Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews
Lila Penn’s ex-professor of poetry Daniel Wildman has just won a Pulitzer for his book of poems ‘Losers Like Me’, and is in New York for a reading. Daniel had been more than a teacher to her – he was her mentor, and the person Lila had fallen in love with. Now thirty years later, Lila is jittery the whole day, takes care to be well-turned out, and wonders what the evening will hold for her and Daniel. Of all the scenarios that had played out in her head, Lila did not account for the humiliating possibility that Daniel would not remember her, or her name.
Susan Shapiro’s Whats’s Never Said is a fun and smart commentary on the art of writing poetry and its richness, the vibrant literature scene in NYC’s bohemian Greenwich village of the 1980s, shrinks and dependency on them, small town outlooks vs the big city ones, religious extremism and balance, the attractions and pitfalls of mentor-student relationships, weakness and strength, and on love, betrayal, friendships and letting go. The dialogues are sharp, and the pace seldom falters.
The two things I loved in the book –
1. The unsentimental Jewish narrative. From NYC to Israel, Susan keeps religious discussion on the periphery, and focuses on the culture and its people instead. My vocabulary has increased from a single word ‘schlepping’ to include ‘shayna maidel’, ‘Tucchos affen tisch’, ‘Zolst vaksn vi a tsibele mitn kop in dr-erd’, ‘mishpucha’ and ‘Hazara betshuva’!
2. The crash course in poetry writing and editing. I loved the way sentences and meanings became sharper after an edit!
‘Passover morning I find you in your yellow kitchen
where you are making us matzo brei for the holiday.
No wonder I dreamt of setting your house on fire
destroying your flowered apron, your thick red hair engulfed in flames.’
The above when edited became
‘Your kitchen your passion
for matzo brei
In dreams I set fire to your
apron and thick hair.’
A definite read!!