog on the first day of summer, wearing her red boots and trapped on an ice floe. There she is, running on the snow after school past a wreck of an enormous, yellow cement block building. In another photo Tanya skips stones from a rusty barge; in another she creates an eerie shadow on an old brick house. There is her uncle Vanya ice fishing, and in another the glory of a place where for sixty-seven consecutive days in winter the sun does not rise but the Aurora Borealis turns on its violet, green and yellow lights.

            These polar photographs took my breath away, perhaps because I sometimes believe that I live in the frozen tundra, even as climate change shakes the earth and weird events separate winter into cold and warm days. I cherish the days when my Orion magazine arrives in my mailbox, bringing me beauties such as these eleven photographs from the far north land. .