Alicia Ostriker  photo: Miguel Pagliere

Alicia Ostriker  

with Nicolette Reim

I met Alicia Ostriker when she was the Honorary Poet in Residence at Drew University’s MFA in Poetry and Poetry in Translation. I had the honor of experiencing her mentorship and teaching within the community of the extraordinary faculty and poets in the only MFA writing program in the United States focused solely on poetry. In addition, Alicia taught for many years as a tenured professor at Rutgers University. Known as a Jewish feminist poet, her extensive list of publications have received considerable recognition. She was one of the first poets in America to make and publish poems on untouched subjects such as motherhood. Also an accomplished visual artist, she lives in New York City, where she was born and raised, which continues as a place of deep attachment.

Alicia Ostriker, The Hand, drawing

Nicolette Reim: You’re a poet, scholar, critic, mother, wife, and teacher. You believe in the power of written words to advance humanity. Ruth Bader Ginsberg felt that about her court writings. “Get it right and keep it tight,” meant for her, “an excruciating attention to every word to make sure there was no excess – that every word, every phrase, every paragraph in an opinion had a purpose.” Does this seem to you also to fit poetics which tends to be less forgiving than other literary forms?

 

Alicia Ostriker: Your questions are provocative, Nicolette. You cause me to think back over layers of my writing life. To be compared with Justice Ginsberg makes me want to sink into the floor. But yes, I do believe words—spoken and written—have power. Their power may be used for good and ill, as we have learned from the Tweeter-in-Chief.  “Get it right and keep it tight” is a perfect mantra for poetry as well as legal opinions. It also works for scientific writing. My husband is an astrophysicist, and we long ago discovered that getting it right and keeping it tight is what we both strive to do in our writing. We probe for realities beneath the surface, then seek the right language to articulate what we find.

Alicia Ostriker reading on October 24, 2020.

ARS POETICA:  THREE POEMS

What you fear to say

turns to poison in your body

 

it will kill you

one way or another

so breathe in reality

breathe out truth

if you can – if you can

manage to find words .

 

The pull of the fish on the line

like the hard steady current of the river

 

and you pulling back equally steadily

in water to your waist

 

under a summer sun

that bakes the back of your neck

 

jigs of splashy light teasing the eye

delighting not distracting you

 

from the thing you are trying to catch

that is trying to flee .

 

 

Matisse, too, when the fingers ceased to work,

worked larger and bolder, his primary colors celebrating

the weddings of innocence and glory, innocence and glory

 

Monet when the cataracts blanketed his eyes

painted swirls of rage, and when his sight recovered

painted water lilies, Picasso claimed

I do not seek, I find, and stuck to that story

about himself, and made that story stick.

Damn right.  We are talking about defiance.            

 

    --THE BOOK OF SEVENTY

Books by Alicia Ostriker: The Volcano Sequence, No Heaven, The Book of Seventy

The Old Woman, The Tulip and the Dog, Waiting for the Light, The Volcano and After

NR: Painting and the visual arts were your first love. Your exquisite drawings and photographs appear in your many publications. In the 1960’s you changed from more traditional poetic forms to free verse (you call “open”). You equate the breaking of the pentameter with “catastrophe” - at that time, collapses between men and woman and unpopular wars. Emerging feminists, such as Adrienne Rich, Judy Grahn, Audre Lorde, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton were ground breakers of poetic forms (Allen Ginsberg, also an important influence, broke traditional form earlier in the 50s). Do you see on the horizon another new chapter in poetry’s formal history, or have concrete and language poets exhausted the limits of experimental possibilities?  

 

AO: It's true that visual art was my first love. As a child I drew all the time, and thought I'd be an artist when I grew up. From my high school years through college and beyond, I took art classes. In my twenties I did graphic art--etchings and woodcuts. Slowly but surely, motherhood replaced working in a studio. But drawing just went on and on. Drawings of my family, of people on trains, park benches, classrooms, lecture halls, self-portraits, still lifes, and even drawings of my own hands. The big takeaway, though, is that every kind of visual art, from comics to painting and sculpture, to photography and film, gives me joy. I believe once you have practiced any form of art, you become attached to it forever. You have a quick access to joy--and to judgment. When people write about my poetry as feminist, or political, or erotic, or spiritual, they overlook how many ekphrastic poems I've written, about artists including Matisse, Monet, Goya, Caravaggio, Giotto, Rembrandt, Corot, Redon, Bonnard, Van Gogh, Paula Modersohn Becker, Alice Neel, Chinese landscape painting, Rothko, Botticelli...I have a 12-part poem on Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" in No Heaven. These are some of my favorite poems. Several of them are in my new book, The Volcano and After: Selected and New Poems 2002-2019. Nine are in No Heaven (2005).

CARAVAGGIO:  THE PAINTING OF FORCE AND VIOLENCE (excerpts)

 

1.  Abraham’s thumb digs into Isaac’s jaw.

Like all Caravaggio’s victims Isaac howls.

Of course he is terrified,

The teeth show, the eyes bug out, pushed

Into our faces inviting us to see

What it must mean to be obsessed and shameless.

 

Surprise is part of it, a father’s

Kitchen knife at our peachy throat, the father’s

Forearm restrained by the angel who has

Hastily but firmly appeared on the canvas’ left margin.

 

Abraham has forced his head round, looks annoyed

At the interruption, as if he might shake off the hand’s pressure

In another instant, and on stage right

The profile of a comically stupid white goat,

Almost more pasted than painted,

Peers curiously at the entire scene—

 

This is the test—are you the boy, or the vigorous

Old father, or the well bred angel, or the goat?

Do you place yourself in the hands of the living God?

 

4.  When the giant’s head is removed and the body nowhere in sight

When the victor suspends it in air by its own black greasy hair

 

Still the image conveys no repose, no triumph or calm or ease,

For see how the youth’s compressed lips are hardly at rest,

 

How his foreshortened arm has already begun to ache

So his shoulder will tire soon, he will set the gross head down,

How Goliath’s opened mouth has not yet begun to drip

Saliva, nor stunned eyes to admit their loss,

 

Behold through the broken brow how self repents its past

While David regards the horror his future holds.            

 

   --THE VOLCANO AND AFTER

AO: It's also true that my earliest poetry was in traditional closed form. I was pretty snobbish about that. But open form let me write wilder and wider. The very first poem I wrote in open form astonished me; it addressed my family, my parents and my sister, and was a poem full of intimate heartache and painful love. "Amy Thirteen." I'd never before written about my family, didn't know I was going to before I wrote it, didn't think you could write poetry about your family, and once I began, I never stopped. This was just the opposite of what Adrienne Rich said about form--that writing in form was like "asbestos gloves" that enabled her to write about topics too hot to handle. For me, open forms let my emotions become open and energized--which is what I always want. But I say "open form," not "free verse." I seriously dislike the term free verse. For me, open form is like jazz improvisation. It has to be musical. It has to be expressive. Every line must somehow lead to the next line, it must be beautiful, it must be right--but you never know in advance exactly how. Open form is actually harder than closed form. I can write iambic pentameter in my sleep. The form itself does half the work. But with open form I need to be a hundred percent alert. At the same time, the craftsmanship involved in traditional forms still subtly informs the music of my poems, the cadences, the play of sound.  

 

What's on the horizon? Adaptations of forms from other languages, like the Arabic ghazal, or the Japanese tanka. Marilyn Hacker has been doing many of these. Collaborative poems of all sorts are on the horizon too. Even more important, watch for bilingual poems. Code-switching within a poem from one language to another is a way of paying homage to the richness and diversity of the American experience. Celebrating our hybridity. But the key thing is art, in all of its forms.

NR: The Midrashic tradition of Bible interpretation re-frames scripture from 2,000 to 3,000 years ago in terms of current times. You have posited feminism in the Jewish tradition of wrestling with God. In your poetics, it appears in the form of parallels, oppositional questions and answers, arrivals at different stories and feminist reinterpretations of the Old Testament. In The Old Woman, the Tulip and the Dog, juxtapositions appear in threes rather than twos. Does the formal solution reflect evolving thoughts of God as a conversation among many points of view that work together, not a struggle of right or wrong?

 

AO: The explosion of midrashic writing in America since World War II, most of it by women, goes on and on. The word "midrash" in Hebrew implies "seek “or "investigate," and has many meanings, but for poets today it means re-telling some of the compelling stories in the Bible, in modern terms. Not commenting on the stories, but making them new, often in hybrid forms. My book The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions, is radically hybrid: part prose, part poetry, part midrash, part autobiography. Writing it involved total obsession, total immersion in the world of the Bible, from Adam and Eve and the Garden, through centuries of myth and legend to the book of Job and the death of God--spoiler alert, he's not dead, he's just pregnant and in labor, trying to give birth to his divine feminine self--all in my own terms, my own vision, which I am essentially channeling from the desperate need all around me. Making traditional things new is what keeps cultures alive. I wrestle with the biblical text like Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis, and I laugh at it like Sarah laughing when God says she is going to have a baby at age ninety. My object is to wrestle a blessing out of a tradition that is overwhelmingly masculine--by making it my own. Paintings of biblical scenes, films like "The Ten Commandments," "Ben Hur" and "Jesus Christ Superstar," are all midrash too. They all have their agendas. My agenda is feminist. In my version, for example, Solomon and Sheba are lovers, competing in joke-telling. Samson is a terrorist. The very first midrash I wrote asks what Job's wife, that nameless woman, will say to God when she gets the courage to question his justice the way her husband did. If Job is Everyman, Job's wife is Everywoman. How did she feel about God giving her ten new children to replace the ten God let Satan kill off on a bet, to satisfy his sacred ego?  What will she demand?

 

It's interesting that you ask about The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog. These characters came to me unannounced, each with their own personality. It was great fun to listen for what they would each have to say, and I liked it that the earthy and witty dog always had the last word. Human, plant and animal all in the same conversation. A threesome, breaking up our culture's obsessive insistence on dualities.

THE BLESSING OF THE OLD WOMAN, THE TULIP, AND THE DOG

 

To be blessed,

said the old woman

is to live and work

so hard

God’s love washes right through you

like milk through a cow.

 

To be blessed

said the dark red tulip

is to knock their eyes out

with the slug of lust

implied by your upturned skirt

 

To be blessed

said the dog

is to have a pinch

of God

inside you

and all the other dogs

can smell it       

 

   --THE VOLCANO AND AFTER

NR: The Shekhinah, the feminine aspect of God in Kabbala, the Jewish mystical tradition, represents also all our mothers and, “to find divinity in our own mothers is difficult.” At times you hoped an Image of Shekhinah would come to you as you explored a lack of feminist spirituality in traditional religions. The idea of mother to child to grandchild conversing and arguing together, ultimately emerged, circular in nature. Would you still, at times, like a specific image of Shekhinah to come to you?

 

AO: I would, yes, like a manifestation of the Shekhinah to appear to me, and to everyone. As human beings, we need her. "A Prayer to the Shekhinah," the final moment in Nakedness, adapts a prayer Jews sing repeatedly on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a day we spend fasting for twenty-four hours. The Hebrew prayer is twelve lines long: "We are your people and you are our God/ We are your children and you are our father/ We are your servants and you are our master," etc. In my adaptation, the prayer becomes "Come be our mother  we are your young ones/ Come be our bride  we are your lover/ Come be our dwelling  we are your inhabitants....Though you delay  we believe you will certainly come."  The prayer invokes the Shekhinah awaking from the nightmare of history and her long repose in our dreams, "shaking her breasts and hips/ with timbrels and with dances," becoming one with God. In the kabbalistic myth, God and his Shekhinah were originally one, and were catastrophically separated at the moment of creation, but we human beings can help reunite them by practicing "tikkun olam," mending the earth, moving the scattered sparks of divine energy toward reunion.

 

Flash forward a few years.  After a long period of writer's block, when I was able to write essays, book reviews, etc, but no poetry worth a damn, the volcano sequence burst forth.  The volcano sequence wrestles with a being that is sometimes God, sometimes my mother, and ultimately the Shekhinah. It's like parallel lines that are going to meet at infinity, but we're not there yet. As I have explained on many occasions regarding this book, the poems were channeled without my planning. They horrified me at first, which is how I realized I needed to go forward with them. So I made a deal with the poems: If you agree to keep arriving, I agree not to tell you what to say. The poems arrived intermittently for about a year. I selected and revised them for clarity for another year before publishing them as a book in 2002. In the course of moving, with the aid of these poems, from anger to love, I came to recognize that the Shekhinah in our time is in exile, mute, and amnesiac. She needs to be reborn. We need to be midwives at her rebirth. We need, I realized, to recognize that our own mothers are her embodiment in this world: "When she comes, it will not be from heaven, it will be up from the cunts and breasts/ it will be from our insane sad fecund obscure mothers/ it will be from our fat scrawny pious wild ancestresses/ their claws their fur and their rags," but to turn and face our mothers, to recognize the goddess in them, is especially difficult for feminists, because we usually have rejected our mothers, as the whole society has trained us to do. See Adrienne Rich's path breaking book Of Woman Born to learn how and why. Yes, I struggled to recognize the goddess in my mother, and partly succeeded. I still seek her. We all seek her, whether we know it or not.

THE SHEKHINAH AS EXILE  

 

hidden one: when the temple fell

when Jerusalem arose and fell and whenever

we were persecuted and scattered

by the nations,

to follow us in pain and exile

you folded wings patched coats

survived working praying giving birth

dragged mattresses pans in peasant carts

swam across hard seas, sick and homesick

landed in the golden land

they called you greenhorn

you danced in cafes

you went in the factory

bargained pushcart goods ice shoes Hester Street

put makeup on threw away wig

and you learned new languages

now you speak everything

lady, but part of you is earth

part of you is wounds

part of you is words

and part is smoke

because whoever was burned over there, you were burned

you died forever with the sheep

whoever survived, you speak in our tongues

open your wings, instruct us

say what we are

do not confuse us

with the sanhedrin of the loud speakers

who have no ear for your voice

but we who thirst for your new

instructions, source of life

come into our thoughts our mouth.  Speak to us

voice of the beloved  

 

help us

say what we are

say what we are to do          

 

    --THE VOLCANO SEQUENCE

NR: Thinking of circularity in your poetry, you are a renowned bicyclist through New York City and deeply believe in city life. Panoramas and close ups of human conditions abound and one has to choose how to interact. After 9/11, recent looting and the pandemic that destroyed so many ways of making a living, do you still view cities as a means to grasp humanity? Do you see those that can abandon city life and work electronically harmful to cities and disruptive to life in small communities? Will we lose a dichotomy – as we did when farm life no longer lived side by side with urban?

 

AO: Thank you for mentioning my biking. I enjoy biking and I enjoy the vitality of the city. (We like to call New York The City, as if it were the only one.) In Waiting for the Light, I wanted to capture some of the city's exuberance (See William Blake: "Exuberance is beauty"), especially its mix of ethnicities and classes. Riverside Drive and West End Avenue, where I live, are bourgeois and have been substantially Jewish. A block away on Broadway, where I shop, everyone speaks Spanish. Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans--we are a nation of immigrants, as you, Nicolette, must know. This is a source of our greatness. The sense of waves and tides of immigrant generations here is thrilling to me, since my own grandparents were Yiddish-speaking immigrants at the turn of the last century. People of all shades shopping, walking dogs, pushing strollers--along with all the corruption and violence--make a neighborhood. You mention some of the disasters New York has been through in recent years. But it's been through many worse disasters before now. You know about the huge draft riots of 1863? The Harlem race riots of 1964? And dozens of others in New York and other cities? Cities have a way of regenerating. So "A Walker in the City" is a catalogue of murders, a little like the catalogues we've got going now in the era of Black Lives Matter. "Cinco de Mayo" describes a festival in the playground down the street from me. "The Light" compares the cost of avocados in the supermarket and from a cart. "Biking to the George Washington Bridge" notices a solitary kid shooting hoops on the way to the bridge, still there on the way back, an image of "loneliness in America."

CINCO DE MAYO

 

What’s that mob in the playground where I meant to sit

in sunshine read my book what’s that uproar

P.S. 371 annual party a line for food

a dozen miniature soccer games around the pool no rules

backpacks of every hue parked on benches does nobody fear

theirs will be stolen? Are we really in the city or am I dreaming

three pretty mariachis singing Cielito Lindo and making

the children and their mamacitas, brown and beige,

sing along, everybody knows the words, indeed it is

New York City Upper West Side Cinco de Mayo, querida  

they teach the children to dance La cucaracha, kick and shake

and shriek, for it is Mexican Independence Day

let the city employee hugging clipboard shake her hair loose

and if two days ago I was shopping for ant traps

and if three days ago I was fighting rush hour traffic, let there be

traffic traffic in another world for here it is spring

if we are ants crazy ants as I sometimes think

see we are musical ants we are dancing ants

 

Note: Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, and is commonly taken in the United States to be Mexican Independence Day, although in Mexico this most important holiday is celebrated on September 16.                

 

   --THE VOLCANO AND AFTER

NR: You disagree with Auden’s infamous “Poetry makes nothing happen,” stating,  “Poetry can tear at the heart with its claws, make the neural nets shiver, flood us with hope, despair, longing, ecstasy, love, anger, terror. It can help us think more lucidly.” Your call to poets to write what one is afraid to write, can domesticate hell. You have referred to books as “doomed artifacts,” a shared fear. Do you see poetry circling back to more of its oral tradition or could poetics, needing quiet and intimate ways to be experienced, help perpetuate hard cover books?

 

AO: Auden is dead wrong.  He is just thinking like a conservative, who doesn’t want the system to change, and therefore disapproves of “political” poetry. This is what happened to him when he got old. Happened to Wordsworth too. One poem that absolutely refutes Auden’s much-quoted statement that "poetry makes nothing happen" is Emma Lazarus' famous poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, which closes with these lines: "Give me your tired, your poor,/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./ Give these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me,/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door." When France gave the USA the gift of this statue it had nothing to do with immigration. It celebrated "enlightenment" and the alliance between France and America. But the poem changed the meaning of the statue, and of New York Harbor, and of America. "Give me your tired, your poor...I lift my lamp beside the golden door." It changed the meaning of America. Ever since this poem, we know that America is the nation of immigrants; that is the source of whatever greatness we may have. There will be more and more homelessness in coming years, thanks to climate change which will submerge many areas of the earth, let loose fire, plus war, plus plain and simple human greed. There will still be racism. There will still be sexism. What can poetry do about all that? Not much, perhaps--but poetry can at least foster the compassionate humanity that may slowly, slowly, despite backlash, bring progress. And are books really "doomed artifacts?" Not really. There will be books and chapbooks, performance poetry, concrete poetry, poetry videos, blogs, comics, comedies, and standup comedians (all that is also poetry), every kind of experiment possible. Artists open us to reality. “To make you see,” Conrad said, describing the writer’s task. What cannot be seen cannot be changed

CHILDREN’S BLOOD

 

               And through the streets the blood of children         

               Ran simply, like children’s blood             

                      --Pablo Neruda

 

And through the streets the dollars flowed

         Flowed simply, like dollars flowing

         upward from the poor to the rich

 

And through the streets the bullets flew     

          Flew joyously, like bullets flying     

          straight toward living flesh

 

And through the skies the drones navigated     

          smoothly, like drones dreaming     

          in the next life they will be chickadees

 

And at his console the lieutenant touched a button     

          patriotically, like a lieutenant who will soon     

          be promoted to captain

 

And in the classroom some boys joked about death     

          like boys who never guess beforehand how death     

          will pant hotly into their faces

 

And in the war room before their meeting the generals     

          chatted genially, like generals who pretty much know     

          each others’ secrets

And in her bedroom the girl wrapped in chenille     

          pretended to be a queen in disguise     

          going about the city doing good to her subjects

 

And to her mirror the girl’s grandmother made eyes     

           and made smiles, made her face     

          the face of a charming woman,

 

And around the skirt of the house     

          under the shingles termites     

          were building mud towns

 

And through the streets the blood of children     

          ran simply, like children’s blood     

          for many stupid centuries.     

 

   --WAITING FOR THE LIGHT

NR: When you experience writer’s block – is it possible to know the causes?  I recall lines from No Heaven, 2005, “Fix” - “. . . what is it, this moon-shaped blankness/ What the hell is it?/ America is perplexed/ We would fix it if we knew what was broken,” and,  “Daffodils” - “What explains poetry is that life is hard/ but better than the alternatives,/ the no and the nothing. Look at this light/ and color, a splash of brilliant yellow/.”

 

AO: Under the burden of writer's block I become depressed and rotten to live with. It's always because I'm carrying a leaden package that I don't want to look at--something I've repressed. Some anger or some shame. Or some painful need. This is why I tell my students to write what they are afraid to write, and I try to do that myself. Not that I necessarily succeed. But inspiration at some point returns. At times, the inspiration is the sheer need to rage against the dying of the light. Sheer anger at human stupidity and ugliness. The dying of the light of civilization in my lifetime has taken the form of the holocaust, then of the disgusting Vietnam and Iraq wars, and as a Jew the Israeli occupation of Palestine, now the prospect of race war, not to mention the ongoing oppression of the weak by the strong everywhere on the planet. "Poem Fifty Years After Auschwitz," describing a peace march in London, claims human beings can shine the white light of consciousness on reality. Poems can help them do it. I'm reading Susan Gubar's anthology of holocaust poetry and thinking how we need such poems. Adorno saying poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric, was exactly wrong. To reject poetry is to reject reality. One cannot say this too often. Poems can help us see realities we need to see--realities that cannot be measured in numbers or evaluated in dollars.

 

poems after the holocaust remember, or imagine,

how sick and sickening humans can become,  

   

and now I think we are writing the poems before the holocaust.

is this not true? We are writing these poems with all our soul.

it's our writing, it's our wall.

 

"Elegy Before the War" conflates my mother's death and American militarism. Her body and the body politic. "Daffodils" was written at the start of the Iraq war, which made me insanely depressed. It is really not simply about comforting myself when depressed, but about the necessity of art and beauty, "Even the day our masters start a war/ To defend the day we see the daffodils." Otherwise we are surrendering to men's brutality, letting ourselves be beaten.

DAFFODILS              

 

               --For David Lehman                

 

               Ten thousand saw I at a glance                

               Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.                   

                       William Wordsworth                

 

                Going into hell so many times tears it                

                Which explains poetry.                 

                       Jack Spicer

 

The day the war against Iraq begins

I’m photographing the golden daffodils

With their outstretched arms and ruffled cups

Blowing in the wind of Jesus Green

Edging the lush grassy moving river

Along with the swans and ducks

Under a soft March Cambridge sky

Beautifying the earth like a hand

 

Starting to illustrate a children’s book

Where humans come out to play

To act out the journey of new life

With their lovers, animals, and children

 

As down every stony backroad of history

They’ve always done in the peaceful springs

Which in a sense is also hell because

The daffodils do look as if they dance

 

And make some of us in the park want to dance

And breathe deeply and I know that

Being able to eat and incorporate beauty like this

I am privileged and by that token can  

 

Taste pain, roll it on my tongue, it’s good

The cruel wars are good the stupidity is good,

The primates hiding in their caves are very good,

They do their best, which explains poetry.

 

What explains poetry is that life is hard

But better than the alternatives,

The no and the nothing.  Consider light

And color, a splash of brilliant yellow

 

Punctuating a bright green text, white swans

And mottled brown ducks floating quietly along

Whole and alive, like an untorn language

That lacks nothing, that excludes

 

Nothing. Period.  Don’t you think

It is our business to defend it

Even the day our masters start a war?

To defend the day we see the daffodils?              

 

   --THE VOLCANO AND AFTER

NR: Your teaching life is part of your writing and focus on inter-personal ways of relating. You left recently two distinguished academic positions – tenured professor at Rutgers University and Poet in Residence at the Drew University MFA in Poetry and Poetry in Translation program. For all the students you touch so deeply, including myself, how will your teaching continue? I might add, like others who have been fortunate enough to experience you and your work, I followed gratefully your suggestions, although the one I didn’t follow, might have saved my life – I never bicycled through New York City.

 

AO: Teaching--Well, Nicolette, I'm just glad to have been at all useful. Thank you for saying our teacher-student relationship was "fortunate" for you. It was for me too. As a student you were so buoyant and smart, nobody needed to teach you much. But I have felt extraordinarily fortunate to have spent my life doing something I love, reading, writing and teaching poetry, and getting paid for it. Astonishing, I've often said if I were not teaching I wouldn't recognize myself. Now since the death of our beloved Drew MFA program, that has come to pass. Jerry (my husband) says I should find some new form of teaching to do. Perhaps I will.

For information on Alicia Ostriker's books

https://upittpress.org/authors/alicia-suskin-ostriker/

Alicia Ostriker is a major American poet and critic. Author of 17 collections of poetry, she has been twice nominated for the National Book Award, and has twice received the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry, among other honors. As a critic she is the author of the now-classic Stealing the Language: the Emergence of Women's Poetry in America, and other books on poetry and on the Bible, most recently For the Love of God: the Bible as an Open Book. Her most recent collections of poems are Waiting for the Light and The Volcano and After: Selected and New Poems 2002-2019. Her poems have been translated into numerous languages including Hebrew and Arabic. She is currently the New York State Poet Laureate and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Alicia Ostriker photo: J.P.Ostriker

Nicolette Reim is a visual artist, poet, and writer, who lives and works in New York and Atlanta.

photo: Elias Maus