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From My Bookshelf: Lesléa Newman’s I CARRY MY MOTHER

Earlier this year, I shared one line from a poem by Lesléa Newman (“Sitting Shiva,” which I’d discovered thanks to Keshet/MyJewishLearning.com) as a “Sunday Sentence” on the Practicing Writing blog. Simultaneously, I ordered a copy of the collection in which that poem appears, I Carry My Mother, in which the poet recounts her mother’s dying and her own grief. But it took me until this week to sit down and actually read the book.

It is a searing collection. I dare anyone to read it without shedding tears at least once. (Maybe I suspected that would be the case, and maybe I needed some time to steel myself before engaging with the full collection.)

It is also a remarkably instructive volume for anyone interested in the practice of poetry. And since April is National Poetry Month, it seems appropriate to comment on this quality. Continue reading ›

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Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer

A New Month, A New Newsletter, and New Hopes for My Poetry Practice

imagesIn case you haven’t yet seen it, the April issue of The Practicing Writer is now available.

Along with the usual hefty serving of no-fee contest listings and calls from paying publishers/litmags, you’ll find within the issue a brief item in which I describe my hopes for giving my poetry practice a kick-start this month and a few links to resources I’m counting on to help in that endeavor: the 2015 Poetic Asides PAD (Poem-A-Day) Challenge; the Poetry Super Highway Prompt-A-Day for National Poetry Month; and NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month). Continue reading ›

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From My Bookshelf: Myron S. Kaufmann’s REMEMBER ME TO GOD

Can't explain the coloring on the cover of my library copy!

Can’t explain the coloring on the cover of my library copy!

“Though it was hailed on publication as one of the finest novels ever written about American Jews and remained on The New York Times bestseller list for an entire year,” Josh Lambert has written for Tablet, “almost no one remembers [Myron S. Kaufmann’s Remember Me to God] today. It goes unmentioned in bibliographies of American Jewish fiction, and so obscure is Kaufmann in this Internet age that searching for his name turns up nary a stub on Wikipedia.”

Lambert’s essay explores the possible reasons behind the book’s obscurity. Having recently immersed myself in the novel (you can find a summary here), I can appreciate Lambert’s arguments and hypotheses. I’m in particular agreement with the suggestion that one should accord attention and respect to the characters of Adam Amsterdam and his daughter Dorothy. But I can’t get away from how unpleasant—dare I say, how unsympathetic—I found the ostensible protagonist, Richard Amsterdam (Adam’s son and Dorothy’s brother).

This character is so repellent that he made it challenging for me to stick with the novel—which runs more than 600 pages—despite the book’s unquestionable artistic merits as (again borrowing from Lambert) “a finely wrought triumph of midcentury realism.” Like Lambert, I have personal connections to Harvard, where much of the novel unfolds, and innumerable details within the novel struck chords of not-unpleasant memory. But Richard Amsterdam (and, to a lesser extent, Richard’s mother) so appalled me that I’m not sure how comfortable I’d feel recommending this book to others without some warnings.

Still, I can understand Lambert’s enthusiasm. And I’m not sorry that I read it.

Have you read Remember Me to God? What was your take?

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From My Bookshelf: Anita Diamant’s THE BOSTON GIRL

More often than not, when I’m looking for a birthday gift for my beloved mother, I choose a book. We celebrated Mom’s birthday last week, and this year, I chose for her Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl.

The novel crossed my radar last fall. My bibliophilic bff Deb read it and recommended it, enthusiastically. In December, I even went to hear Anita Diamant in conversation with Dara Horn at an event organized by Moment Magazine at The Jewish Museum (books were sold there, too). But I didn’t read the new novel until I was prodded by the inaugural “meeting” of the Jewish Women’s Archive Book Club, a new online gathering-place; you can find the archive of that discussion, which occurred on February 10, here. Continue reading ›

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Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer

Singing for My Supper (Technically, Lecturing for My Lunch)

I’ve written here about the New York Society Library before. It’s a lovely, lovely institution where yesterday I gave a brief “Writing Life” talk titled “Writing Contests 101.”


The group was delightful, and I had a wonderful time. After the session, the librarian who had invited me to speak, Carolyn Waters, treated me to a delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant.

(I didn’t “advertise” this event ahead of time, because it was limited to Library members only. But I’m happy to share the resource handout that I distributed there.) Continue reading ›

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Friday Finds for Writers

Treasure Chest
Writing-related resources, news, and reflections to enjoy over the weekend. Continue reading ›

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