|April 20, 2017||A THANK YOU TO THE CHRONICLE!||no comments|
|April 01, 2017||BOOK RELEASE: YOU ARE INVITED!||1 comments|
|February 28, 2017||ARTISTS TRANSCENDING POLITICS||3 comments|
|February 05, 2017||SATURDAY POEM||no comments|
|December 31, 2016||POLITICS AND POETRY||2 comments|
|November 22, 2016||THREE FILMS||2 comments|
|November 11, 2016||POETRY AND FILM!||no comments|
|October 20, 2016||OLD GOLD: A POEM||2 comments|
|September 07, 2016||SHANA TOVA||1 comments|
|August 15, 2016||A POEM, PLUS||2 comments|
Hi Poetry Lovers,
Today I would like to thank our publisher, The Jewish Chronicle, and its reporter, Toby Tabachnick, for the review of the launch event for CAROUSEL, my newest book.
See The Jewish Chronicle, April 21, 2017, page 3, or soon at http://www.thejewishchronicle.net
I feel most appreciated, and most grateful.
(As I also am to editor, Angela Leibowicz, for all her tech-savvy assistance with this blog!)
COA, City of Asylum, and its newest space, Alphabet City, were my hosts. COA is a remarkable organization, founded by Salman Rushdie, to rescue and support writers who are censored (or worse) by governments all around the world.
Diane Samuels and Henry Reese founded the Pittsburgh chapter. Their fine work deserves to be supported: check out http://www.cityofasylumpittsburgh.org.
CAROUSEL, the title poem's video can be seen at
The book is available at Caliban Books, Craig St. Oakland, or from www.amazon.com.
Readings are listed on my website, www.judithrrobinson.com
Finally, we cannot close without a poem, and since The Jewish Chronicle is the voice of our community, and so much more, I have chosen a poem that in some respects is an homage to us all, the Jewish people of Pittsburgh.
Squirrel Hill, 2012
The well-built 2 and 3-story bricks
still house the dreams of the middle-class.
Fewer gas stations service many more cars,
while people who are not in a hurry run as fast as they can
along beautiful Beechwood Boulevard.
Murray, the longest Avenue, hosts a hillside
of new food purveyors, of different origin
than the hardy bakers and butchers of the past---
more pizza now and sushi than kosher chicken
and kreplach soup---but the liveliness
and sweat-for-every-dollar hours remain the same.
Allderdice High School has changed, too.
Gone is the vast green lawn that lent dignity.
What is left to mask the rowdiness and shenanigans inside?
Another generation of oddballs shuffles past
the Manor, turns up-street at Forbes, these days.
Do they call out to the same unseen angels on high?
Do they chat with the same absent friends?
Synagogues of each persuasion offer old prayers and answers
alongside the newer Korean church.
Change has been ushered in at the post office as well:
bright blue counters and shining bulbs light up the lines
of weary, outraged customers.
Robins and cardinals still do business in the ancient,
thick-trunked sycamores of Schenley Park, especially upon
the car roofs of young lovers, necking in Toyotas, not Chevys.
And the squirrels still abound, the small, beloved,
plume-tailed rodents who named our little place in the world.
Thanks Toby, thanks Chronicle, and thank you for clicking in!
Hi Poetry Lovers,
Taking the opportunity to let you know about the publication and public events in connection to the release of my new book, CAROUSEL.
Carousel is a collection of poetry and fiction, just published by Lummox Press, of Palo Alto, California. Lummox is an interesting publisher: their website is worth a look. lummoxpress.com
The title poem was recently published as a video by "Helen, A Literary Journal". see
I am including a schedule of readings/events, all coming soon.
I would love to meet you, readers! I would love to have any and all interested parties attend!
Spring 2017 Reading Schedule for CAROUSEL
April 6, Thursday, 7:00 PM: Book Launch Party
City of Asylum/Alphabet City
40 W. North Ave.
Pgh. PA 15212
alphabetcity.org -- please click on for free reservations
April 20, Thursday, 6:30 pm
Art & Inspiration Series
Shaler North Hills Library
1822 Mt. Royal Blvd.
Glenshaw, PA 15116
with Hiram Larew, visiting poet from Washington, DC.
April 21, Friday, 7:00 PM: With Hiram Larew and Lawrence Wray
The SouthSide Presbyterian Church Café
1926 Sarah St.
Pgh, PA 15203
with poets Lawrence Wray and Hiram Larew, see above
May 12, Friday, 6:00 PM
Zed’s Café Poetry Series
8225 Georgia Ave.
Silver Springs, MD 20910
June 3, Saturday, 8:00 pm
Spinning Plate Gallery
5821 Baum Blvd. 15206
in conjunction with Richard Caraval's art exhibit
This is the press release statement about the book:
ABOUT CAROUSEL by Judith R. Robinson
"For me, reading and writing are the two sides of world-exploration. Poems and stories, at their best, are at once both unique and all-embracing, and as necessary to a fully realized life as food and drink---and more, a human pleasure. My hope is that this book will bring a measure of satisfaction to readers. While "Carousel," contains new material, it is also the culmination of many years of work and publication. I am grateful to my publisher, Lummox Press, and its editor, RD Armstrong, for an opportunity to share this writing and, hopefully, to cross the bridge from the personal to the universal."
Finally, a sample poem:
I hope to kiss both my grandmothers,
who I have missed all my life,
to have them cradle & comfort me,
as curled in their arms
and no longer numb, I cry.
I cry as I am rocked back & forth
and passed between them;
my grandmothers’ hands stroke my skin
until the ravages of life
that have branded me,
are healed & I am pink & tender
& new as first wildflowers.
Then my grandmothers croon
the truth, a cadence sweet & simple,
and at once the onionskin layers
of mind-papering are peeled away
and the confusion that reigned
shoots high & away & scatters~~~
buck-shot confetti swirling in ice blue air.
At last, unscarred & clean, I understand.
I know why one soul was born---lean & blessed,
supple & strong: Joe DiMaggio!---
& sent to this earth on the exact same day
as Jimmy Jones, who I remember
at our door each June, blind and nodding
in unmatched plaids,
come to tune the old player piano.
Everything is explained: my grandmothers
tenderly place each note of precious truth
in a hollowed green melon, carved into a basket
I can carry, and we are blown home, completely;
and all is just as it should be
and never, until this moment, was.
--Judith R. Robinson
links for CAROUSEL
Join me at any of the above places for a glass of wine, some stimulating thought, and some fun!
Thanks for clicking in! xo Judy
HI POETRY LOVERS,
A SLIGHT DEPARTURE TODAY. IT IS NOT NEWS TO ANYONE THAT OUR COUNTRY IS IN UPHEAVEL, POLITICALLY. I, FOR ONE, FIND MYSELF WISHING TO ESCAPE FROM THIS TURMOIL, AND MY USUAL ESCAPE ROUTE IS INTO THE ARTS. POETRY, PRIMARILY, IS THE VEHICLE FOR ME. BUT OF COURSE THERE ARE OTHER ARTS THAT TAKE US AWAY FROM MISERY---MUSIC, FOR ONE.
YET IN THIS FREE LAND ARTISTS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEIR RIGHT TO EXPRESSION, SO WE SOMETIMES ENCOUNTER MORE OF THE SAME DIVISIVENESS AND ANGER IN THEIR WRITINGS AND SONGS. AND, IT MUST BE NOTED, THERE CAN BE VERY ANGRY, EVEN VICIOUS MATERIAL, CONTAINED IN THEIR WORK.
TRUE, MANY ARTISTS FEEL THIS IS THEIR DUTY, TO OPPOSE WHAT THEY SEE AS WRONG, AND PROTEST IS LEGITIMATE. THEY ARE EXERCISING A BASIC RIGHT, AND I AGREE WITH THAT PRINCIPLE. BUT UNFORTUNATELY SOMETIMES EXTREMELY BIASED AND ANGRY ATTITUDES CAN SEEP IN. THEY SEEM TO FEEL THEY SHOULD PROTEST "HATE" BUT THEY ARE OFTEN CREATING AND EXHIBITING "HATE" THEMSELVES.
BUT THANKFULLY THERE ARE ALSO SOME ARTISTS WHO SEEK TO TRANSCEND. THEY MOVE BEYOND THE POLITICAL AND FOCUS ON THE CREATIVE ASPECTS OF THEIR ART. VIOLA DAVIS IS ONE OF THESE PEOPLE. IN MANY INTERVIEWS SHE REVEALS HER PASSION FOR HER WORK; SHE IS A PARTICULARLY TALENTED ACTRESS, DEVOTED TO HER ART. I HAVE NOT HEARD HER SPEAK IN ANY DIVISIVE WAY ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE OR CURRENT EVENTS.
AN INTERESTING EXAMPLE OF THE ARTIST'S ROLE IN SOCIETY IS REFLECTED IN THE FOLLOWING LETTER, WRITTEN BY JAZZ GUITARIST LARRY CORYELL, TO DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE.
Coryell’s Letter to DownBeat
I need to walk back some of the statements I made to DownBeat (“Back from the Brink,” February). I am no longer angry about the election; I accept it. I have musician friends who did not vote my way. I have no place implying, as I did in the article, that their votes were insincere or illegitimate; that is a sacred choice for all Americans and it needs to be respected.
Also—and this is very important—I believe that I have a responsibility to transcend politics, focusing instead on finding ways to touch people’s hearts through music. I never want to forget all the great players who mentored me in the art of demonstrating restraint regarding hot-button issues; these men and women advised me to exercise discretion, and to behave with exemplary humanity. I need to follow that advice.
I regret that I may have offended anyone. DownBeat is, after all, a journalistic haven for art and creativity. DownBeat and the other jazz magazines assiduously focus on America’s greatest art form: jazz. We need for these publications to continue their mission of creating value through promoting and exploring jazz. My comments did nothing to further the cause of our music. I apologize.
With best regards from Berlin, Germany,
I WILL CLOSE WITH A POEM TO TAKE US BEYOND THE DIVISIVENESS AROUND US, AND TO FOCUS ON THE HOPE OF BETTER TIMES TO COME. ENJOY.
Let me go where'er I will
I hear a sky-born music still:
It sounds from all things old,
It sounds from all things young;
From all that's fair, from all that's foul,
Peals out a cheerful song.
It is not only in the rose,
It is not only in the bird,
Not only where the rainbow glows,
Nor in the song of woman heard,
But in the darkest, meanest things
There always, always something sings.
"Tis not in the high stars alone,
Nor in the cups of budding flowers,
Nor in the redbreast's mellow tone,
Nor in the bow that smiles in showers,
But in the mud and scum of things
There always, always something sings.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
THANKS FOR CLICKING IN. XO JUDY
Hello Poetry Lovers,
This year is starting off as an extraordinarily busy one for me. I am delighted to announce the publication of a new collection of poems and stories titled CAROUSEL, from Lummox Press. Soon I will blog some information about the reading/appearance schedule I will follow to introduce the book. Please stay tuned!
Poetry readings don't hold vast appeal----but you, my readers, are special: I suspect you already know that many, many literate people are not drawn to poetry; our readership, as well as our live poetry presentations do not command mass audiences. On this subject I like to quote the late, witty Polish poet, Wislawa Zymborska, who asked: "Oh Muse, where are our crowds?"
Zymborska then goes on in her poem to humorously contrast the number of audience members at her reading to that of any boxing match!
Of course there are lots of reasons for this, one of which is the sometime "inaccessibility" of certain modern poetries---but that is a subject for another day.
The point here is that I ask you, poetry devotees, to please accept the mantle of specialness---you are very select group.
So I suspect you know that our local paper, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has continually published a "Saturday Poem," for many years. Kudos to them for that! I am grateful to them, and especially wish to thank their current poetry editor, Lori Jakiela, herself a wonderfully talented writer/poet, for this past Saturday's publication. Hope you enjoy a commonly shared, human "dilemma".
our willing hearts
Fluffy lambs frolic
across Little Golden pages
so do the tiny piglets.
We learn to say baa, baa
oink, oink, oink
But behind our lips
our own baby teeth come in
and fall out like wisdom.
We grow canines
those teeth that tear flesh
and it is constantly time to eat.
— Judith R. Robinson
Thanks for clicking in! xo Judy
Hello Poetry Lovers,
I am pleased today to add a final blog post for the year 2016. Such a year! (as my grandmother would say)
I don't write about politics, I write about poetry. These two subjects are worlds apart from each other, for me, although I (very occasionally) and many others do in fact write political poems. And since I have observed over time that traits do tend to cluster, I can't help but notice that many poets are political liberals, Democrats who supported Clinton and who are now in abject despair over the election of Trump.
To them, particularly my fellow Jewish poets, I have one word to say and that is: Israel.
From a memory a few years ago of Hillary Clinton kissing Mrs. Arafat, to President Obama's petty, although dangerous vindictiveness at the UN, (and the list could go on) I will simply quote President-Elect Donald Trump's recent tweet to Israel: "Stay strong. January 20th is coming soon."
I don't usually speculate on why some American Jews blindly follow people and positions that are clearly against their own self-interest. Really, that is a subject for psychiatrists to answer. But the subject intrigues.
So while I don't write about politics, I do write about the phenomenon described above.
Such a poem will appear in a forthcoming collection, "CAROUSEL," by Lummox Press. I will have more to say about the book in another posting. For now, and I will share the poem, which attempts to address the mind set of many co-religionists.
“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” --Saul Bellow
“That Netanyahu is such a troublemaker!” --Esther Skirboll
deny the audacious faces
hide away from the bold defenders
disavow them, never swear never again
do not expect a place at the table
you know you will be despised
you know you will be punished
you know you will be called pariah
dig deep into any nether world dark enough;
scurry along with bats and insects
into the plum black of the cave
never let the sun dance on your head
or the moon flush you out
never let them unwittingly betray you
the world will not condone strength
do not condone it yourself
do not make mayhem
do more than smile and bow
do more than join the chorus
with all your heart
with all your might
suckle up crawl inside
make mad crazy love with the enemy
& be not afraid; perhaps you will survive.
this is the lesson history has taught you.
--Judith R. Robinson
That's my take on those whose concerns do not include the continued existence of the state of Israel.
I believe I'm in good company with Saul Bellow.
Thanks for clicking in. xo Judy
Hi Poetry Lovers,
As promised in the last blog post, I am writing some brief reviews about the three films about poets presented by the Three Rivers Film Festival.
The films were MAYA ANGELOU:AND STILL I RISE; NERUDA; and A QUIET PASSION.
The focus of each film was the life of the poet--Angelou, Neruda, and Emily Dickinson.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise is a documentary, one that traces the entire life of the poet, whom we learn lived a life that included far more than poetry. A desperately deprived and injured child, Angelou spent much of her early life refusing to speak, mute because she feared giving voice to her thoughts would bring death to others. Her remarkable trajectory through pain to performance, to art, to world citizenship is carefully and lovingly attended to in this film. Her accomplishments were at the highest level in the arts; heaped with awards, she became an outstanding example of the heights to which a human can aspire.
The film is an homage, much deserved, well and accurately done.
One fact of Angelou's life and work was her ability to inspire. A good example of this is her famous poem,
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Finally dear Readers, I will add what is really just a matter of opinion--the Angelou film was, for me, clearly the best of the three.
"Neruda," the film, was abstract to a fault, particularly since the work of the poet was anything but abstract. Neruda was the quintessential man of the people, a known Communist, who wrote of the simplest things. His "Odas Elementales," is the perfect example of this. Odes to things like the onion, the tomato, even his socks!
The Emily Dickinson film, "A Quiet Passion," was extremely melodramatic; Emily was, in life, a recluse; in the film she is portrayed by Cynthia Nixon, as a hysteric, which I question as true.
This is not to say that I did not enjoy these two films---I did. My mother used to say that comparisons are usually odious, which may be so. Each film was well worth seeing. Angelou was merely the best.
Thanks for clicking in! xo Judy
Hello Poetry Lovers,
This morning I received word of some interesting happenings, soon to happen! Iris Samson, filmmaker, journalist and dear friend to all Pittsburgh ---Jewish and everyone else---has shared some exciting news. Take a peek:
Greetings Poetry Lovers,
There is a poet in California named Rick Lupert who does a whole lot more for the craft of poetry than merely write it.
Lupert is an editor, publisher, webmaster, entrepreneur in the business of supplying this most precise of all literary forms to as much of the world as he can.
Beside this and many other special attentions, like "Poet of the Week," and Holocaust Remembrance Day, Lupert also holds an annual competition. For a $1.00 fee, anyone can enter a poem; in 2016 there were 865 entries. Three winners split the $1,186 prize money, but more importantly, every single person who sent in a poem received at least one prize, just for entering. Lupert achieves this Herculean task by enlisting sponsors willing to make donations
Prizes might include books, CD's/tapes, writing lessons, coaching sessions, magazine subscriptions, for example.
Surprising? Perhaps, but it works: It is Lupert's own generosity and good will that prompts the best in others.
I have had the honor of "Poet of the Week," a couple of times, as well as having been published as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day. In appreciation of Rick Lupert's special efforts on behalf of poets and poetry, I am pleased to offer as my donation, the following poem, and commentary.
The author of the work is Sarah Lilius.
He made jewelry with
callused, swollen hands.
Intricate work with gold
and gems, I handled each
piece like a promise, like it
would be mine. I felt
yesterday in the metal,
in the places that would
scratch my small hands.
A childhood entity,
tomorrow hit me like grandfather's
pocket watch, hot on one side
from his left hand. Cold
on the other side from the
Illinois country air.
Nothing he built,
he carried it like a knife.
He always knew the time,
an obsession of moving
the train that keeps
There are several distinct features in "Old Gold," that make it a fine poem. Poet begins with a compelling image:
"...swollen, callused hands."
A vision of such hands emerges; we understand a great deal about the owner of such hands; these are hands of someone who has worked long and hard. For the poet, this is a defining, early memory. These hands will contrast later in the poem with the writer's own "small hands."
The nature of a relationship emerges, as well as a strong sense of mortality, in the form of the passage of time. We encounter the tender relationship against a ticking ...
..."pocket watch,"... "yesterday"... "tomorrow",,, "movement forward, and finally, " a train that keeps us afraid." .
Mortality is the raison d'etre for much of the world's greatest poetry.
Shakespeare, in iambic pentameter, reminded us of time's immutable hold on us:
"like as the waves make toward the pebbled shore,
so do our minutes hasten to their end..." (from sonnet 60)
So we have an early memory of the poet, a loving voice, a respectful voice. There is respect for the hard work, the beautiful materials, the jewelry he made that represented a "promise" held in the "small hands."
Then midway in the poem the narrative shifts, and with it a shift from "a childhood entity" to something else. She writes:
"tomorrow hit me like grandfather's pocket watch, hot on one side...cold on the other side..."
And from there a great deal that can best be summarized as a profound sense of a world of adulthood, with all it's risks, dangers and disappointment. A realization in regard to the grandfather comes:
"Cold...in the Illinois country air. Nothing he built, he carried it (the pocket watch) like a knife."
"He always knew the time, ...moving slightly forward, the train that keeps us afraid."
That "train moving ...that keeps us afraid," is an apt metaphor for mortality.
Indeed, Ms. Lilius has given us a poetic vision of some human truths:
A sensitive child's expectations of life are not frequently met.
Good memories are what we profoundly need to sustain us on this often difficult road that must inevitably end.
Many thanks to Sarah Lilius for "Old Gold." It is a moving, memorable poem. Scroll back, and read it again--advice I often give students; much emerges on a second read.
And thanks to you all for clicking in! xo Judy
HELLO POETRY LOVERS,
I THINK I'M JUST A BIT AHEAD OF TIME, WHICH AFFORDS ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE THE FIRST TO WISH YOU A GOOD NEW YEAR, 5777!
IMAGINE THE CENTURIES THAT ENCOMPASS ALL WE KNOW OF OUR PEOPLE, OUR FAITH, OUR TRADITIONS---OUR HISTORY AS JEWS IN THIS WORLD!
MOST OF WHO AND WHAT WE ARE IS OWED TO OUR TREASURED PAST. HOW WONDERFUL TO POSSESS THIS UNIQUE AND PRECIOUS HERITAGE, TO BE ABLE TO WISH EACH OTHER, JUST AS OUR ANCESTORS DID,
Summer leaves us
Now autumn is assembling.
The valleys darken. The trees
Prepare to sleep again,
The fields begin
Their harvest. Apples
Are piled at the roadside
In bushels, as the yellow moon rises:
This is the repetition
And the mother gathers the kinder to her table.
With her hand extended, as a signal,
She ignites the flames
Distinct, gold, reminding all
Come here, remember.
And their voices tremble,
In praise, in prayer.
--JUDITH R. ROBINSON
THANKS FOR CLICKING IN! XO JUDY
Hello Poetry Lovers,
A video came across my desk that is causing me to share something in addition to poetry today. It is a short film that deals in a wise and tender manner with an aspect of our history. Tragedy is no stranger to the Jewish people. Need I say more?
Here bloom green
sweet with spring;
the righteous few
are not forgotten
in Our Garden.
from leaf and vine.
Note the smooth
amid the blossoms:
the sculpted mother's
the first remembrance
of the human artist.
Beyond the blossoms
his last remembrance,
the dying ashes, the
tiny flames that
within the concrete
---Judith R. Robinson
* Yad Vashem is the name of the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem