An old middle school friend’s father died yesterday morning. So he called.
We’d been talking about the passing of his parent for a few weeks now…a drawn out disease where death has grown comfortable in the waiting room is no slow cruise. It is interminable waiting. It is placing your life on hold while the greater forces of life and death intervene in your routine.
This is death up close and centered. He’s in the waiting room sifting through the magazines. Death never entered the room. He’s always been there. Patient with our ignorance of his presence. He doesn’t care if we ignore or write poems to him. He does what he does, which is to attend and to await to present the final gift, the present life brings each one of us,
Wrapped in delicate personal memories; tied with a silver bow of faint regret. I listen to my friend. I listen to the scene he recounts in my head of an over eager hospice nurse, of a fatal dose of morphine. He doesn’t want to sue, he wants me to write something, to tell people what happened to his father.
Perhaps there is a story there to be heard but there’s the story that my friend is ignoring. The passing, the death of his beloved father, his parent, the man who held and protected him when he was helpless. Who first guided his clumsy thinking, his testing of the world. The source of advice, the font of all wisdom:
Pater meus a patre. Vos estis qui de caelo cadit, sicut pluviam et omnem animam in maius et luminare minus idem. Qui dedit nobis sitim extinguere pluvia rationem in radicibus excoquendi in sole.
Those of us who have lost a parent, both parents feel the shadow of our mortality move closer to us. It is not a selfish observation but a crucial one. A glimpse into the truth of our own existence: short, meagre and thin.
The death of a loved one is tragedy but a necessary one. It is necessary to be reminded of the life we are living and the world that we are actually in. To wake up from the amnesia of wishes we have been distracting ourselves with, is to literally smell-the-coffee.
It’s bitter, it’s scalding and it’s blunt metal real.
There is no solace for loss, just the empty space left behind by the one who is no longer there. Which is where you are, holding that space in your mind for them as someday, your loved ones will hold a similar space for you.
Maybe that’s where heaven is: the space your loved ones hold for you in their minds long after your body has left with death, the waiting room.
A book of poetry and art, fables and philosophies aimed at the pandemic of crisis anxiety so many are facing.
In uncertain times people turn to uncertain means. This is a book of poetry and art, of fables and philosophies aimed at the pandemic of crisis anxiety so many of us are going through right now in our daily lives and in our inner spaces. We are all of us and each us in this together.
The sciences but also the arts do provide remedies. The ancient Egyptians wrote curative words on fragments of papyrus to feed their burnt ashes to the afflicted. Lacking morphine, Walt Whitman read verses to fallen soldiers on the battlefields of the first Civil War.
At their best, the right words are more than therapeutic, they can be curative. Take a Deep Breath emulates this ritual here in administering remedies for living in these times of crisis, in living with uncertainty.
Haven’t you noticed? I’ve been pulling my hair out not knowing who to call. They’ve suckered us all in with another used year! Sure, it’s been refurbished and looks a lot like a New Year, But don’t be fooled, This is a counterfeit New Year being passed off as a real one. The surface looks sharp but its purely cosmetic. It won’t load the latest Operating System It’s warranty has long since lapsed. And its components are no longer compatible. Don’t be fooled by fake years. You’ll wind up forgetting the real ones.
Do something! Call somebody. Don’t just sit there lamenting Demand refunds and store credits! Stomp your feet and threaten court actions. But whatever you do, don’t be taken in by second-hand years, When what we really all need is a new one.
Original Words, Music, Video and Antidotes for Living With Uncertainty
Internationally renown fine artist and producer Frederic Iriarte and American Poet Igor Goldkind have collaborated on 9 original tracks of musical interpretations based on Igor Goldkind’s forthcoming collection of poetry also entitled TAKE A DEEP BREATH. The album of 9 tracks is being launched as a complete work at this year’s International Beat Poetry Festival and will be released for download at midnight this coming Saturday, September 5th.
This unique multimedia work was written and produced during the pandemic in Stockholm, San Diego and Moscow. It is intended as an artistic attempt to help us live with uncertainty and survive catastrophe living.
“TAKE A DEEP BREATH is most important piece of Spoken Word Art to come along at just the right time: right when we all needed it the most!” – Henry Rollins
2020 has been a year of both social, economic and psychological upheaval. Humans have been required to adapt to drastically changing circumstances without forewarning and without certainty as to the outcomes.
We are being challenged as a species to adapt. Adaptation is our genus but it is also painful and exhausting. TAKE A DEEP BREATH is a guidebook: a pause for a moment of reflection. Take a break from panic and get a clear view of where we are as individuals, as a people and as a species.
Covid-19 has literally attacked our humanity however in doing so has done us the service of reminding us of our shared humanity, our common mutual vulnerability. These are hard lessons to learn and uncomfortable changes to be made for us to survive. TAKE A DEEP BREATH is a pause in the gloom and a chance to regain our strength and resilience to all carry on.
TAKE A DEEP BREATHis a step backwards in time when poetry and music were used and appreciated as tools for contemplation, meditation and reflection on the most crucial factor in our lives. Now that we are being confronted and overwhelmed with multiple catastrophes, is the time to return to using poetry for what it is designed for:
What if we thought of this uncertainty as the Jews consider our Sabbath— As a sacred space in time? Stop travelling Stop buying and selling. Stop working. Give up for now, trying to make the world better than it is.
Instead, Sing. Dance. Pray. Write songs and read poetry. Paint the pictures from your eyes. Walk amongst the leaves and the stars. Touch only those to whom you have commited your life.
Sit down. And when your mind and body have become still, reach out with your heart. Know that we are connected in ways that are both terrifying and beautiful. No one can deny that now.
Do not reach out with your hands. Reach out with your heart. Reach out with your words. Reach out with all the curled tendrils of compassion that connect us invisibly, where we cannot touch each other.
Promise this world your love for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, For as long as we all shall live In this time of mass uncertainty.
San Diego poets are wet gutter snipers Taking pot shots at frivolous affluence and misspent eternities From the street corners and back alleys of our prematurely grey dementias.
San Diego poets cast lines like fishing reels Screaming curses at angels in heels while Humming blues tunes to the damned, under our breaths.
San Diego poets spit surreal spiels into ribbons of unfurling images That rain down like bright pathetic confetti Against a blank horizon of an empty human empathy.
San Diego poets slide their wild, horse hair bows Across taut, tied strings that sing Above a psychedelic landscape of the gradually worsening human condition
You and me are not blind instruments of self-immolation. We do not have to sit at the center of the fire to make it our home. We can play our songs on sad air violins And dance in the rain to drown our sorrows in the sea of greater uncertainty.
San Diego poets press our runny noses against The pained windows of badly lit coffeeshops and crafty bookstores, Hosting poetry readings for the over groomed; Those educated only in the blind arrogance of their own judgements.
San Diego poets litter the streets with our menial typewriters Preaching doomsday fire sales to tourists and Liberation to those still hounded by carnivorous ambitions In the current climate of fear that tries to pass itself off as survival.
San Diego poets never have enough money to buy you a drink But will spare you a cig-regret – –if you’re willing to spare the change you need you to make –to make your tomorrow just a little bit better.
San Diego poets are all clowns, fools and charlatans Keeping ourselves amused on the ragged streets of cold hangover dawnings Whilst skipping around and dancing through the circus of mediocrity that pervades us.
San Diego poets migrate like flocks of hummingbirds Seeking warmer climes and heartfelt compassions. Blurring our wings the whole distance in getting there.
Go Fuck Yourself, you pathetic failure. Leave the arts to the poets, the dancers and the painters Go get yourself a real job, a real vocation. Fuck off and leave those of us who fight for our culture alone. Fuck off and stop leeching the creative spirits of the secular martyrs who have sacrificed their lives on the holy altar of Art, Truth and Freedom. Go Fuck Yourselves! And each other in your sleazy stinking orgy of self-gratifying bigotry and weeping pustule aesthetics.
Go Fuck Yourself in the Ass With Your Own Extended Nose Go let yourself get fucked in the ass by all the bogus arts nonprofits that pocket tax money to further their own finances while cheating artists and reviewers out of their livings.
Go write yourself a grant.
Write up your mission statement in day-glow gold-gilded writing. Put on your ‘supporter-of-the-arts’ makeup Keep counting the coins in your bookseller’s till While prescribing the rules that determines who is in and who is other.
Go Fuck Yourself and try reading a book for a change. Go read Whitman, Bukowski, Anais Nin and Henry Miller on art. Let William Burroughs into your dreams. Go get yourself a self education. In the meantime, shut up, sit down and just listen: You are the enemy of art, the enemy of poetry, the enemy of life. And we’re coming for you. Because all you are is in the way.
She said Hii! I said hello She said let’s go for a drink. I said sure. She asked ‘what are you having’? I said, whatever you want. She said, thank you for thinking of me first. I said your pleasure is all mine.
Later she sent me a text. ‘Have you ever tried phone sex’? She said. I said ‘Sure’. She said how about now? I said I need to go home. She said she did too, She sends me a naked picture of herself.
“Are you hard”? She asks ‘Sure’, I said. “I want you to fuck me”, She said. ‘Shall I come over’? I say. “No”, she said. “Let’s meet and fuck tomorrow. But for right now, just this moment Can you just talk to me”? ‘Sure, ‘I said.
“Right now I just want you to tell me how you’d like to fuck me. ‘Do you want me to come over,’ I said again. “No,” she said, “Don’t come over Just talk to me and make me cum. I just love the sound of your voice”. ‘Sure’, I said. And she did. ‘Are we still getting together tomorrow by the fountain in the park’? I asked, after a while. ‘Of course’, she said. ‘Great’, I said.
The next morning she sent me a message: “I’m sorry but your age is something I just can’t get past, I’m not meeting you next to the fountain, I’m sorry. You’re just too old and I shouldn’t have let things go so far I just can’t get past that; your age” ‘Sure’, I said. ‘Neither can I without fatal results’. She did not laugh “I’m sorry, but that’s how I feel” She said. ‘That’s how you feel’, I said. Later that morning I died my hair black and left dark stains in the sink.
You are our lady And now your dress Is flames. The beauty of your sunken dome from a drone Is a poem in itself. Written by us and Destroyed by chaos.
This is what we do that rivals the stature of the gods: To astound ourselves and each other, With the wonder of Pure enduring creation. The sacrifice we all make to our better selves Who gave buildings wings and Lay the foundation stones of Our own perfecting.
Epiphany is not found in the act of worship It is found in the insight gained by a gratitude for the world. Exactly the way we built it. Exactly the way we know it to be. Whispered prayers are but poetry That none other than you will listen to. It is good to talk to yourself, To sing in harmony with all the selves who are listening,
Wearing Not false, but true masks Revealing the kind of truth that can only be told with a lie. The subtler architecture that carves heavens into the spaces on this earth. Reconstructing what can be seen behind your faces, Behind all the saints who guard you, Behind the divine grace of your stature. The sensuousness of your catastrophe is breathtaking.
Once again the ghostly powers of Facebook have judged me and found me wanting.
Or wanting of the veneer of non threatening, amiable posts. Nothing that would offend a Humming Bird of nerve endings. A Calvinist shaking in their boots. I’m not a Facebook post, you don’t have to like me!
My grave offence was to post a photograph of the great American poet Allen Ginsberg standing naked on a Moroccan beach. The original naked poet; metaphor and literal combined into one. His words, not his images were deemed obscene way back in the last century. There was a public trial and unlike Socrates, Ginsberg (and City Lights, the publisher) were both found not guilty of obscenity. Howl was deemed a work of art and protected under the first amendment. Why doesn’t Facebook abide by the first amendment instead of hiding like a coward behind their Emerald City curtain of Community Standards?
And why don’t Americans know their own history?
I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Allen Ginsberg during my Freshman year, when he had come to do a reading and lead a group meditation paying his dreadful table accordion. Was I 17 or 18? I was studying Heidegger and Charles Olsen, the Action Poet; Kandinsky’s New York roommate right round 1959 thereabouts, when the photo of Ginsberg on the Beach was taken. But I knew all of his work, inside and out. I was never gay but Ginsberg made me want to be!
I had stopped Allen in an outdoor corridor lined by lawn between two campus buildings. I was armed with my copy of the first edition City Lights Kaddish epic that I had found by blissful chance in the long gone used intelligentia bookstore at the corner of College and El Cajon Blvd, in San Diego, over a lifetime ago.
Allen looked at my book and gladly signed it. “I haven’t seen a first edition of these in years!” I told Allen about the used book store in San Diego where I had gone through all of his poetry and Kerouac and Cassidy’s First Third and Dylan’s Tarantula, Alan Watts, D.T. Suzuki’s 3 volume Essays on Zen, all bought and consumed at this temple to beatitude at the cross roads of the world. I didn’t tell him how in high school we used to climb to the top of Cowell Mountain and howl the words to Howl at the valley unfolding beneath us. We didn’t know what hungry junkies were quite yet, but it sounded good and it was real. As real as the suburbs of San Diego can ever be.
In the past present, Allen handed me my book, more of a pamphlet, back and looked me up and down and smiled. It was a genuine smile and not the least bit lecherous considering what he said next. “Would you like to come up to my room, it’s just over graduate housing? I can show you some poem books you haven’t seen. I knew what he meant but I was so stunned dumb by the proposition (Allen Ginsberg!). I stuttered something still trying to make up my mind before I spoke. But alas, fear of the unknown vanquished my curiousity or perhaps it was my vanity to be loved by a star that was defeated.
Nonetheless I must of said something because we went on our merry ways, my thanking him a little too profusely and the back of his bald head bobbing down the corridor.
So when I posted the photo a young Allen standing nude on a Morrocan beach, I kind of felt like I had earned the right to share his image, naked and vulnerable for the sake of a poetry reading which it was more than certain that someone would recite a Ginsberg-eque poem.
The Philistines may have conquered the machines but not me as of yet.
There’s an emptiness at the heart of any space: The air that escapes a room; an unanswered echo, a vacant womb. There’s an emptiness in my heart That reminds me All of my ideas are empty. Floating leaves from a fumbled folder. Coloured streams falling from the sky.
This emptiness reminds me How slight my desires really are How gently they fall from the sky A confetti of mercy and discarded emotions, They are in the end, Compared to nothing, Merely the litter from an emptied mind.
If you love your mind just let it go. If you lose your mind, don’t worry. It will find you again, eventually. Trekking across the tundra, Scaling the icy ridges Crossing a vale of tears.
At midnight in the Dead of the Night. Just to get back home to you. Merely moonlight pausing to reflect upon still waters No need to be concerned. In future, make sure your back gate latch is secure Before letting your mind run free.
Let Your Mind Run Free II
If you love your mind just let it go. If you lose your mind, don’t worry. It will find you again, eventually. Trekking across the tundra; scaling the icy ridges Crossing a vale of tears.
At midnight in the Dead of the Night. Your mind will tap you on the shoulder You’ll jump And your mind will say ‘Well, here you are’! Sitting alone in the last place I looked.
While I am Merely moonlight pausing to reflect upon still waters. There’s no need to be concerned. Next time, just make sure your back gate is securely latched Before you let your mind run free.
Existence is a limitless screen of emptiness Vibrant with jubilant celebrations. And gratitude for the joy in rolling a boulder blissfully up this steep hill. Tripping over our own thoughts like loosened cobblestones, We no longer see the reality directly in front of us.
The truth is a truce we struck with certainty ages ago. After losing the desperate struggle… To cling to some kind of hope buried deep beneath the root of ourselves. I am fearful of fully failing myself and yet I love myself best when I am alone with eternity.
There are still a few options available to you still, apart from death. Yours is a free choice. Your death is yours. No one is making you choose; Death is after all, inevitable.
Not so much an option as fast forwarding to the point where there are no further options. Living is dying anyway, so why speed up the process? To stop the pain? Many have endured much more Still clinging to any delay of the inevitable.
Regardless, suicide doesn’t stop the pain it merely passes the suffering on to someone else. Remember them? They remember you. They will remember you with pain.
You no longer feel of worth or of value anymore? To whom, exactly? yourself? Perhaps your judgement is drunk or wanting in discernment? Perhaps your judgement is just wrong and awaits over-ruling by a higher judgement. Who are you, really, to judge yourself so severely? If you are worthless then your judgement is suspect and certainly not worth acting upon.
What if you went and saw a movie instead? Or got drunk? Or went to sleep? Or made love until the dawn found another, better judgement to wake up to. A truer, more temperate version of yourself. One who can solve problems and get you out of the sweet jam you’re stuck in.
Do you long to die because life is absurd and void of meaning? What took you so long to notice? Does your slowness make you want to do things quicker? Instead of death, you could seek laughter, which is really a form of dying; A release from the known into the unknown by way of Catching your breath inside its own rhythm. Inwards and outwards.
What if you were about to hear a joke you’ve never heard before? That made you laugh so hard that it woke you up into the wide-eyed, open world that embraces this one? If you die now, you will miss hearing the eternal joke That would awaken you to a world where you no longer wanted to die Because you suddenly found yourself here, Where you belong Where you belonged all along, Not living or dying But blinking and breathing like this, Like this, like this, like this…
Today was every other day.
My boss says,
“Hey, Joe, where you going with that staple gun in your hand?”
I draw a blank on my face and turn to face his.
“You don’t really know, do you, Joe?
You don’t know where you’re going.
You don’t really know who you are.
You don’t know much of anything anymore,
Do you now, Joe?”
Then he laughs at me
In front of everybody
He laughs and points at
What everybody but me can see.
And everybody laughs and they laugh and they laugh
But nobody talks to me anymore.
My boss don’t talk to me anymore.
My neighbors don’t talk to me anymore.
My doctor don’t talk to me anymore.
My mother don’t talk to me anymore.
My father don’t talk to me because
He’s long since gone
Flown far away from the words to this song.
I call my girlfriend up on the telephone
She says, “Joe, I’m not your girlfriend anymore”
And hangs up the phone.
Nobody talks to me anymore.
I call my doctor on the telephone
He says, “hello, is there anybody there”?
I say, “it’s me, Joe, doctor help me, nobody talks to me anymore!”
My doctor coughs and hangs up the phone.
Nobody talks to me anymore.
I call on my priest in the church down the road
I say “Hello, Father? my Father, is that really you?”
“Please tell me, dear Father, what should I do?”
My priest says “Joe, God don’t love you anymore”
And throws me out through God’s front door.
Even God don’t talk to me anymore.
So, I go down to a bar to have a little swim.
There’s a bar stool there where the X-mas tree should have been.
The bartender looks at me,
But he doesn’t say a word.
I hold up two fingers and point at the sky
So he pours me a double, ten-year-old rye.
Which I toss down and motion for another
While calling him “my brother”.
The bartender stares at my face.
As silent as the stones in his wall.
Nobody talks to me anymore.
On the street, the headlights blind my blinking eyes.
Strangers push past me, some I know, most I despise.
A cop car pulls up and flashes his bright light on me
The cop points his flashlight in my eyes so that I can’t see.
There’s nothing he or I need to say.
He won’t arrest me.
It just ain’t worth his time to talk to me anymore.
A ghost walks up and stares into my face.
He doesn’t say a word; just hangs there in space
Instead, he spins ribbons of colored lights
Inside my head.
There’s no knowing with ghosts no more
The dead don’t even talk to me anymore, either!
Suddenly I see an explosion of lights
There are trumpets and harps and angels in sight
A liquor store, a neon vision of light
Promises me spirits of salvation and delight
If I just step inside….
While next door, a gun store slowly cracks open its door . . .
I am my father and my mother’s son and
I’ve never before bought me a gun.
But nobody, nobody talks to me anymore.
Hope is mortal, not eternal.
Though it may feel like eternity
Sitting in a chair by the window.
Gazing up and down the path that leads
Up the hill and down to the canyon on your doorstep.
Every morning, every evening, every day.
Waiting for an answer to your prayer for hope to be restored.
Patience still burning brightly
Under your old photograph on the wall where you live now.
I’m not sad.
No, sadness is just passing rain to irrigate the eyes.
Instead, I’m a new planet
Ringedby the last halo of hope
The one wrapped tightly around my head.
Existence is a limitless screen of emptiness,
And gratitude for the joyous exhaustion in the rolling of a boulder up a steep hill.
Tripping over our thoughts like loosened cobblestones,
The truth is a truce we struck with uncertainty ages ago.
After losing our desperate struggle…
To cling to some kind of hope buried deep at the root of our own awareness
I am fearful of fully failing myself.
But I love myself best when I am alone with eternity.
Secure and supported by this very clarity.
The healing effect of words has long been recognized. As far back as 4000 BCE, early Egyptians wrote words on papyrus, dissolve them in liquid, and gave them to those who were ill as a form of medicine. In more recent history, reading and expressive writing have been employed as supplementary treatments for those experiencing mental or emotional distress. Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital established in the United States, employed this approach as early as the mid-1700s.
In the early 1800s, Dr. Benjamin Rush introduced poetry as a form of therapy to those being treated. In 1928, poet and pharmacist Eli Griefer began offering poems to people filling prescriptions and eventually started “poem-therapy” groups at two different hospitals with the support of psychiatrists Dr. Jack L. Leedy and Dr. Sam Spector. After Griefer’s death, Leedy and others continued to incorporate poetry into the therapeutic group process, eventually coming together to form the Association for Poetry Therapy (APT) in 1969.
Librarians also played a major role in the development of this approach to therapy. Arleen Hynes, one pioneer in this area, was a hospital librarian who began reading stories and poems aloud, facilitating discussions on the material and its relevance to each individual in order to better reach out to those being treated and encourage healing. In 1980, all leaders in the field were invited to a meeting to formalize guidelines for training and certification. At that meeting, the National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT) was established.
As interest grew, several books and articles were written to guide practitioners in the practice of poetry therapy. Hynes and Mary Hynes-Berry co-authored the 1986 publication Bibliotherapy – The Interactive Process: A Handbook. More recently, Nicholas Mazza outlined a model for effective poetry therapy, also discussing its clinical application, in Poetry Therapy: Theory and Practice.
The Journal of Poetry Therapy, established in 1987 by the NAPT, remains the most comprehensive source of information on current theory, practice, and research.
There is also a relationship between psychological healing and incantations; either repeated as a musical chant by the patient or in fact recited by the attending medicine man. Modern medicine and science of course scoff at the notion of magical incantations having healing or restorative powers as so much superstition. But this, of course, begs the question that if recitations and incantations had no evidential resort and no beneficial property then why would every single human culture have adopted the method and repeated it for several thousand years? Surely if there was nothing to vibrating air with the sound of one’s breath as well as the added stimulation of associative meaning being read cognitively by the patient’s mind; we would have given it and its sisters, singing and chanting aeons ago.
I am not advocating a supernatural or spiritual causation for the effectiveness of poetry as a healing agent but rather the supra-natural mystical cause which is grounded first in human nature and behavior for which can be a myriad of imprecise explanations; none of which explain why it works.
Today, poetry therapy is practised internationally by hundreds of professionals, including poets, psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, social workers, educators and librarians. The approach has been used successfully in a number of settings—schools, community centers, libraries, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and correctional institutions, to name a few.
How Does Poetry Therapy Work?
As part of therapy, some people may wish to explore feelings and memories buried in the subconscious and identify how they may relate to current life circumstances. Poetry is beneficial to this process as it can often be used as a vehicle for the expression of emotions that might otherwise be difficult to express
•Promote self-reflection and exploration, increasing self-awareness and helping individuals make sense of their world
•Help individuals redefine their situation by opening up new ways of perceiving reality
•Help therapists gain deeper insight into those they are treating
• In general, poetry therapists are free to choose from any poems they believe offer therapeutic value, but most tend to follow general guidelines.
It is recommended selected poems be concise, address universal emotions or experiences, offer some degree of hope, and contain plain language. Some poems commonly used in therapy are: “The Journey” by Mary Oliver “Talking to Grief” by Denise Levertov “The Armful” by Robert Frost “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman “Turtle Island” by Gary Snyder The poetry of Alan Watt, Allen Ginsberg and others.
Although the selection of material is often by the therapist, those being treated might be asked to bring to therapy a poem or other form of literature they identify with, as this may also provide valuable insight into their feelings and emotions.
My Technique in Poetry Therapy
A few different models of poetry therapy exist, but the one I’ve had the most success with is a Four Phased Progression of Attention:
Recognition – Focus – Intention – Action
In the receptive/recognition phase, the poet therapist merely guides the subject to focus on their issue. The aim is to establish concentration and cognitive focus on the details of the issue which are not revealed to the poet/therapist. Only until the poet/therapist feels confident that the subject is cognitively attuned to and non verbally focussed on the problem or issue of concern that they begin to ask suggestive questions as to how the subject feels, not thinks about their subject.
This provocation of emotion usually comes in three distinct phases of emotional content:
I. First is the one of the predicament, then the subject first becomes aware of the existence of the issue. This is the gateway phase where anticipatory feelings are registered and ideally conveyed through the prompting of the poet/therapist.
II. Then there is the full throttle stage when anticipation of the issue has given way to full experience of all emotions related to the issue. This is usually overwhelming (or it wouldn’t be “an issue” in the first place), and it is tantamount that the poet/guide leads the subject through distinct words to describe the layers of emotions experienced by the subject. Language and the use of the words is the key here because emotions always come in clusters of complexity that make it difficult for both poet/therapist and subject to distinguish and focus on underlying and suppress emotions.
“What kind of anger do you feel?”
“How would you describe your sadness”
“How much shame do you feel?
“What would you compare it to?”
Are typical of the questions a poet therapist would ask the subject.
This is a sophisticated method of word association but rather than creating bridges between seemingly disparate words, the goal is to drill down to the core emotions about the issue by uncovering and refining the language the subject has chosen.
Achieving exactitude of description is the task at hand. The Poet/Therapist makes careful notation of everything the subject says towards describing their emotion. It is important to keep them focused and not to succumb to intellectual distraction. Thoughts are illusions, emotions are facts.
Getting the subject to correctly and precisely describe the emotional facts of the matter at hand is the objective
III. The final phase is the exit strategy.
How do the feelings commence to recede? How does the issue recede back into the background? What are the parting emotions? Is there anxiety about the leaving? The anticipation of an issue yet unresolved? Or is the issue impermeable and subject to a rhythmic return?
Again, the subject’s wording, their adjectives, adverbs and phrases are the material of the poem.
At this point, there is usually a short break to give time for the subject to recover from the emotional transitions and for the Poet/Therapist to briefly skim their notes and begin to focus on the flow of adjectives. It is preferable if possible, to compose what amounts to a first draft, a flow of words which the poet can read back to the subject to confirm the accuracy of the flow.
At this first reading stage, it is possible to start interjecting logical bridges between the emotional descriptors. This is the creative factor unleashed. The Poet must be led by the subject to link coherent sequences between the emotional states. The poet suggests and the subject confirms or vetoes the phraseology, one line at a time.
Now we arrive at a second draft which is the property of the subject. It is their poem for which it is crucial that the subject now read the poem aloud and take ownership of its content. The subject can redraft the poem a third time in making it their own. But the physicality of uttering the words they have chosen to express their emotional state is an act of ownership and closure.
The Poet/Therapist can either email the finished poem to the subject, hand them his/her notes or rewrite the poem into a legible form. In any case, it is important that the Poet/Therapist ascribes the authorship of the poem to the client. If the client is hesitant to put their name to the poem than something is lacking in the poem and must be redressed or indeed started over again.
The key to the entire exercise is freedom of expression, honesty and then refinement; exacting the poem.
Other Approaches and Other Models
The process of writing can be both cathartic and empowering, often freeing blocked emotions or buried memories and giving voice to one’s concerns and strengths. Some people may doubt their ability to write creatively, but therapists can offer to support by explaining they do not have to use rhyme or a particular structure. Therapists might also provide stem poems from which to work or introduce sense poems for those who struggle with imagery. A Poet/Therapist might also share a poem with the individual and then ask them to select a line that touched them in some way and then use that line to start their own poem.
In group therapy, poems may be written individually or collaboratively. Group members are sometimes given a single word, topic, or sentence stem and asked to respond to it spontaneously. The contributions of group members are compiled to create a single poem which can then be used to stimulate group discussion. In couples therapy, the couple may be asked to write a dyadic poem by contributing alternating lines.
The symbolic/ceremonial component involves the use of metaphors, storytelling, and rituals as tools for effecting change. Metaphors, which are essentially symbols, can help individuals to explain complex emotions and experiences in a concise yet profound manner. Rituals may be particularly effective to help those who have experienced a loss or ending, such as a divorce or death of a loved one, to address their feelings around that event. Writing and then burning a letter to someone who died suddenly, for example, may be a helpful step in the process of accepting and coping with grief.
How Can Poetry Therapy Help You?
Poetry therapy has been used as part of the treatment approach for a number of concerns, including borderline personality, suicidal ideation, identity issues, perfectionism, and grief.
Research shows the method is frequently a beneficial part of the treatment process. Several studies also support poetry therapy as one approach to the treatment of depression, as it has been repeatedly shown to relieve depressive symptoms, improve self-esteem and self-understanding, and encourage the articulation of feelings. Researchers have also demonstrated poetry therapy’s ability to reduce anxiety and stress in people.
Those experiencing post-traumatic stress have also reported improved mental and emotional well-being as a result of poetry therapy. Some individuals who have survived trauma or abuse may have difficulty processing the experience cognitively and, as a result, suppress associated memories and emotions.
Through poetry therapy, many are able to integrate these feelings, reframe traumatic events, and develop a more positive outlook for the future. People experiencing addiction may find poetry therapy can help them explore their feelings regarding the substance abuse, perceive drug use in a new light, and develop or strengthen coping skills.
Poetry writing may also be a way for those with substance abuse issues to express their thoughts on treatment and behavior change. Some studies have shown poetry therapy can be of benefit to people with schizophrenia despite the linguistic and emotional deficits associated with the condition.
Poetry writing may be a helpful method of describing mental experiences and can allow therapists to better understand the thought processes of those they are treating. Poetry therapy has also helped some individuals with schizophrenia to improve social functioning skills and foster more organized thought processes. It is important to note in many instances, especially in cases of moderate to severe mental health concerns, poetry therapy is used in combination with another type of therapy, not as the sole approach to treatment.
Training for Poetry Therapists Poetry therapists receive literary as well as clinical training to enable them to be able to select literature appropriate for the healing process. While there is no university program in poetry therapy, the International Federation for Biblio-Poetry Therapy (IFBPT), the independent credentialing body for the profession, has developed specific training requirements. Several studies support poetry therapy as one approach to the treatment of depression, as it has been repeatedly shown to relieve depressive symptoms, improve self-esteem and self-understanding, and encourage the expression of feelings.
Concerns and Limitations of Poetry Therapy
In spite of its widespread appeal and broad range of application, some concerns have been raised about the use of poetry therapy. Some critics have pointed out it is possible for people to analyze a poem on a purely intellectual level, without any emotional involvement. This type of intellectualization may be more likely when complex poems are used, as a person might spend so much time trying to decipher the meaning of the poem that they lose sight of their emotions and spontaneous reactions. Poems that are unoriginal or filled with clichés are unlikely to stimulate individuals on a deep emotional level or challenge them to think in ways that promote growth. Just always keep in mind that poetry therapy may have little or no value for those individuals who simply do not enjoy poetry.
The Advertising Pitch:
Words are the Most Powerful Magic There Is
Sometimes Your Mind Has a Will of Its Own
With PEGASUS POETRY THERAPY you can
Learn How to Read Your Own Mind!
Confusion bringing you down?
Is manic depression touching your soul?
You know what you want, but you just don’t know how to get There?
Poetry therapy is what you need when the medication, the yoga, the guided meditation, the crystals, the chakra alignment and other Somatic treatments just aren’t working.
Some things only work when you let them work:
• Restore Self-Confidence
• Achieve Closure from Painful Relationship Breakups & Lost Loved Ones
• Find a More Meaningful Direction to Your Life
• Get Unstuck and Out of Your Own Way
• Overcome Fears and Anxiety
• Control panic attacks
• Change Addictive Behavior Patterns, like OCD
• Re-Write bad Scripts
Recognition > Focus > Intention > Action
There is no trick to listening to yourself and learning how choosing and rearranging your words can unlock darkened doors, de-clutter basements and clean out the attics of your life. Sometimes in merely one session.
Every Tuesday from 11:00 am until 6:30 pm at the
Inner Temple Inner Healing Center
at Eve’s Vegan Cafe 575 S. Coast Highway 101 Encinitas, CA
PEGASUS POETRY THERAPY has only recently launched its online version via FaceTime, Skype or Facebook video. Just add <poetry therapy> to your Skype contacts and schedule a date. Payments accepted through PayPal or Facebook cash. Here are some examples of the poetry achieved through PEGASUS POETRY THERAPY:
Narcissus in a Nutshell
I’ve lost the person locked within the situation
Like a nut dwells within its hard shell of fearful anger.
Hiding from the unknown.
Hard shells, hard feelings, hardness itself
The excitement of living days in the present
Belonging to the past
I will not let go of what I can recall but not relive
My belonging to that which encompasses myself
Another nut within its shell.
To belong is to exist
Without belonging there is Nothing and
I fear nothing most of all because I do not know it
And I fear what I do not know more than
I would remedy the pain of this loss with trustworthy tools
When two liquids are bonded as one
A single drop of poison poisons the whole glass
And betrayal is always poison no matter how little or how much
The glass of Narcissus’s tears is now empty
He has blinded himself rather than drink his own poison.
Instead he has left me to sip the bitter poison
Of fading better days.
Like a cat
Poised in stillness
Distracted by nothing
I will not surrender the pain.
I will not surrender the pain.
Because the pain is my memory of the happiness
We’ve now lost
A sweet nut within a bitter shell.
Last night I saw you beatify a martyr
With a magical brush of gold belief.
You were serious and determined
But your brush strokes were light caresses
On a sky blue span of canvass
As you gently coaxed another image into being.
You remind me of my mother earth
Stern in her compassion
Willing to tolerate just so much from me
Before reining in my love
With her brushes.
And where you have drawn your line
‘Be careful’, you said to me on parting
But all the care in the world could not stop
My bulb from bursting
Rendering me blind in the speeding night
But still seeing with the golden light
Of the martyr you have shown me.
This sadness, this hopelessness
Will not be swatted away
Nor drowned by the busy work
Of the day to day.
Even when I am submerged in my bathtub.
The warm water rising from the bottom of my lungs.
Until I lose the will to breath
And the sadness becomes anger
Rising to the very top of my horns
Of my red-hot raging exhaustion.
How good to be angry!
I used to be afraid of snakes but no longer. I am hissing from the centre of my snake-heart
As you try and step over me.
Your eyes fail to see as you tread on my tail.
On my snake heart.
On my resolution without confrontation.
Without the owning of emotion
All that’s left for us is the hissing sound of machinery.
Of shoeless children — and refugee ships — and the things
that all of us need…
Of arresting civilian protesters — and blood-letting priests and kings.
–– And why the sea is filled with fleeing families
And whether falling bombs have wings.’
This is the time of confusion perpetrated by those whose power is built upon the bedrock of our confusion.
We are told that all information are biased lies. To not trust what anyone says; apart from the words of those who tell us not to trust what anyone says.
In America and around the world there is a crisis in the authority of information. Never in the history of our tribe, the human tribe, has so much information, so many facts, so much data been at the command of so many of us.
The World Wide Web is truly an amazing thing, as is its name: World Wide.
And yet too much is never enough. With such abundance comes scarcity. Scarcity in the reliability of what we read, hear and see. We can no longer afford to listen to simply one voice. Uncle Walter is no longer alive to comfort us with the nakedness of facts, disrobed from opinions.
That’s just the way it is.
So we listen to the many voices inside and outside of our heads and try to tune into a signal through the rising noise levels. That signal, that wavelength, that fleeting photon of energy we’ve always known to be the Truth. What is the Truth? I don’t really know but you and me can always recognize it.
Right now the truth comes in the numbers:
In 2016, from an estimated pre-war population of 22 million, the United Nations (UN) identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance, of which more than 6 million are internally displaced within Syria itself at the mercy of the Syrian authorities, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria.
5 million refugees! 1.5 million in Lebanon alone. This is the biggest refugee catastrophe the world has seen since the millions of Jews who fleeing the Nazis were denied entry, turned away from this ‘Great’ nation of ours. To be deported to the death camps that awaited them and at the time no one believed were real. How could they be real? How could this be real again?
Never Forget really means Never Again.
How could a booming population of 22 million be gutted of 13.5 million civilians, more than half the country, of men, women and their children?
How could we, our tribe have let this have happened? Why didn’t somebody do something before it got this bad?
Where was our compassion deported to?
But I’m not answering questions about how we got here. Instead, I’m asking you to do something about it right NOW. Set aside the luxury of your political opinions and focus on the reality, the facts. What we know to be True, right here and right now. There are children crying out in the desert. I can hear them, believe me, I can hear them and if you pay close attention, you can hear them too.
The facts are that families, just like yours, fathers and mothers just like you and yours and children, yes children exactly like yours are living and dying in unimaginable squalor. Right now, today. And there is something you and I can do:
They need medical supplies, doctors, and nurses to treat their external wounds and trauma counsellors to tend to their internal wounds.
The teenagers’ survivors of Florida school shooting were transformed from children into adults in the course of a few short hours of a single death-defying day. Being American, they were treated and counselled for the trauma caused by the actions of one young man and a single gun he should never ever have obtained.
These young adults’ transformation, Emma Gonzales, David Hogg and the others, was miraculous. They took the worst trauma they had ever experienced in their lives and changed it into action; an effective action that has yielded results. Like alchemists, they changed rusting iron into gold. They are an example for us all, especially us adults.
I’m telling you here that we don’t just have to admire our children, we can, we must follow their lead.
Now imagine, hundreds of fully automatic guns being fired around you, at you. Imagine the infernal thunder of bombs falling all around you, decimating your home and the streets of your childhood, obliterating your school, your neighborhood, your city and everything you have ever known to be safe and solid. The destruction of your entire your life while leaving your body if injured, still intact.
Please imagine this with me now, right now.
Stop reading this.
Close your eyes and use your mind to
Reach out beyond yourself and you will hear the bombs dropping and the sound of never-ending gunfire.
Now open your eyes and do something to answer the cry of that child in the desert. Follow the children, they know the way, the golden road into a better future.
Today is #YomHashoah, the date on the Hebrew calendar in which the Jewish people around the world recall the memory of six million Jews and more who were murdered because of who they were, and to rededicate ourselves to prevent another genocide. #WeRemember#AskWhy
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been working lately, the remembering nor the preventing. Assad’s continued gassing of his own civilian population with chlorine and nerve gas is nothing short of homage to the Nazi death industry.
So you see remembering the holocaust isn’t a Jew-thing, it’s a human-being thing. No other single event in history had more of an impact on the 20th century and by consequence the present 21st, than the mass brutalisation of families or men, women and children in the camps and now in the Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon.
We are all part of the same tribe who fall victims to those who hate their own humanity.
What follows is my little piece of the Holocaust and why I can never forget even if I wanted to. My mother told me a few days before she died, addled with dementia but suddenly lucid that the most painful, heartbreaking memories are better than no memory at all. Better to be reminded of the experiences of who we are rather than to disappear completely; from the world and from ourselves.
F E A T U R E S
W I R E D Issue 2.09
Master of Puzzles
By Igor Goldkind
Ivan Moscovich has created more brain-teasers than most people have solved crosswords. Igor Goldkind set out to piece together his fascinating and harrowing life.
Ivan Moscovich has his life’s work wrapped up in a bundle of about 10,000 pages of A4 paper. On those pages there are some 5,000 separate puzzles, puzzles that range from the hang-on-let’s-look-OK-I-see to beyond the fiendish. Some are variations on themes, some utter one-offs. Some are to be made on paper or card, some are designs for tricky little – or big – devices. Moscovich calls them the S.A.M. archive – science, art and mathematics. The puzzles use the techniques of bafflement to teach, and they use beauty to bemuse.
Moscovich has been making puzzles since the 1960s. Now, at the age of 70, he’s looking to transform that life’s work into new formats. He and his colleagues have started up a new company to take the ideas on those 10,000 pages and put them to work in the digital arena. Moscovich is sure that there is room for them. Having looked with interest at hits like Seventh Guest, which friends told him were bringing new life to the world of puzzles, he was profoundly unimpressed. The puzzles were hard, sure (if you weren’t Moscovich, that is), but they were variations on a small number of underlying tricks, and they didn’t add up to more than just a set of puzzles. Moscovich thought that he – or people mining his archives in digital form – could do better.
“In digital media you can build overlapping linear trees, using the media to interrelate the concepts for the user. It’s important with any problem to see – at the same time – the different paths that can take you to a solution. Certainly this is the best way to explain scientific and mathematical concepts.” The collection of puzzles becomes a sort of puzzle itself: a maze, something to find one’s way through, something more than the sum of its parts.
Ivan is looking forward to trying to put all this into practice – not least because he enjoys the attitude of the people he’ll be working with. The way that games designers and programmers think fits into his world perfectly. He loves to be with people who are bored when they’re not trying something new, even impossible, when they’re not seeking a new solution. And he can make sense of himself by being part of a group; in fact, it has saved his life before now.
Ivan likes people who try to make sense of the pieces. That, in part, is how he got into puzzles – his delight in their ability to teach eager minds. As well as making puzzles for books and toys, he has used them as serious teaching tools for engineers – and pioneered the art of transforming the counterintuitive insights of puzzling into science museums with interactive displays. Putting together the pieces of an idea is much more important than putting together the pieces of a puzzle. The wonder is that by getting someone to do the latter, you can let them do the former.
A life in fragments
Moscovich’s own life is a bewildering array of puzzle fragments. Having met him on a CD-ROM project and learned some of his history, I started to wonder how to reassemble the fragments – and what they could be made into. One of the answers is a charming, brilliant septuagenarian. Another is 10,000 pages of A4. And a third might be a technological passage through the 20th century, from the industrialisation of death to the pursuit of pleasure. A journey that charts the territory of the 20th century’s technological revolutions and its human upheavals, from the Balkans to California, from museums to the Israeli defence industry, from the ruins of Austro-Hungary to the digital age, from railways to death camps.Moscovich’s parents were Hungarian, but he was born in Novi Sad, a small Serbian town. He still retains a central European accent that, to my ears (and probably to yours) sounds like the definitive voice of modern science and mathematics. “My father was a Hungarian who escaped from Hungary into Yugoslavia after the First World War. He was a painter by profession, but in order to make a living at that time he opened a photographic studio which became very successful. He named his studio Photo Ivan, after me.”
His description of an everyday childhood in Novi Sad paints a familiar portrait of a middle-class craftsman’s family, complete with Yiddish grandmother and old-world family meals – and none of the hothouse intellectual atmosphere that produced Leo Szilard, John von Neumann, Kurt Gödel and other thinkers who left Budapest to dominate 19th-century thought. There was little to suggest Ivan’s strengths in science or mathematics – except, perhaps, a boyish infatuation with model aeroplane kits. He had, however, inherited from his father an inclination for drawing, and his father’s habit of tinkering with various gadgets – including an early air brush – to enhance his pictures was a constant delight to Ivan.
But when he reached technical high school, Ivan fell under the influence of a mathematics teacher given to explaining the precepts of science by means of science fiction. Ivan’s teacher opened up the world of mathematics by making problem solving fun. Ivan was entranced by the maths – and, later, showed that he had learned the method, too: rigorous scientific thinking through the lens of art and storytelling.
By then, though, the Hungarian fascists had invaded. They met with little resistance. And, soon afterwards, they took Ivan’s father from him. “Before they took him, he asked a Hungarian officer if he could say goodbye to my mother and in their final embrace he slipped this ring onto her finger.” Ivan holds up his hand and shows me an ornate gold band studded with eight small diamonds. It is the only surviving memento of Ivan’s youth; everything else was lost in the Holocaust. Ivan’s father joined 6,000 Jews and 4,000 Serbs executed en masse and thrown beneath the ice of the frozen Danube. All in one day.
Ivan continued his studies until the end of 1943, when the Hungarians “got cold feet” and the Germans invaded. “We really didn’t have any knowledge of what was happening in Poland in the ghettos or with the Nazis. We all hated the Hungarian fascists, but I still knew and liked Germans and, you know, communications were very different then; telephones didn’t work internationally. We were really disconnected from the rest of the world.”
When a Hungarian Jew escaped from Auschwitz and fled to Budapest to warn the Jewish community of the death camps, few believed him. So Ivan Moscovich was deported to Auschwitz at the age of 17.
“It meant stepping out of one world into another one. I was sent with my grandfather, my grandmother and my mother. When we arrived, my grandparents were immediately taken to the crematoria. My mother stayed in Auschwitz the whole time. After three or four weeks I was taken out of Auschwitz into one of the surrounding work camps. Young people were sent to work. I worked at laying rail lines.” The Nazi system was to provide rations for six months survival, after which the workers were supposed to starve to death in order to make room for new inmates. The meticulousness by which the operation was organised was not lost on Ivan. Nor would the memory escape him when two years later he found himself again working on train rails.
By that time he and, miraculously, his mother were back in Novi Sad. An acquaintance in the Ministry of Transport offered him a research position in the effort to repair Yugoslavia’s war-torn railway system. The post involved testing an enormous German machine that used high electrical wattage to weld rail lines together, a then untested invention. Mounted on a train carriage, Ivan travelled with the machine throughout Yugoslavia, in charge of the welding team. The machine was so successful that Ivan soon found himself elevated to a lofty position within Tito’s Ministry of Transport, accountable only to the deputy minister himself.
“There I was, a simple technician, at the age of 20, and I had all this power and no boss, really. People thought I was a top-shot communist because everybody had to do exactly what I wanted. The project became more and more successful, our production was way up and I was given orders to enlist more and more technicians for my team. One day I was called in by the deputy minister and was told that in order to create a 24-hour work shift, I was to take on 50 German prisoners of war.”
So, two years after surviving the German work camps, he was given control over a work team comprising high ranking German officers and regular soldiers, some Wehrmacht, some SS. He could have done anything he wanted. He could have shot them all and easily justified his actions to the authorities. He could have tortured them to death with gruelling work. He could have snapped his fingers and made them all disappear. But Ivan Moscovich had responsibilities, a quota to fill and a marvellous welding contraption to keep running.
“I had ten kilometres of rails to get out that week and it was a real dilemma whether to screw the Germans or to try to get the best output from them. I decided to increase their rations to get more work out of them, and sure enough they were grateful and worked even harder, which increased the output. I was very, very tough with them and I think they were scared of me. But I never revealed to them that I was a camp survivor. They worked for six months and then Tito released the prisoners.”
As it happens, Moscovich only worked on the German railways for six months. “I was lucky for the first six months. It was very important for survival in the camps to be with your people, your clan of friends and family; it made life easier. You couldn’t get ill, because that meant execution, but curiously, if you could show a work-related injury, a visible wound, you could be seen by the SS and granted a day or two of hospital. One day I announced myself with a bad wound. While everyone else went on work detail I was left in the enormous courtyard with a broom to clean up, completely by myself. Suddenly the gate opened and a commandant’s car stormed into the courtyard and headed straight for me. The German officer jumped down from his car, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, threw me onto the platform of the vehicle and drove off. I was kidnapped.” Later Ivan learned that there had been an escape from a neighbouring camp and the camp commandant had stolen Ivan to make up his tally of inmates. The mathematics of death had to add up.
“Up to this point all of my feelings had been one single feeling: an enormous outrage. Rage that somebody, anybody, another power, could take me away from my decisions, my everyday life, and put me in an environment where whatever happened was not under my control. I was young and maybe too strong an individualist, but it was rage that kept me alive.” In the new camp this life-sustaining anger was broken, until he discovered a distant Hungarian cousin running the camp’s kitchens and being the “godfather” of the camp. Then he found some school friends of his father’s. For several weeks Ivan rebuilt his spirits and his body. Then the Russians pushed back the German line, and the SS made their lethal preparations for evacuating Auschwitz.
The problem to solve was – how to survive.
The Museum Man
In 1952 Ivan found a new clan – and became a leader. He set out for Israel to join his now remarried mother. On the boat to Haifa, Ivan was approached by Israeli officials interested in his skills and qualifications. The new state was hungry for skilled technicians. By the time Ivan reached Haifa he already had a position in the Ministry of Defence waiting for him. “In my group there were mainly these Yugoslav and Hungarian technicians without any training in science and mathematics. The language problem was enormous, and here was this group of technicians involved in scientific research without any basis in the field. I don’t know how it happened, but I was selected as someone who could teach the other members of the group some basic science.
My boss wanted me to instruct them outside of a formal classroom using demonstrations, models and visual means. That was really the start that put me in the direction of puzzle making.”Ivan found himself playing around with visualisations and experiments. He worked hard to come up with ways in which complex ideas could be explained visually, not so much to convey a deep academic knowledge of science and mathematics but to engender an intuitive grasp of the subjects and, most important of all, to instill the knack of problem solving needed to tackle more important scientific and technological puzzles.
By the end of the 1950s, Moscovich was creating puzzles almost all the time, and practice had revealed a rare gift for making puzzles that could be revisited, puzzles that retained a depth, an impact, even after they had been solved. “I tried to design models that were compact and effective, and in which the experiments could be repeated a number of times. This required completely original design conceptualisations. My boss, Ernst David Bergman, was the leading scientist in Israel at the time, and founder of the Weizmann Institute. He loved my work, and it was he who had the idea that some of those objects I had designed could be exhibited. That was the basis of the founding of a science museum.”
In 1959 Tel Aviv established its Museum of Science and Technology, the first of its kind in Israel. Ivan worked non-stop for two-and- a-half years converting five disused British barracks into a museum, begging and borrowing every available resource. The museum finally opened in 1964 with Ivan as its curator and director. It was the first science museum to emphasise hands-on, interactive exhibitions, and it quickly attracted international attention. His position as curator became a springboard from which to explore and express his interest in art, science and mathematics, and to do it all with the benefit of a growing international reputation.
In 1965 Frank Oppenheimer, brother of the more famous Robert, having heard of Ivan’s fantastic museum to science, visited Tel Aviv with Admiral Lewis Strauss, chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission. The two became fast friends, sharing a childlike fascination for technology and science as well as knowledge of the darker side of machines and technology. This was four years before the opening of the Exploratorium in San Francisco, for which Oppenheimer imported many of Ivan’s installations. Some remain on exhibit to this day.
The puzzle of death
In 1944, while Oppenheimer was working with his brother on the problems of designing the first atomic bombs, Moscovich was on the death march to Bergen-Belsen. Here, too, the problem was how to survive. “Everybody said those who stayed, declaring themselves ill, would be shot. As it happens, they were liberated by the Russians two weeks later. And we walked barefoot and nearly naked through the worst winter of the century, westward to Bergen-Belsen.”At Bergen-Belsen, the last stop for the Final Solution, Ivan gave up all hope. He had been assigned to a work detail in the then still beautiful city of Hildesheim, near Hanover. “Near where I worked was a statue of the mathematician Leibniz with beautiful writing on it.
And it was so strange that after so long in hell, I am seeing that statue. I felt I was being visited by a ghost, an image of the real world I had left behind. It was then, only then, that I remembered my previous life, my teachers, my studies of mathematics and all that. Up till then my memories had been blocked out. It’s impossible to imagine that every minute, every second of life in the camps, you were only thinking of survival; there was no room for any other thinking. But here was this beautiful statue of Leibniz that reminded me of the real world.”
After two weeks working in Leibniz’s shadow, “I heard this strange noise … mmmmmmmmmmmm … that filled the air, and we suddenly realised that the sky was filled with planes. The next second everything was on fire. It was the Allied carpet bombing of Hildesheim. I saw German soldiers burning, running, and everything became chaos. I ran. After a while I stopped and looked back at the city, which was one big torch. I found myself alone in a giant field, a free man. But a free man in pyjamas, a free man with nowhere to go. I weighed 45 kilos.” Ivan turned around and started walking back to the depot. With his camp clothes, his inverted mohawk, there was nowhere to run. A German woman ran out of her house and thrust a chicken leg into his hand; she never said a word.
Recaptured, he was beaten and sent back to the camp. The dead lay in their thousands. “One barracks the Germans were using to fill with dead bodies, hundreds of dead bodies. After work one evening, I decided that instead of going back to our sleeping area that I would crawl to the top of this mountain of bodies and find myself a horizontal place. There was a slot at the top where I could see what was happening outside. I slept there for five, six days; I don’t have any notion about how much time passed. It was bliss to sleep; quiet and beautiful. It was no problem sleeping on a bed of a hundred dead bodies. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have lasted.
“One day I awoke from my sleep to complete silence. I looked through the slot to see the camp was completely deserted. Suddenly through the main entrance, which I had in my view, drove a single jeep with four English officers that stopped in the middle of the square. I rolled down the hill of bodies like a log and then I felt like I was running but I must have been moving very, very slowly. I was, I think, one of the very first to reach the jeep, and you know those guys were looking at us like they were seeing aliens for the very first time. Like first contact.” He collapsed into the arms of an English officer.
Moscovich was deathly ill. By the time that English officer caught up with him again, in a local hospital, he looked unlikely to survive. So the officer found a German doctor and frog-marched him to Ivan’s bedside. The Englishman pointed his revolver at the terrified doctor’s head and said, “If this patient dies here, you die here.”
Ivan Moscovich did not die – nor, at that point, did the German doctor. Ivan was transferred to a Red Cross hospital in a small town in Sweden – a town so boring, he now swears, that the local newspaper actually ran daily updates on Ivan’s weight gain for lack of more interesting scoops. Ivan describes his slow recovery as matter-of-factly as everything else.
“At a certain moment you know, the organism decided,
‘OK, we’re going to stay in this world. ”
In the mid-1960s, as his fame grew in Israel and beyond, another new world opened for Ivan Moscovich. “I was working on a puzzle at my desk one day when one of the ushers came in and said a couple of tourists wanted to see me. I was busy and didn’t have the time. The usher came back and said they only want five minutes of your time and they wouldn’t give up. So I agreed to see them, Mr and Mrs Eliot Handler. I wasn’t very enthusiastic but we talked and then Mrs Handler said ‘I would like our chaps in California to see your puzzles; are you ready to come over to California?’
I didn’t take them very seriously. Two weeks later I received a call from a travel agent who had a ticket waiting for me to go to California to visit Mattel.”Eliot and Ruth Handler founded and owned Mattel Toys. Its twelve-storey building in Hawthorne was the centre of America’s toy industry. Sales of their Barbie dolls were colossal, but the Handlers were keen to expand the Mattel range beyond just dolls. When Ivan came out to visit them they immediately offered him a three-year open contract to create games and puzzles for US$25,000 (£16,000) a year. His “Brain Drain” puzzle game promptly sold a million copies worldwide. This success was repeated with a series of puzzles including “Play It Again Fun”, “Visual Brainstorms”, “The Brain Power Decathlon” and “The Hinge”. Soon toy and games manufacturers from Japan to Europe were clamouring for more and more puzzles from the master. Ivan Moscovich’s gift had found the most widespread of all its expressions.
Fitting together the pieces
Somehow, all these pieces add together to produce a remarkably creative man, and one with a unique vantage point. Ivan has seen countries destroyed, reconstructed and created afresh. He has faced the most utterly depersonalising totalitarianism ever attempted, and rejoiced in the individual quirkiness of children’s imaginations. At an age where most seek nothing new at all, he is embracing the digital world with the enthusiasm of a seven-year-old offered a Game Boy.
How does he see the end of the century?
“At present we are in a greater need for a fresh creative spirit than in any other period of human history. Less and less experience is being gained directly through activities. Sensations tend to reach us increasingly only after passing through layers of media filters. Children manipulate electronic gadgets and play with computers, which is all very well, but ultimately lacks perspicuity and full sensual enrichment.
I hope to create open-ended concepts that trigger chain reactions. Ideally, the player plays my game, solves the problems and is motivated to invent his or her own variations of rules, ultimately creating his or her own games, puzzles and aesthetic structures.”
He has an avowed predilection for the physical. You can see it in his hands as he solves his puzzles. But Ivan sees unique possibilities in the digital world, possibilities that flow from the nature of his puzzles. “I’ve already published several books of my puzzles, but in a book you are restricted to the lin- ear progression of page after page, without much freedom. To interrelate the conceptual links between problems and solutions you need to be able to cross reference non-linearly, which is what a CD-ROM does.” After all, this is the point of his S.A.M. archive – that it combines science, art and mathematics as different paths to the same goal. The trajectories can be changed forever; the solutions will still provide the improvements of the self that Moscovich cares about.
“You know, humanity has been defined in various ways. For instance, as Homo habilis, skilful man; as Homo sapiens, wise man. I prefer Homo ludens, playful man, as the best definition of modern 20th-century human beings.” It was a hopeful definition that Johan Huizinga came up with in the late ’30s, at the time that young Ivan was learning science through science fiction – but the hope was serious and fearful. Huizinga was quite aware that playfulness had its dangerous side, and that the coming war would be a great, dark game; it was peace, he always said, that was the serious business.
These days, Ivan Moscovich is at peace. He lives a quiet life with his wife Anitta in west London. Within him, though, you can sense the machines within machines working, a vast inner factory of the abstract. It is hard to imagine him without them – even in the worst places the century’s history has to offer. I asked him whether his puzzling mind had helped him in Auschwitz, in Belsen; whether he had made his retreat into a private world of abstraction and pure thought.
“No. You know, it’s very difficult to explain, to understand. All of your time, all of your energy, all of your thinking is just focused on one thing: surviving.”
He did. And from the simple fact of survival he has pulled together the fragments of his life into a living inspiration for the rest of us – a puzzle worth thinking about.
Igor Goldkind writes science fiction, comics and essays, and lectures on technology and culture.
If you are concerned with the Syrian refugee crisis, the largest forced mass emigration of refugees since the Jews escaped Germany and Poland, there is something you can do. Inform your self through the Syrian American Medical Society who are running projects and providing medical supplies to the victims of the dictator Assad’s brutal and genocidal war against his own people.
Participate, if you live in southern California by attending a special exhibition of protest art at The Misfit Gallery in La Jolla California on April 21st.,
@ 565 Pearl Street. 92037 6-10 pm
I will be reading my published and unpublished work in the Spoken Word progamme as well as performing with The Third Act of Creation. But there’s much, much more. It’s a celebration of human rights and protest art to raise money for SAMS and also to join others in Mindful Resistance to the tyranny, bigotry and corruption in our present government and around the world. WE are THE PEOPLE, so instead of just complaining or getting depressed,
In the end, it was the numbers that did us in.
They lined us up into military rows
And assigned us all numbers
One after one after one after one after one….
How many, nobody knows.
You see, it’s a numbers game
It’s all the same
You’re not your name
You’re your numbers.
Let me explain how it’s done,
And how this game can never be won.
See, there are good numbers and bad numbers
High numbers and sad numbers.
Sometimes high numbers are good and low numbers are bad
And sometimes low numbers are good and high numbers are sad.
It all depends on who is counting.
Not you or me
Not the numbers either.
They don’t know, they’re just numbers after all.
The numbers are counting on each other.
Just not you or me
Because we will never be free
Of Big Numbers and small numbers,
Negative numbers and imaginary numbers,
You see, it’s a numbers game.
It’s all the same
You’re not your name
You’re your numbers.
Let me explain
How it’s done.
And how this game can never be won.
Credit Score number
Zip code number
Blood pressure number
Heart rate number
DOB & TOD numbers
Dog tags number
Social Security number
Bank account number
Vehicle registration number
Alcohol level number
Height, weight and age number
I hear you scream:
“I’m not a number, I’m a human being!!”
Sure you are,
Now take a number.
It’s for your own protection
There’s safety in numbers.
Numbers can answer all of your questions:
How far, how long, how deep, how high, how many,
Just not ‘how come’?
Anyone can count,
But you can’t count on anyone.
See, it’s a numbers game
That can’t be won
It’s a numbers game
It’s just how it’s done.
It’s all the same.
You’re not your name
You’re your numbers.
Now count to ten
And start all over again.
For Rob Thompson who asked me if Numbers occupy Space.
Last night was kind of my XXXmas eve, being a Saturday night, with no ghosts to placate until Monday morning. So I took my Victory out for a long ride, 46 miles down to Chula Vista to drop in on my drunken-angel-poet-brothers Alex Bosworth and Chris Vannoy. As I told them, I’ve never stopped in Chula Vista before, only passed through it; well on my way to crossing the border between Mexico and Madness.
Back in the Beatnik Days, when America was still a Great Shining Beacon of Golden Intentions and jail-breaking freedoms, going south of the border was a euphemism for leaving the straight rational world and exploring the psychedelic corridors and hallways of the unconscious mind, where the muses played poker to the sound of Gabriel’s saxophone under a streetlamp, playing for spare change, playing for the end of time. Kesey, Cassidy, Timothy Leary had all spent time south of the border, hiding from the authority.
But I wasn’t going all the way south or crossing any borders. Instead, like a Boddhisatva practising the discipline of worldly compassion, I was riding south on the great American highway stopping just short of going over the edge. Stopping long enough for the rest of my sentient species to hop on board and cross over with me. How long I gotta wait? The blur of the wind in my eyes transforms Inter-state 5 into a two-lane river of white headlight diamonds on one end heading towards but past me and on the other end, a torrent of glistening rubies speeding with me, flowing around me, carrying me forwards in one high speed direction.
I was carried on a slipstream of glistening rubies last night. Chilled legs wrapped around my angel in flight, carrying me aloft above all thought, beyond all hesitation, in that dangerous living moment when every half second of thought is solid and real with consequence; and any distraction is a trap door thumping open under the hangman’s rope.
That is the fury of mediation. That is my arrival in this moment that we all share. The calm at the center of chaos. Join me, dear reader, at the centre of chaos.
So I’m heading south armed with an unopened bottle of rye, the spirit of the season travels with me. Good whisky is about as spiritual as I get these days. It is my usual Xmas tradition to grab a bottle of good booze and head down to the Greyhound station, or the street corner, outside a homeless shelter or an alleyway or anywhere I can find and join a cluster of the disaffected, the homeless, the pointless, the ones left out of family portraits. Just to share a drink, a joke and the dregs of our mutual humanity.
But this year, not particularly in contrast, I’ve chosen the company of Deadbeat poets, failed self-construction workers, mental hospital misfits, suicide skippers and gravel-voiced prophets capable of predicting the present with uncanny accuracy. Cassandra’s children muttering under their condensed breaths, scratching their prophecies from the oracle down for the benefit of anyone who still remembers how to read; or how to listen. Tonight these are my brothers (and sisters), in arms. Raging against a sea of struggles, believing that by opposing them, we will end them and wrap our soiled blankets of peace around this cold, shivering world’s shoulders.
Dead Beat Poets
I make it to Main Street much too early and agree to meet my comrades in a bar called Sanctum. I have no currency apart from my still untried bottle of rye so I stand outside on the pavement near but not too near two young women smoking butts and laughing. ‘Merry Xmas’, I venture.
‘Merry fucking Xmas to you too’, is their reply. So I listen. A skill I am still mastering. The raven-haired beauty of the pair is recounting her love life to her friend. Telling her how she had met her intended’s eyes at work, a burning penetration in time and how happy she was that at least she knew, that she knew that she knew that there was an unstated passion, thrilling at the unstated, as yet unenacted attraction between them.
The bittersweet anticipation of passions yearned for but still yet to come.
I wanted to tell the dark-haired young woman how lucky she was to be free to express such yearning to another woman. Jealously, I wanted her to pity my poor lame masculinity and the political mindfield I had to traverse to even come close to sharing such a pure moment of true emotion and affection. But I didn’t. Who wants to hear another pitiful man’s story anyways? This was the year of raised female voices. Voices raised in anger, in righteous retribution for all the wrongs accrued., in demand of recognition. Voices of freedom insisting on justice, insisting on equal treatment without unwanted trespass.
Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink. . . .
So instead I pulled out my weapon of virtue, my great equalizer of man and woman, my bottle of rye from my bag and asked if ‘You ladies would like a drink”. “Hell yes”. And for a brief instant, I felt just like St. Peter patrolling the earth and giving comfort to lost souls.
This murdered the time until my wordly brothers finally arrived. We poured from the bottle into bright red dixie cups, swigging them down in the parking lot before entering the warmth of Sanctum Ale House to talk poetry, performance, and what we were going to do with the rest of our lives. This was beginning to feel a lot like a rendezvous of fallen angels pausing for a drink and brief reflection before hitting Hell.
There was no reason to take a picture or a selfie or even take note of the time. We drank, we talked, we tried to make each other laugh and we indulged in our common humanity; a focus on what we shared more than what we didn’t.
My mind spun back in time to the many drinking conversations I had with my late great friend, the writer David Halliwell. The only man I had ever met who had got drunk with Sam Beckett. So David told this story of buying a bottle of good Irish whisky and taking the train to London, from Yorkshire. Easily a 4-hour journey. On the trip, David got nervous opened the bottle and drank half the contents on the way down arriving completely cut up the King’s Road party where San Beckett would be. He did find Beckett apparently and immediately sat down to finish the rest of the bottle he’d brought. David got so drunk he couldn’t remember a word that Sam Beckett had said to him.
Last night, I told Chris and Alex about the year that David called me up to join him for a Xmas drink and The Bull Tavern in the little North East Oxfordshire village of Charlbury, whose village council insisted on calling it a town because it had 4 pubs, a pharmacy and a post office.
I walked down the unpaved bumpy road to the tavern, past the Egyptian cottage with the papyrus reeds of Isis, the Goddess, not the terrorists. I reached The Bull pub and Inn, Opened the heavy oak door and walked into a movie. The pub was nearly empty save for the bar that featured David on his bar stool holding court with his mates. Only his mates were images burnt on my retinas since childhood: John Hurt, Ben Kingsley, David Warner, Freddie Jones and his son, then unknown now better known than him, Toby Jones. I remember blinking in disbelief. I might as well have walked in on Lewis Carrol, Tolkien and CS Lewis downing pints all who had also frequented this pub some hundred years previously.
I remember David smiling, laughing his phlegmatic cough and motioning me over to introduce me to these faces from the screen. “This is Igor, he’s another writer; he’s a Yank but he’s alright”. I was just another writer in the company of actors, everyday workers taking a break from toiling in the star-maker factories behind the popular film. I was handed a bulbous goblet of glowing ruby wine and the rest is hard to remember. But I do recall making them laugh and David Warner towering over me and reminiscing about his one appearance in a two-part Star Trek opposite Patrick Stewart that had earned him enough to comfortably return to the stage for 7 continuous years. Apart from young Toby, these were board strutting actors; indifferent and virtually contemptuous of their movie work save for the vast sums Hollywood paid them for peddling their trade of packaged emotions.
The next year most of them would be dead, David Halliwell included. I would empty his cottage with a Scottish actor of his while his Yorkshire sister wept inconsolably on his stairwell. In England, people let you weep and leave you to the dignity of your grief out of respect for the exceptional display of emotion. If you openly weep in England its because the pain is so hard that you really can’t hold it in.
Back in the Sanctuum, I explained to my companions how David had taught me the true meaning and value of the literary arts, which for David included actors who tell stories with their faces. Storytelling’s place in the human universe, keeping the stars locked in their firmament and the cosmic spheres in perfectly balanced and meaningful rotation. David Halliwell wasn’t famous. He died a virtual pauper, alone, estranged from his sister, a Yorkshire man with an RSC accent from wanting to be an actor, who wrote every day of his life before heading down to the pub to argue with me.
But he was a great success, albeit not by any kind of American Calvinist standard. Rather he succeeded in staying true to his art. He never sold out to better-paid mediocrity. He stayed true to his art, to himself and he survived with the respect and admiration of his fellow artists. When he died, I wrote and read this eulogy at his memorial, after Harold Pinter came up from Hampstead to say a few words about his departed friend. As did Stephen Frears and Scott Hampton (author of Les Liaisons Dangereuses).
I read this poem to David to my friends Alex Bosworth and Chris Vannoylast night. And in my mind, I went hunting and visiting my own xmas ghosts to remind me of the true joys of this season.
Daedalus Afraid to Fly
David, you bastard, you’ve left me
Understanding here alone,
With only these words falling out of my hands
When it is yours I want to hear again.
Words of your mastery, not mine.
So what was all the swearing about then, David?
What were all those Northern fumes really burning from?
I told you the songs of Yorkshire would never play in LA
Or London for that matter):
Two cities equidistant from your Yorkshire mother.
Tell me, David, why didn’t you just sell out?
You could have bought yourself a much better pint of beer
With all that money for old knotted ropes and
Still, have coughed up the phlegm to laugh at us all.
Is death your idea of some kind of joke?
Did you finally track down the film rights to Malcolm, David
And cash them in?
Are you really, secretly living in Barbados,
Making beautiful women miserable?
To think of all this wasted sorrow and
Empty glasses of beer.
You did say that you always wanted to visit other places.
But Daedalus, you were afraid to fly.
If you had been born upside down in America
You would have been a southern writer living in some Northern town.
Spilling your southern drawl over a rum and coke in a New York City bar.
Sitting elbow to arm with Williams, O’Neill, Baldwin and them all.
Your America was always an America of the mind.
So why fear the flight?
Your America David was where Charlie Parker
was forever sharp shooting pool with Humphrey Bogart
in some room behind a neon-splattered bar
Where Chet Baker never jumped or fell but flew, man!
He just flew away.
Just like you.
So you’re off then, David?
Back up the bumpy road,
Turning the corner around the Little Egyptian cottage
Navigating the reeds of Isis, Long past the close of time.
A brown duffle coat ship, bobbing on an unpaved surface,
Weaving a few well-spoken thoughts into your
Can you tell me, David:
Were you X-Centric, or
Merely Eggs Essential?
How about this time I tell you, David:
The spark was always there.
But not like Daedalus, like Prometheus.
The living punishment of Truth,
Chained to your bar stool,
That eternal pint of Carlsberg lager gnawing at your liver.
Like Prometheus David,
The spark is always here.
For the late, great David Halliwell; poet, playwright,
Death and his brothers are in my garden again.
Moving my plants around.
They tend to the growth quite delicately
Careful to not reap the harvest until the plants mature
And begin to lose their hair.
Death and his brother are in my garden again,
Whispering to each other as they pull away the weeds.
Poting and repotting each plant as it grows
Making sure the roots are clear of regrets and debris
So that in the end, it’s life can be cut short more easily.
Does death have a sweetheart? I wonder.
A woman whom he woes with words of love?
As much as death can love any living thing, at all.
He gathers my plants into a beautiful bouquet
Of lost souls and freshly cut lives.
To gift to she who holds him near; squeezing his dead heart in one hand,
NOTHING has prepared you for This. Nothing ever will.
Because whatever is happening Now has never happened before.
This is a web-nurtured collaboration with 27 artists, sculptors and musicians from the world of Comics, Fantasy, Fine Art and Jazz, including Bill Sienkiewicz, David Lloyd, Liam Sharp, Glenn Fabry, Shaky Kane, Lars Henkel and the cutting edge sculptural typography of the highly acclaimed book designer Rian Hughes.
This illuminated book is a contemporary Dante’s Divine Comedy; a journey through the confessional landscape of a masculine identity. It uses poetry to construct a narrative that explores themes of death and loss, sex and love, and the modern American and Jewish identity design: by the UK’s eminent graphic designer, typographer, illustrator Rian Hughes.
The music is composed and produced by iconoclast, ex-Israeli, Middle-Eastern jazz virtuoso Gilad Atzmon, along with five other jazz artists.
Written by San Diego native Igor Goldkind, this illuminated book will revolutionize the way you view poetry by meshing comics, art, music and animation in a truly unique way. It uses poetry to construct a narrative that explores themes of death and loss, sex and love, and the modern American and Jewish identity. The book is available for download on the iTunes Store andGoogle Play, as well as in a 166 page, fully illustrated in colour hardbound edition available ORDER HERE.
The eBook edition pushes the edge of what is possible with present EPUB3 technology. It is not an App, it is a true book that marries pop art, comics, avant-garde, jazz, spoken word poetry, video and animations, and type design in a manner that we have not seen before IS SHE AVAILABLE? has the feel of an artefact from the near future – a seminal work of a new genre-fusing poetry, graphic art, music, and animation.
Sample interior pages:
IS SHE AVAILABLE? RRP is $34.95, SHIPPING INCLUDED Educational Discount for Students and Teachers:$29.95
Both deluxe hardcover edition PLUS animated and musically scored eBook App edition of Is She Available? bundle: $39.95
Shipping included in orders within the US and its territories.
If you are in Britain and/or Europe, please contact my European wholesaler Fanfare Productions who will take your order and dispatch to your address the same day: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviews ? Sure We Got Reviews. Why You Wanna See Them? Be my guest.
“Igor’s “Illuminated Book” is like a new genre.It is a wonderful ekphrastic expression; a fusion of the arts.” — Poet Mel Takahara
“His collection Is She Available? has the feel of an artefact from the near future – a seminal work of a new genre-fusing poetry, graphic art, music, and animation.” —(San Diego’s) City Beat
“Is SHE Available?” is an experiment, and reading it feels more like an act of discovery… nonetheless there’s a thrill to scrolling through its pages. It’s an ambitious step toward what digital media can (and will) be.”—The Chicago Tribune
The166 full colour, fully illustrated hard cover deluxeedition is available in discerning and eclectic independent bookstores everywhere.Including Fahrenheit 451 in Carlsbad, Soulscape Bookstore in Encinitas, the Upstart Crow in San Diego, Verbatim Booksand Mysterious Galaxy also in San Diego, City Lights and the Cooperfields chain in Marin County and Sonoma County, amongst a growing number of independent book stores.
Order direct from PayPal and shipping is included!
Burt and Astrid had sat down at one of the outdoor tables outside theEncinitas Cafe along the Pacific Coast Highway.
I sat down at the single table next to theirs
Burt, from his wheelchair, had noticed the bundle of books
I had dumped from my shoulder onto my breakfast table,
Startling some spoons and a left behind saucer, and remarked:
“You’re an author, aren’t you?”
“Why would you think?”was my reply.
“I don’t think, I know”.
Astrid tucked Burt’s napkin under his chin.
She was his nurse and his wife.
“Because nobody but an author would carry so many copies of the same book around”, Burt said.
“Burt used to write before he got sick”, Astrid explained.
Burt coughed long into his napkin.
“I’m sorry’, I said, just because I meant it.
Burt finished coughing and reached with his hand gesturing
To pass him my book.
I did and Burt leafed through the pages,
Feeling the clay surface of the paper with his fingers.
“You’re a poet!Very brave.”, Burt pronounced.
And then we talked about poets ancient and new.
We compared reading Rilke, Neruda, Pushkin,
and others both living and dead
I felt like I was visiting my old college roommate
Who had studied the exact same subject as me.
We spent nearly 2 hours over breakfast
Until Burt began to speak Yiddish to Astrid.
Astrid replied in kind.
The moment we shared peeled like a bell across time.
Awaking the ghosts of my ancestors.
Astridrose from her chair to roll back Burt’s wheels
And then they justleft
With my book on Burt’s lap in his chair.
This is Astrid we had the pleasure to meet you my husband and I in Encinitas this summer and had a most pleasant conversation. You gifted us a copy of your book I just wanted to let you know Burt passed away August 23 We really enjoyed meeting you especially Burt….
When I sit at my desk in the barely blinking dawn,
I sit at the helm of a Starship.
Each dimension of time or space is available to me
To go anywhere I want to.
With the flick of a switch and a weird background sound
The course can be faithfully plotted,
At just the right warp speed to be there, be heroic and be back before dinner.
As safe as the hum of my engines.
When I sit at my desk in the mid-morning blue light that pierces
My east facing windows.
I pray that I can write something today,
I pray that I still have something to say.
My eyes are drawn to the street just beneath me,
That winds around the standing tree,
Just outside my window.
There is a spoonful of sunshine in my coffee.
When I sit at my desk in the midday sun
At the zenith of all of Creation,
I know that the bright light that now floods my room,
Will wash the shadows of doubt from these walls.
I still hear that first sound,
The Bang! that expands the spaces around.
I can feel how the act of creation was never just one moment long gone ago.
But a circus of new sensations, an ongoing show.
Will too soon leave us behind sleeping eternity away.
When I sit at my desk in the mid-afternoon sun
And the light of creation slowly dwindles,
I can reflect on all the things that I’ve done
While counting the tasks that remain to lie in the sun.
When I sit at my desk at dusk’s twilight time
When light and darkness are twined,
Each wrestles the other to the ground.
I know that darkness will eventually swallow,
The fading strength of the light.
The time for my bed is just insight
And the twin brothers have given up their fight.
When I sit at my desk in the heart of the darkness
I know that death is hiding in my closet.
I know that the covers I wrap so tightly around me
Offer no protection from what time has brought (me):
The drowning of the light by the darkness.
I bury my head in the night and dream of the return of tomorrow.
Here’s your chance to come and hear me read from my collection of Graphic Poetry IS SHE AVAILABLE? and some new poems and a short story at ComicKhazi Comics Shop at Liberty Station, San Diego on September 1st starting at 6.00 pm.
I’ll be reading, signing and dedicated hard cover copies and generally corrupting youth.
You don’t need Seymour Chwast, Chip Kidd and other designers to tell you that cartoons and comics are vital sources of creative inspiration (although they do that here). So maybe you’re thinking about exploring the graphic novel realm, but you’d like something more exceptional than usual, more out of the ordinary. Well, here’s the first of a series of suggestions that either defy or disregard categorization as comics. And the first, Is She Available?, is an eBook that also challenges conventional book classification in the process.
As you scroll through, you hear 1950s cool jazz in the background. Then gunfire blasts out of nowhere. A choir sings. Dogs bark. Bombs drop from the sky. And all the while, letterforms unexpectedly appear, tilt, transform, and vanish while spoken words interweave with the music and sound effects. Is She Available? is a trans-media poetry collection, one that pushes at the limits of eBook technology. It’s also comics, kind of.
Its author, Igor Goldkind, is a 2000AD comics sci-fi writer. He describes his 50 or so poems as “a contemporary Dante’s Inferno… that explores themes of death and loss, sex and love.” He’s included a couple of standard, panel-sequenced comic book narratives, including one rendered by V for Vendetta’s David Lloyd. But the bulk of the book is enlivened with music and other effects that enhance the moody illustrations and minimalist animations from a diversity of other skilled artists. The lineup notably includes Judge Dredd’s Liam Sharp and Shaky Kane as well as Bill Sienkiewicz of Daredevil/Elektra fame. Most impressive is the overall design, by accomplished comics illustrator and self-described “commercial artist” Rian Hughes. With graphic flair and acuity, Hughes proves himself to be a worthy digital age successor to Stéphane Mallarmé and Robert Massin.
If you’re interested in comic books, chances are you’ve heard the names Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. After all, their partnership paved the way for the Golden Age of comics beginning in the 1940s. With The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio by Mark Evanier, learn more about the duo who invented noteworthy characters like Captain America and Sandman, conceived the idea of romance comics, and created a new standard for the genres of crime, western, and horror comic books. Take a look inside the various aspects of their career, and see some of the works that defined them.
I am posting this to announce the official publishing of my book IS SHE AVAILABLE? On April 1st, 2015. the ebook will be available for download on a variety of commercial websites; not least of which is the official website http://is-she-available.com where you will be able to both download the book and pre-order the hardcover edition.
Cover Illustrations by Bill Sienkiewicz; Design by Rian Hughes
Please, tell your Friends.
“Friends”: how strange that word now seems to me given the dilation of its meaning over the past what 5, 10 years? I recall using the word in reference to a small circle of familiar intimacies; varied in nature and personality but common in values and how we choose to pass our time.
Of course now my Facebook tally shows that I have somewhere near 2,000 such Friends, comprised mainly of people I have never met, with whom I have exchanged a few words at best; and yet in that exchange of Words, have widened the circle of that meaning: Friendship.
Which is why I have come to not so much to write poetry (I started when I was 13), as to publish it. In a form that suits it’s purpose: to reach out to as many people as I can, the Friends of my Friends (and their Friends too), through the channels that will reach them across this sea of data, signs and meanings our attention now spans.
But even the word ‘book’ now seems to have acquired a fluidity of meaning that transcends its original reference. My work is a tangible, page-turning book designed by maestro Rian Hughes; an electronic book with music and animation, a CD of 15 music tracks by the musical enfant adorable Gilad Atzmon; a portfolio of art prints and a selection of Poet-T-Shirts, bearing a selection of fine art images and illustrations from my dozen collaborators on this book.
The inception of this project dates back nearly a year to March 2014, when the author/publisher Amy Sterling, after a long dialogue about writing on Facebook, suggested that her nascent publishing company CHAMELEON Publishing Inc. would be interested in publishing my work. Chameleon Publishing Inc. was a new, next-generation publishing company based in Southern California that’s opening new market channels for books with new readers, mainly for and about women. When I first mentioned my sole discrepancy in this area, Amy replied casually with the second greatest compliment a woman has ever paid me: “But your sensibility fits”.
And I’m thankful that it has, because without the efforts of the women who have supported this project, it would not have come to be. From Eleanor Brooks my firm, caring editor, to my daughter Olivia Goldkind-Brooks, to Addie Kaplan my business manager, this vehicle is powered by a uniquely feminine drive. Since the start gun fired, I have been on an unimaginable roller coaster ride of magical serendipity, dazzling disappointments and a severe lack of funds. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that the career of a writer or any artist is easy; sure you have more freedom, but freedom costs what money can’t buy: time, effort and persistence.
I had hoped to announce the publication before Christmas, then the New Year. But the practical demands and hurdles involved in this kind of innovation and creation (thank you, Adobe!), persists with its own priorities, own issues to resolve. I also encumbered myself with the urgency of my mother’s impending demise late last year. I had to unburden myself of the notion that I needed to place a copy of my book in her hand before she passed. It wasn’t practical it wasn’t possible and in the end, it wasn’t necessary.
The personal is always constrained by the impersonal.
My persistence on this project, (some would add, against all reason), is about to see fruit. Whether the fruit is sweet or bitter (or both) will soon be for others to determine. What I can tell you is that I have put all of myself into this this deeply confessional, personal work. All of my sweat, all of my anger, all of my love, all of my hatred, all of my blood, sinew and bone into the making of this creation. My intent is to connect with you, with your emotions, your experiences and your sense of your self by sharing the most personal in the most universal way I can. I believe, at the depth of our selves, in our own most solitary, private existences is where we find each other gathered, maybe huddled, in the same exact corner.
It will not be to everyone’s tastes, I’m sure. But if you care to take a look you will find a work that endeavors not to entertain, nor offer safe refuge from harsh truths; but rather to be that truth in Word, in Image, in Music and in Movement.