“Nothing Remembers”, Michael Dickel / Review, Interview, Poems

…………………………………..The memories
of living fall around the lives
once lived, leave a hole in the
pumice. The emptiness fills with words –
narrative and song. That is why I write
with rain drops on your windows
as the train speeds by the valleys
indifferently. That is why the ghosts
do not speak to me or to you.
That is why no one noticed

as I left the train again.

except from Return from Pompeii in Nothing Remembers, Michael Dickel

In his latest collection, Nothing Remembers (Finishing Line Press, August 2019), American-Israeli poet, writer, songwriter, photographer and artist (also husband, dad, teacher), Michael Dickel takes us with him on a wide exploration of our world in all our recollections and amnesias, a distant contemporary relative of A la recherché du temps (In Search of Lost Time/Proust). It is rather noble in its observations, I think, calling us to the domain of our questions and sacred imagination, exploring the place of memory, re-visioning, and of human activity and perception in the varied landscapes of our hearts and souls and this Earth.

I found Nothing Remembers to be in effect a guided meditation on the vista and meaning of history and culture, personal and communal pathways, and the possible/probable relevance of memory, poetry, and connection: humans and their experiences as part of nature, as geologic memory, as archives of history. Recommended without reservation.

The poems from Nothing Remembers are published here today with Michael’s permission.


JAMIE: In reading the poems in this collection, I felt strong sense of their rising out of the ancient soil of Israel and other geologies of heart and soul. Would you speak to this, to what we could perhaps say is the collection’s ontological roots?

MICHAEL: I suppose exploring metaphysical questions such as memory and death (or its perceptions and effects)—main themes of Nothing Remembers—invites a metaphysical question about how these poems came to be. The title poem in particular rises out of the geography of Israel, my mother’s death, and buried in the detailed description of place, the ruins of Tel Megiddo. Tel Meggido is better known by its ancient name of Armageddon, the site of a great ancient battle that inspired apocalyptic visions down to our time.

Nothing remembers
where in our times we these rocks piled into buildings
that fell down a thousand years ago dis(re)membered from war
or earthquake raised and razed again into where nothing
recalls again the warm day anemones bloom hollyhocks
poppies forget no one and another rain day another dry day
pass hot and cold while an orvani drops blue feathers in flight
a hawk sits calmly on a fencepost and flocks of egrets
traipse toward the sea no cattle no grains all harvested
in this place we would call holy land nothing left to it but conflict
with the passing of her life that tried so hard to hang onto one
moment many moments missed so many more empty echoes
a difficult way to say goodbye to a mother watching her
evaporate like rain in the desert her mind dust that dries
lips her droned words faded as warmth from a midnight rock
meaning what the layers of history these rocks un-piled
reveal sepia photos a couple of tin-types dust school
reports cards newspaper holes the shells of bugs raised and razed
again and again into our times where nothing remembers
The poem Nothing Remembers is also on The BeZine, along with two other poems .

MICHAEL: That poem and this book as a whole, however, are more related to the archaeological term tel than to Armageddon. A tel is a place that has been built, razed, and then rebuilt on the ruins so many times that it makes a large layered mound—often a sizable hill with steep sides. Layered beneath the latest new construction, these ruins shape the base (the hill), but also the culture, legends, and of course the history of the newest “place.” In our times, many of the constructions at the top have also become historical ruins.

Memory is like this. Metaphorically, every pace has these deep layers. The human layers only make up a thin part of the geological layers. And perhaps memory has this depth too. So do our lives. And, in fact, so does death. All of these ideas have roots in geology, geography, culture, language. And from those roots, perhaps, grow (at least some of) these poems.

So from where specifically do the poems in Nothing Remembers get their being? Certainly in place, and the deep geology of place. Israel, where I’ve lived about a dozen years now, has amazing geology. Seabed thrown up to the sky. Basalt outcropping from volcanic action. The deep rift of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean basin, deserts, mountains. The human layers, geography (and history) go back before modern Homo Sapiens, with Neolithic sites. Flint ridges and springs of the Jerusalem mountains border the Mediterranean basin and Judean Desert, and have attracted migrating human ancestors and humans for millennia.

In addition, many of the poems started in Italy, during my sojourn there for the 100 Thousand Poets for Change International Conference, Salerno, Italy 2015. Thus Pompeii makes an appearance or two, and while only named perhaps once, the streets of Salerno, as well as the rest of the Amalfi Coast. The layers are no less deep, and the histories of Italy and Israel intertwine back to the Roman era, at least.

JAMIE: It sounds as though place is important in your writing. Are you saying that you write about place?

MICHAEL: I don’t think so. Place definitely matters to me and often place—its resonances and dissonances in particular—thus inspires and informs my writing. But always place arrives for me necessarily through its human dimension of how it shapes human perceptions and understandings. Often, especially in the last section of the book that focuses more on mortality—funerals, mourning, and again, memory—place emphasizes both the fleetingness of life and the longevity of memory. Geology is a form of memory. The limestone and its fossils reminds us of long gone seas and creatures. Perhaps we will one day be fossils, too. We spring from geology and we return to it, in the end. Several cemeteries appear in the last section. Yet, I don’t think I’m writing about the places, especially the cemeteries. I’m writing about humanity. I think.

Ultimately, of course, the poems come into being in me, from how I experience and think in the world, and my contemplations, such as what I’ve just laid out about our human place in this vast geological tel called earth. But that’s a different sense of place—where do we belong in the world, not where are we in it. Maybe, how we belong in / to the world, and how the world belongs in / to us. Belong isn’t quite right, but I’m not sure what is better. Fit? How do we fit in the world, how does the world fit in us? Perhaps this is as much about displacement as place, the displacement of memory.

I am in the end, I would say, more interested in the vast networks of relationships and associations we make with others, with this world we live in, with geography and with geology than I am interested in place itself. What you call geologies of heart and soul, that’s my “place.”

How can I paint these multiple relationships in words and images? How can I echo them in sound and rhythm? Can I even know them? Probably, I can’t know, and I can’t rely on memory to tell me.

So, I resort to images. Poetry, for me, is most about images placed in context to each other in such a way as to shift our perceptions. Place, geography, geology, the tel—these are all images standing in for where I can’t articulate what I sense in the world.

JAMIE: What is the one key thing you would like readers to walk away with from this collection?

MICHAEL: I would like people to walk away with a sense of contact with the poems, a sense of more than the surface of the world, just beyond our understanding, waiting for us to notice it. Perhaps, they might have a sense of our shared humanity, and a sense of their own depths of connection and unique perception of the imagery in the poems. I hope people walk away with a curiosity and questions to which they would like to give consideration…on their own paths, in their own journeys.

JAMIE: When does Nothing Remembers come out? Where can readers purchase it?

Nothing Remembers is due in late August. I’ve heard from the publisher that the printer has been behind schedule with other books this spring, so I’ve been saying late summer. Right now readers can place advanced orders through Finishing Line Press .

JAMIE: What’s next on your literary journey/adventure?

MICHAEL: My life journey has taken me into the medical world with a diagnosis of and treatment for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. (Treatment has proceeded well, and my prognosis is excellent.) I am now mostly writing from the experience of cancer and incorporating that into my poetry. I am writing memoir or journals (I think Audre Lorde possibly wrote the definitive Cancer Journal)—or not yet, anyway, I should say as I don’t know where the writing will take me.

The first published piece from this work, The Crab, in The BeZine, is flash fiction that, like much fiction, captures some emotional reality of (my) having cancer (the crab). I have sent some poems out for consideration. And a folder floating on my computer cloud has more work, not all of it finished. I expect this work will be a future collection when the body of work is there. The working title is Etz Chaim (Tree of Life). As always, I continue writing about social issues, the 100TPC and The BeZine themes of peace, sustainability, and social justice.

For my children
Teachers come to us again and again
and we learn from them what we will.
We give them in return only a
thin immortality. We hope for gentleness.
We dream of our old teachers often.
The bullies shout, “get the lead out”
as every muscle concentrates
on the knowledge that we cannot win this race.
Teachers come to us again and again
and we learn from them what we will.
We give them in return only a
thin immortality. We hope for gentleness.
The gentle ones quietly step away,
letting go as we pedal furiously and discover
that miraculously we have found balance
while pushing forward to the next road.
We sat at table eating phô, another lunch
where you ask questions that I never thought.
I try to catch these waves as they break toward shore
and wonder that you came to me last night in a dream.
In our own teaching, we find our voices
raised all too often. Yet, somehow, I step
back as you light into a world I will
not know, unless you take me along.
excerpt from Nothing Remembers

Michael Dickel

MICHAEL DICKEL (Meta /Phor (e) /Playhas won international awards and been translated into several languages. His latest poetry collection, Nothing Remembers, will come out late summer 2019 from Finishing Line Press. A poetry chapbook, Breakfast at the End of Capitalism, came out in 2017 (free PDF ). His flash fiction collection, The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden, came out in 2016. Previous books include: War Surrounds Us, Midwest / Mid-East, and The World Behind It, Chaos…(archived free PDF ). He co-edited Voices Israel Volume 36, was managing editor for arc-23 and 24, and is a past-chair of the Israel Association of Writers in English. He publishes and edits Meta/ Phor(e) /Play and is a contributing editor of The BeZine. He grew up in the US Midwest and now lives in Jerusalem, Israel.


Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poemsI Am Not a Silent Poet
* Remembering Mom, HerStry
* Three poems, Levure littéraire
Upcoming in digital publications:
Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review
From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems)

A mostly bed-bound poet, writer, former columnist and former associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, (Meta /Phor (e) /Play, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, a curated info hub for poets and writers. I founded The Bardo Group/Beguines, a vitual literary community and publisher of The BeZine of which I am the founding and managing editor.

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

A BOOK REVIEW BY JAMES COWLES, RESIDENT SKEPTIC – Saints, Sultans, and Submission: The Tyranny of Interpretation

Editorial Note: As soon as I dipped a toe into the waters of The Saint and the Sultan:  The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace by Paul Moses (a documentary version recently aired on PBS), I knew I had to ask James to write a review.  James gracefully rose to the occasion as he always does.

James R. Cowles is a member of The Bardo Group Beguines and a regular contributor to Beguine Again, the sister site to The BeZine … His healthy skepticism may or may not make you happy or angry as the case may be, but James will always make you stop and think. That would be a good thing, my friends. Enjoy this fine read. / J.D.

For a religious person who is “seeking God’s will,” the most reliable indicator that you are in serious trouble is the belief that you have found it. Paul Moses has, perhaps unintentionally, written a brief but fascinating account of a case in point:  The Saint and the Sultan:  The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace.  Again, perhaps unintentionally, The Saint and the Sultan illustrates the fundamental problem that lies at the foundation of the Fifth Crusade and all similar religious bloodlettings:  the tendency of religious enthusiasts to gloss over the incorrigible ambiguity of all their normative religious texts in favor of an artificially simplistic interpretation of that text’s values, priorities, and adjurations. Both sides in that epic conflict – St. Francis no less than the Christian Crusaders – become prisoners of their own (mis?)interpretations of the Bible in general, and of the life of Christ in particular. The result is a text which, once shorn of its salvific ambiguity, serves as a well-paved road leading to a raw dialectic of power, be it in the prosecution of war or the pursuit of peace. It is a story as old as the slaughter of the Amalekites and as contemporary as Muslim-on-Muslim jihad.

St. Francis Receiving the Stigma

St. Francis of Assisi

Regarding issues of war and peace, the Bible – and the Qur’an, though I will demur from comments about Islam, not being an Islamic scholar – the Bible evinces two complementary attitudes toward war and violence, attitudes that affect the biblical portrayal of the Character of God, and that are no less marked in the Gospels’ portrayal of the Character of Jesus Christ. Especially – though by no means exclusively – in the Hebrew Bible / Tanakh / Christian Old Testament, God is depicted as jealous, prone to irrational outbursts, and possessed of a propensity to punish both His friends (the God of the Tanakh is predominantly male) and His enemies with almost obscenely violent punishment.

Exodus 15:3 (KJV) – The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name.

Furthermore, other texts in the Tanakh valorize similar martial virtues, e.g.,

Psalm 139:21, 22 (KJV) – Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

Psalm 144:1 (KJV) – {A Psalm of David.} Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.

Furthermore, the Tanakh’s depiction of the Character of God seems to alternate between savagery and tenderness. E.g., threats to rip open the bellies of pregnant Israelite women — the Old Testament God is not conspicuously pro-life! — exist side by side in the same canon as tenderness and solicitude toward Israel:

Isaiah 40:1,2 (KJV) — Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned

Like many abusive husbands, the God of the Hebrew Bible alternates between fits of insensate rage and moments of repentant tenderness, so much so that Prof. Richard Dawkins’ characterization is by no means exaggerated.

So there is considerable explicit justification in the Bible, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures, for the “Church militant” paradigm as exemplified in The Saint and the Sultan by the Crusaders at the city of Damietta in Egypt, in fact, for the Crusader / Templar / Hospitaler paradigm in general. After all, the God who would not hesitate to either commit slaughter Himself, as with Korah’s rebellion when the liberated Israelites were barely out of sight of Egypt, or who would order it committed by others as with the inhabitants of Jericho and Canaan, and who would mandate outright genocide as with the Amalekites – such a God could hardly be expected to flinch before the prospect of slaughtering the 13th-century equivalent of the Canaanite pagans, especially when the latter were occupying King David’s holy city, Jesus’ hometown, and, indeed, His very birthplace. Notwithstanding that Paul Moses in The Saint and the Sultan is rather explicitly on the side of St. Francis and Franciscan pacifism, and as loath as progressives usually are to face up to it, respect for the integrity of the biblical text forces the conclusion that, however distasteful it is to admit it, Innocent, Honorius, Pelagius, & Co. had a point:  they were being consistent Christian knights.

Pope Innocent III Preaches the 5th Crusade

Pope Innocent III

But there is a parallel tradition, and a parallel ethic, to which St. Francis and his Order were no less loyal:  the life and ethic of Jesus Christ as depicted in the New Testament.  This is rather obviously the tradition that commands Paul Moses’ sympathy, as is pretty obvious from a mere casual perusal of his text.  Hence Moses’ evident, and eminently understandable, affection for St. Francis.  This is easy to do. In fact, this is what one might think of as the “default” position / stance of contemporary progressives:  Jesus as a “kinder, gentler” YHVH. (In fact, this is the position of C. G. Jung in his Answer to Job:  YHVH, the “blood ‘n’ guts” God of the Hebrew Bible was basically raw affect, an unalloyed feral id, a Divine  Amygdala writ large. But YHVH came to earth incarnate as a Man so that YHVH could grow Himself a superego.) Hence “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”. Hence Jesus playing with little kids. Hence “turn the other cheek”. Hence “Whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword”. Hence “Return good for evil”. Hence “Forgive seventy times seven”. Hence the Passion and the Crucifixion. These themes in this tradition are quite real, also, as real as the sanguinary narratives of the Christian Old Testament. But, as with the Old Testament, there is a parallel tradition within the Jesus / Franciscan / pacifist tradition.  For just as there is the yin of gentleness and reconciliation within the yang of the Old Testament’s tradition of violence and retribution, so also there is a yang of retribution within the Jesus-tradition’s yin of forgiveness and peace. We pick up hints of this in, e.g., Jesus’ initial refusal to heal the woman in Matthew 15:21-28 and His cursing of the sterile fig tree in Mark 11:12-25. We detect considerably more than a mere hint of Jesus’ vindictiveness in Revelation, chapter 19, where Jesus is shown as the White Horse Rider, Who slays His enemies with a sword that proceeds out of His mouth. The Revelation text, of course, should not be taken literally, and the other texts may or may not be. But all may be interpreted as theological parables describing the writers’ (and readers’) estimate of Jesus character, like the story of the young George Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree. (Similar caveats apply about the Old Testament texts, of course.) In other words, these traditions-within-the-tradition concern essences not events.

St. Francis Before Sultan Malik al-Kamil

The point is that The Saint and the Sultan altogether glosses over, in fact, ignores, this ubiquitous yin-yang opposition and fails to evaluate the implications for the life of St. Francis and the lives of the Crusade leaders, to be sure, though the book is about St. Francis. Granted, what Paul Moses’ text does tell us is both informative and provocative, e.g., the story of St. Francis’ entire encounter with Sultan Malik al-Kamil, the former’s exhortation to be in submission to Islamic authorities when traveling among Muslims, etc., etc. That is radical enough, even today, when the Sultan probably would not be allowed to fly to the United States, and even more so during an actual war between the Umma of Islam and Christendom. Nevertheless, in the end, we are left with an enormous begged question:  how is it possible for a Christian, any Christian, in fact, a large community of Christians, be it a community of crusading knights and their commanders, or a community of mendicant friars, to simply skate over a motif in their own normative literature that calls into question the normative interpretation of that literature? Might fair consideration to that “counter-literature” moderate what would otherwise be, and was, a naked lust for sheer power, masquerading as obedience to (what, to them, was) the evident will of God? Francis kissed a leper on the lips. Is it really so beyond the realm of possibility that if Pelagius, the Crusader “hawk”, had reflected on the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 33:1-20) that Pelagius might have similarly embraced Malik al-Kamil? Might St. Francis’ extreme – and, let’s face it, grotesquely excessive – demands for poverty from members of his Order have been moderated by reflection on Jesus’ love of good food, good wine, and His (probably exaggerated but no doubt incorrigibly fact-based)  reputation as a “glutton and wine-bibber” (Matthew 11:19)? (Speaking only for myself, of course, if I got word that the monastic Rule I had written with my own hand had motivated one of my friars to repent by eating donkey shit, I would take a couple of steps back and ask myself if, somewhere or other, the wheels had not come off the bus.) The moral of the story:  when we ignore countervailing voices in any text, especially a normative religious text, we become inadvertant prisoners of the very text we claim to revere.

How does this happen?  Why does this happen? How does it happen that in any text – the Tanakh, the Gospels, the Book of Mormon, the Qur’an, the Fire Sermon, the Upanishads … you name it … — the countervailing voices are silenced to such an extent that the text, without those transgressive presences, comes to assume a beguiling, but ultimately meretricious, consistency and univocality, speaking the same message with the same voice? Moreover, how is it that most of the time – I am tempted to say “all the time” – that voice usually tells us precisely what we want to hear, much like a Donald Trump campaign speech? Paul Moses’ book gives us some important and critical clues. With St. Francis, this is understandably – because Francis is the protagonist – done explicitly; with Innocent, Honorius, Ugolino, Pelagius, et al., more or less implicitly. But the answer in both cases is the same:  biography is exegesis. There is no bright-line division between the way we experience life and the way we interpret normative texts.  Early in The Saint and the Sultan, Paul Moses devotes the first chapters to a harrowing description of the young Francis’ experiences resulting from his efforts to sustain the honor of himself and his family by being a knight fighting in the war between Assisi and Perugia.  Moses does not say this, but there is an exquisite irony here, an irony no less stinging because Francis could not have known of it. The very Perugia Assisi was fighting was the birthplace and hometown of Perugino or Perugia, who 200-plus years after Francis, would be the teacher, mentor, and friend of the great Raphael Sanzio of Urbino. Raphael only lived to be 37 (1483-1520), but is still recognized for his ethereal and tranquil images of Virgin and Child.  If peace could be captured on pigment and canvas, Raphael did it with his Virgins. And yet, the hometown of his teacher was once the epicenter of a bloody religious war.

St. Francis Receives the Stigmata

Both parties to the siege of Damietta – Francis and the Crusaders – were influenced in opposite ways to interpret their respective texts differently through the screen of their respective life experiences.  Francis’ horrific experience of war, illness, and imprisonment, his personal observation of the carnage occasioned by the Assisi-Perugia conflict, rendered incontestably dominant the primary themes of Jesus’ life and ministry:  peace, forgiveness, temperance, and poverty; peace because he saw the horrors of the war between Assisi and Perugia repeated a thousand times over in the Nile Delta; poverty, because he saw war used as a vehicle for personal aggrandizement and the accumulation of wealth, all under color of Christian piety.  No wonder the parallel counter-narrative of Jesus’ vindictiveness was lost beneath a screen of revulsion at the physical, spiritual, and moral grotesquerie presented by the spectacle of religious war! By the same token, though Moses does not explore this theme, either, no wonder the motifs of God’s loving-care, tenderness (e.g., Psalm 23), and willingness to forgive were largely lost on men who had risen to power, prestige, and prominence by their attempt to emulate Old Testament heroes of martial valor, who exhibited great skill in hewing down their adversaries. When military violence and martial prowess are growth industries, there is scant incentive to meditate on the Prince of Peace. I do not know if Paul Moses intended for his book to be instructive in this latter way. I rather suspect not. But, even if by accident, it provides an indelible object lesson.

Perhaps the most serious warning all monotheistic believers should heed is this:  if you are committed to serving “the will of God,” beware that you do not end up serving the Will to Power.

© 2018, James R. Cowles, All rights reserved

Photo credits:
St. Francis of Assisi … Jusepe de Rivera (1591-1552) … Public domain
Innocent III … Artist unknown … Public domain
Pope Innocent III Preaches the 5th Crusade … Artist unknown … Public domain
St. Francis before Sultan Malik al-Kamil … Benozzo Gozzoli (1420-1497) … Public domain
The Stigmatization of St. Francis … Giotto … Public domain


WRITING YOUR SELF, Transforming Personal Material with John Killick & Myra Schneider


“We wrote the book because we believe that personal writing is very potent both for the writer and the reader, because some of the greatest literature is rooted in personal material.” Myra Schneider in an interview with Jamie Dedes

It always seems to me that writing  about life – “personal material” –  is a healing activity, a way to live hugely, and a way to empower ourselves and others. Whether we do it for ourselves alone or whether our purpose is to leave history behind for family, to set the record straight, or simply to share and entertain, the experience is rewarding.

Writing Your Self is a comprehensive book organized into two parts:

  • Part I: Here the focus is on life experiences, the exploration of those human experiences that are universal. These include childhood, self-concepts, relationships, displacement, physical and mental illness and disability, and abuse.
  • Part II: Here the focus is on writing techniques, recognizing material that is unfinished, working on refinements, and developing work projects.

Writing Your Self is rich with examples from unknown (students) and known writers including the authors. By example as well as explanation the authors reinforce what we intuitively understand to be true: that telling stories preserves identity and clarifies the human condition. It helps us understand what it means to be human. The experience of working through the book is rather like a rite of passage.

I can see the use of this book by individuals training themselves and by teachers of adult learners who wish to write memoir, poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction. It would be useful in hospital therapeutic writing programs or in writing programs for active seniors.

Memories, both recent and distant, tell us who we are and so play a crucial role in our experience of life…

You may have memories which you want to plunge into or you may have material like a diary or letters which summon them up. There are other ways though of triggering memories. We offer a series of suggestions. Chapter 13, Accessing memories, secret letters, monologues and dialogues, visualizations.

Chapter 13 alone is worth the price of admission. I work a lot off of childhood memories and even the event that happened two minutes ago comes back to me with a dreamlike quality when I sit to write. I have not thought of the things I do naturally as triggers, but indeed they are. It was quite interesting to see these natural aids laid-out in the book: objects and place as starting points, physical sensation as triggers, people in memory and predominant feelings. The section on secret letters – that is, letters that you write someone and never send – was interesting. I’m sure it would make a fine jumping-off point for some. The authors go on to monologues and dialogues and visualization. We all do those things in our heads anyway. If you can see it or hear it in your mind, you can write it.

If you are inexperienced or stuck midway in a transition from one form of writing to another, you’ll benefit from the exercises, ideas, and instruction in Writing Your Self: Transforming Personal Experience. If you are a more experienced writer, you might find this book will stimulate the muse. This text is a definite thumbs-up.


Myra Schneider  is a British poet, a poetry and writing tutor, and author of the acclaimed book: Writing My Way Through Cancer.

John Killick was a teacher for 30 years, in further, adult and prison education. He has written all his life. John Killick’s work includes both prose works and poetry. 

The Door to Colour … Part 2



Yesterday in Part 1 of this piece I closed with …

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech.”
~Simonides of Ceos (556-468 BCE), Greek lyric poet

I chose that quote for two reasons.  First, Myra Schneider‘s way with poetry lends truth to Simonides’ observation that “poetry is painting with the gift of speech.”  Second, Simonides was known in his day for presenting the human condition in terms that were basic yet moving. I’ve never been able to find enough of Simonides’ work to confirm that for myself. I suspect that not much of his work survives for anyone to really know. However, I have read a great deal of Myra’s work. I can say with confidence that her canvas is lively and colorful, her poetic sensibility accessible and affective.

There is nothing that does not seem to lend itself to poetry in Myra’s mind. Nature. Art. Music. Beauty. Humanity. Events great and small. Even those things that some would see as too pedestrian to inspire are ink in Myra’s pen, inspiration for meditations on larger concerns. For example, from Circling the Core (Enitharmon Press), the poem Milk Bottle shared with readers in the May 2015 issue of The BeZine. These are subjects to be explored and savored in Myra’s poetry … and never more so than in her newest collection.

The Door to Colour (Enitharmon Press) came out last November.  (I’m sorry to present this review so late. Life sometimes gets in the way of intention, but the operative word is “life.”) Short story: I enjoyed it. I recommend it. It is worth – in fact it calls for – frequent and careful reading. And, if you find yourself recuperating from some devastating event, you will surely find balm in the artistry of this collection and its shared experience of life with all its colors and shadows.

The Door to Colour starts with a simple piece, Le Citron, after Monet’s painting of the same name and includes several poems inspired by works of art or music.

There’s the human element, of course, and one of my faves, His Room, which everyone who has ever raised a child will appreciate. “On the door: posters, cuttings/and a warning: Parents Keep Out,/I knock, Am admitted . . .’I’ve got to find out if life/has any meaning,’ he tells me/He is fifteen, I am forty-five …/and the meanings I’d thought I’d found/have vanished. But behind him/I see myself at fifteen overwhelmed …”

And then there’s the poem Silence, which asks “what colour is noise?” It’s one to post above your computer. In Panic you’ll likely recognize yourself.

The narrative poem, Minotaur ends the collection. It is an alternate view of the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and it will stay with you long after reading. This poem moves, moves, moves.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Throw, for its details. The Throw is “kind to my uncomfortable body,” It is a poem to which you’ll relate if you are of an age when discomfort is your constant companion.

The poem, Cloud, made me think of Rilke for its concern, not its style. “I can’t believe/the divine exists in a fixed place overhead-/isn’t god the energy driving the universe/the dimensions of its mathematics visible/in patterns on this planet …” And let me whet your appetite with this tidbit from Garden: ” . . . Go/into the garden where dandelions pit themselves/against primroses …” 

The door to color turns out to be the door to transformation and transcendence and no doubt the reading is as deeply felt as the writing was … Each poem asks to be devoured . . .

… and so to close this piece – with Myra’s permission – the gift of two poems for you to read from The Door to Colour … Enjoy!


after Chagall: Adam et Eve chassés du Paradis

There is no music now in paradise.
The garden’s ripped by cries of consternation,
a blinding white circle of face belongs

to a figure whose body is flower-blur
and stems twinned with leaves, a figure
inseparable from this place, its din.

There is no music now in paradise.
Tranquillity is a shrivelled fruit, trees
wrenched from roots are hurtled to the sky,

birds plummet to ocean, stampeding hooves
smash grasses. The tempter’s vanished,
panic-bitten humans are in flight.

There is no music now in paradise.
The word sin hisses in ears, guilt
lays its eggs, hearts work like clappers,

selves are in tatters. Though daisies
will rise again, moments gleam with sound
there is no music now in paradise.

– Myra Schneider


Sometimes when the computer’s in sulk,
when you’ve failed to appease your partner,
mother, child or cat, when you’ve hurried
down roads hoping to escape the conundrum
of yourself or limped from the dentist’s to daylight
with all the stuffing knocked from body and mind
even though pain is no longer boring into your teeth,
all you can do is climb chilling flights of steps,
clamber on board and thank god or your lucky stars
that no one’s bellowing the obvious into a mobile.
All you can do is gaze at the backsides of houses,
their clumsy sheds and drooping lines of washing,
at hoardings, factories, and outbursts of October leaves,
at glints from sudden streams, interludes of grass.
All you can do is accept the sumptuous dark of chocolate
melting in your mouth, gaze at the magenta lipstick
filling a double-spread in the magazine you picked up
at Whistlestop, imagine buying it though you never
colour your face, then feel inferior as you read
about the woman who rules the National Trust.
All you can do is smack shut the complacent pages
and look at the everyday girl who’s sitting opposite.
Her pinkish high-heeled shoes are fragile as slippers,
her face is creased with fatigue. You doubt she could rule
a pocket-sized kitchen or a stack of pots in a shed
but you can’t take your eyes off her handbag,
its amber clip, the silvergold lustre of its fabric,
the zips to its many enticing compartments.

– Myra Schneider

IMG_0032-1” . . . reading, writing and sharing poems is healing and if one is to be fully involved in writing it is crucial to read poetry and read poems closely.” Myra Schneider in an interview with me, February 2011.

© 2015, review, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; 2015, poems and photographs, Myra Schneider, All rights reserved