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Thursday, November 5, 2020

Meet the Author: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg talks poetry, life

How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the latest Meadowlark poetry book, and we are truly moved by this opportunity to once again work with Caryn. We previously worked together on the publication of Everyday Magic: Field Notes on the Mundane and the Miraculous (2017), a collection of blog posts that function as small but meaningful lessons on how to live more fully.

With a six-day countdown to the How Time Moves book launch, Meadowlark wants to share with you some of the author’s thoughts on this book and her long-lived relationship with poetry. While the poetry itself presents what time (as well as place, people, and Spirit) held for Caryn over the last 30 years, including her recent time during this pandemic, this Q&A looks further into the careful choices that were made during the creation of this book, as well as into Caryn’s life of observing and interacting with the world.


Linzi Garcia: What has your writing journey looked like?

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: It started when I was 14, in the middle of a difficult family situation and desperately needing words to mirror some hope back to myself. Thanks to some great mentors early on, I quickly found my way into the heart of poetry by reading and writing poetry. What I mean is that, to quote William Stafford, “language can do what it can’t say.” Poetry especially can put the pieces of ourselves together in greater vibrancy than what we can think up on our own. So I wrote poetry for healing and clarity, and I followed the poetry path through meandering forests and empty parking lots – jobs that took me too far away from poetry to create work that brought me home. My writing journey also encompasses memoir, fiction, songs, and mixed genre pieces as I follow what the writing that comes wants to be.

LG: What was the curating, editing, and publishing process like for this book? 

CMG: I wanted to both write about how time moves and put together a collection of my best-of poems from my previous six collections. In time, those two met and became this book. I wanted to include poetry from other books because it’s satisfying to have so much move in together, plus some of my readers couldn’t get copies of my older books. Since all my poetry together – like it would be for any writer – [fits] into a story of how time moves, here we are. For the new collection, How Time Moves, I eventually sorted the poems in four sections -- “Time Travel” (the ways we travel through memory and yearnings),“Time Names Its Age” (seasonal time), “Everything That Rises” (how time lifts us into new understandings), and “Gateway” (time as transcendent, taking us through passages). Then the pandemic landed when we were going to press, so we delayed the book for me to write about pandemic time, which became its own section.

LG: How does time move differently for you during a pandemic?

CMG: On one hand, many of us can’t tell you what day it is, but more of us have a more acute understanding of seasonal time: what flowers are about to bloom or leaves to fall and how a big storm can change the color of the grass from gray to green. Whatever is happening, I’m positive that our experience of time is turned on its head. So many of us have lost our human-time markers, such as routines for where we go and pass the time for holidays, business meetings or community gatherings. I’m missing many people and our patterns for meeting. But I’m also finding so much richness in the immediate: what’s right here as soon as I step out on the deck.

LG: You are prolific. How have you changed as a writer over the years and after so many publications?

CMG: Writing is my spiritual, emotional, and life practice. It continually opens my peripheral vision to the world and how to be in the world. Writing has made me a much saner, more compassionate, and smarter human that I could otherwise be. When I’m writing into a character in fiction, I learn more about why we might behave as we do. When I’m churning out memoir, I put the scattered and sometimes broken pieces of my life into a new mosaic. When I’m in the music of poetry, I hear rhythms that open up my senses to the world.

LG: Do you ever surprise yourself as you write or as you read what you have written?

CMG: Absolutely! That’s why I write. Writing is a great teacher for seeing more of the world as it is; another William Stafford quote is “Treat the world as if it really existed.” I’m often amazed by what writing poetry especially, which is a lot like holding a magnifying glass over a beautiful beetle, shows me. I also love the surprise of reading a poem years later and realizing there’s so much more there. The first thought that comes to me when beginning any poem is, “I don’t know how to do this,” which I love because it shows me I’m about to journey beyond what I think I know how to do.

LG: What has Ken added to your life poetically? 

CMG: Ken, my husband who I’ve been married with for 35 years today (Nov. 2), is a great sounding board for my poetry, but I also get lots of ideas from him. He’s keenly interested in the world. An occupational therapist by day and naturalist by heart, he’s always telling me about what is happening, from seagull migration to storm patterns to constellations coming into view. 

LG: In your life, or beyond, are there things that don’t move with time and have always been the way they are?

CMG: Great question! I believe love, God (or whatever language we have for the holy, but I see embodied in the earth and sky), and other things beyond naming (except we can circle around them in poetry and other arts) are also timeless. I can talk with an old friend I haven’t seen in years and pick right back up as if all that time hasn’t passed, and I know all of us have similar experiences. When you get close enough to someone, it seems you were always close, that your friendship or marriage or family bond has existed for all time.

LG: Tell me the story of why you chose this cover image and the seasonal images on the back.

CMG: I’ve admired Tony Peterson’s photographs of that piano in the field for years, and for years, he has shared photos of it in all seasons. It’s a great representation of how time moves, plus poetry is an artform that’s half music and half writing (we compose poems as much as write them, if not more). So it’s great to have a piano. I also write in a field (this book starts with an introduction about this), so the photo fits that way too.


To learn more about Caryn’s creative, professional, and personal enterprises, visit www.carynmirriamgoldberg.com. Continue this Q&A at the book launch event, scheduled for 7 p.m. November 11 (sponsored by The Raven Bookstore and the Lawrence Public Library), and by entering your questions for Caryn in the comments below. 

How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems is available for preorder at the Meadowlark Bookstore

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