Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Grandmother Muse

The muse has not ceased to surprise me since the publication of “The Sister From Below.” In that book she is weird and uncanny—a siren, a seductress, a shape shifter—a being from the archetypal realm. The Greeks knew nine muses. Recently, I’ve been visited by a variety of forms of the muse. They inspire my poems. One is someone very familiar: my grandmother. Her spirit insists she be given her due in my pantheon of muses. How can someone as ordinary and safe as a beloved grandmother be a muse?

As the first child born in the New World to a family of German Jewish refugees from the Nazis, I had a special tie with my only surviving grandparent, the painter Emma Hoffman, whom I knew as Oma. Oma showed me that making art can be a way to transmute grief, a way to bear the unbearable. She did not show up as a muse until after her death and after a dream I had in which I saw her dying—a long hard labor—as in giving birth. I wrote a poem about that—“Self Portrait of My Grandmother“— forty years ago.

If a muse is a catalyst—a call to one’s creative spirit—my Oma is that. Her death agony, as I saw it in my dream, as I imagined it in my poem, was my birth as a poet. Oma called me into my calling. In “The Sister” I describe the writing of that poem as “a tunnel blasted through rock.” It opened me up to my passion for writing, and to the realm of the imagination. Here is a section of the poem:

Listen Oma: I’ll tell them!
I’ll tell them you painted tigers
and flowers and babies and trees
and you could make a shadow
outgrow the thing that threw it
so intricate, so subtle you drew it

I’ll tell them you bore six children and buried three
outliving the six million and all the generation
that you knew
a refugee Jew
But they say you must take your medicine now
Oma—when will this death be over?

(first published in” Open Reading.” Republished in “red clay is talking.”)

If a muse is an inspiration, my Oma is that. Her fierce focus, her life stories, the way she tied me to the past and to my future, inspired my first book, “The Motherline.” Here is a passage about her from that book:

Once a month as regularly as the waning moon we visited my Oma on Sundays, my first husband, my baby, and I. Oma was the right word for my grandmother. The resonant, round sound felt ancient in my mouth. Her eyes were so deep you could see eternity in them. She had soft withering skin and a slow thoughtful walk…

It was a chorus in my life, a monthly refrain that took us to a sanitarium inn the wine country, where Oma lived. As in a ballad, where each verse tell of events progressing although the chorus is always the same, so this visit was always the same, and that was a comfort. In the midst of studying for exams, the baby getting teeth, the car needing a brake job, and the growing protest about our country’s involvement in Vietnam, the visit to Oma was as predictable, as soothing as a lullaby. Her soft, inward melancholy, her hand on my shoulder, were a reassurance and a blessing. (p.121)

If a muse is a frequent visitor, a guest from mysterious realms, my Oma is that. She has come to me over the years, in dreams, in memories, in reverie, in her paintings. Sometimes a painting breaks through and I see it with new eye. I described a favorite watercolor in “The Motherline”:

Do the dead know when they walk with the living? Oma, do you know that you are always with me? Your life work of painting hangs in my home and my office. Do you remember the watercolor of the living room in Berkeley where I visited you often? You painted the light streaming in through the arched window onto floors and rugs. It is a painting of inner space—one you lived in as an old woman and I visited as a girl. You served me tomato soup and crackers in the light from that window…That painting hangs in my office now, grounding me in my own childhood as I listen to the stories of other people’s childhoods. (p.129)

If a muse is a call from the depths my Oma is that. Twenty years after I wrote that passage, I found myself flooded with longing for her. The poem that came to me then, refers to the same watercolor. It is the opening poem to my new poetry collection, “Adagio & Lamentation,” and the watercolor is on its cover. Here is the poem:


I wish you could stop being dead
so I could talk to you about the light so we
could walk among the vineyards as we did
forty years ago near St. Helena and you

could tell me again how the light of late
afternoon is so different from the light
of morning I was too young
to grasp your meaning but I believe

you said it is all about the fall of shadows
that when you paint it is not light that streams
from your brush but deep purple violet blue
you shaped emptiness and there was light

Oma come visit me sit at your easel as you always did
your brush poised your eyes as fierce
as a tiger’s show me how to create
the luminous moment among so many shades

of sorrow so many dead how to gather the light
of all the windows from all the houses of our lives
to make this bright trail I still follow along the gleaming
floor of the room in which you showed me how

to draw out the french windows to the unseen
garden a river of light that lifts
the Persian carpet into the air

So you see, this Grandmother Muse has cultivated my art and wandered in and out of my poetry and prose for forty years. There is an ancient practice that has always appealed to me—feeding the dead. I’ve thought of my writings as offerings to my ancestor, my Oma. I wonder if the dead can be honored in this new medium, the Internet. Oma, in this month of your birthday, does it feed your spirit to have a blog posting devoted to you?

Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Naomi Lowinsky is at it again, or is it The Sister From Below. . .

A Word from Naomi

Becoming a grandparent is one of the great amazements of a lifetime. Who knew the birth of the child of one's child could so change one's world? Maybe that's why the anthology, Child of My Child, is doing so well on Amazon. (As of 11/22/10, it is ranked at #33 on the Amazon.com Bestsellers List for poetry anthologies.) I'm pleased that it includes two of my poems "In the Garden" and "Emanuel."

The novelist Lucia Nevai, in reviewing this anthology writes: "'Little house of God -- may we deserve you' are the final lines from Emanuel, a poem by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, which evokes just one of the dizzying number of surprising, yet universal emotions that explore the grandchild-grandparent relationship in this unique anthology. At first, one wonders how the scope of these poems can continue to broaden. But finally, one feels the subject is limitless. The publisher reports being overwhelmed with a mountain of submissions on the topic. Perhaps we can hope for Child of My Child Volume II."

Child of My Child makes a wonderful holiday gift for anyone who has, loves, or is a grandparent! It's a great time for them to buy the book, too, because Amazon is offering it at a 28% discount right now.

For the Amazon link click: Child of My Child.

I am also very pleased to be part of a Poetry Flash reading by poets whose works are included in Child of My Child: Moe's Bookstore, Berkeley, CA, Feb. 10th, 2011 at 7:30pm.

And now, one of the Child of My Child poems that was recently published by Fisher King Press in my newest book of poetry Adagio & Lamentation:


on the day you descended into our world circles within
circles opened one hundred and fifty thousand
people marched up Market street to protest a wrong war
not in our name not in your name Emanuel they chanted
and the drag queens of the city came out beautiful in their highest
heels their sleekest black velvet and they thanked us so much
for coming out to say “no blood for oil” “war is not healthy
for children and other living beings” and an old man on rollerblades
gave yellow roses to the little girls and a woman bared her very pregnant
belly with a peace sign painted upon it and i spoke every hour
on my cell phone to your mother to find out how close
were her pains it was a few hours before your dark head
would crown your broad shoulders twist out and that glistening coil
of your cord from the other world which your father cut
while your mother cried out to behold you old wisdom
still clinging about you Emanuel it was the day after the full moon
in Capricorn and the people had awakened to the gathering armies the gulf
upon which we all teetered and returned to the streets as we had
when your mother was my baby girl and we walked up Market street
to protest a wrong war

Emanuel you have descended and the world is so new your first poop
is big news and your good latch upon your mother’s breast you are
so sweet so calm a being released from forever to sing among us

little house of God
may we deserve you

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Happy Thanksgiving to all you grandparents and grandchildren!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Afternoon of Poetry, Music and Art

On a Sunny afternoon in September, 2010, in the Angel Room of an old Oakland, California church, several dozen people attended An Afternoon of Poetry, Music and Art to celebrate publication of Naomi Ruth Lowinsky's most recent book of poems, Adagio and Lamentation. The afternoon was lovingly captured in author Marvin Hiemstra's column, Poetry in Spite of Itself, and is excerpted below. Entitled, "Don’t Let the Light Go Out!," Hiemstra wrote,

"Poetry events tend to form impenetrable unpoetic thickets in the landscape: extra thorns, strange noises, and heavy breathing. In the Bay Area a dozen or more invitations pop up each day. How to choose? There are a handful of poets whose activities I will always attend if I’m in town. When an e shout for Naomi Ruth Lowinsky appeared as “An Afternoon of Poetry, Music and Art” to celebrate the publication of Adagio and Lamentation by Fisher King Press, I charged to my calendar and found Sunday afternoon, September 12, open.

"Musical Improvisations began the Afternoon of Poetry, Music and Art: Lisa Safran, fearless leader of the Bitter Mystics band, at the piano and Chris Evans playing the greatest rarity in captivity, a subtle and articulate cello.

"An impassioned suite of three songs brought the audience into the artists’ immediate families and beyond to the family of mankind. Misha Safran, vibrant soprano and Bitter Mystics member, sang a vibrant tale of her teenage son who loves to one up her. When Misha tells him, she loves him. The son fires back, 'I love you more!' Lisa Safran shared her happy song, 'Did I meet you in a dream? Was it yesterday or today? All I know everything went okay.' Chris Evans joined the two for a high speed love lament, 'Pick me up! Drop me down!' Cello cascades between the verses were both inevitable and breathtaking.

"The 1925 ... 1st Congregational Church of Oakland was adorned with paintings by Emma Hoffmann, Naomi Ruth Lowinsky’s grandmother. Born in 1881 Emma Hoffman transcended an impossible life in Germany where she lost 3 children and insisted on leaving the country with her husband at the most auspicious time: just before one of History’s most unspeakable period of Evil Incarnate.

"Focused in the realm of light like the French painter, Edouard Vuillard, Emma in America continued painting and created the radiant interior scape of the Berkeley home where Naomi, a teenager, often visited her “Oma.” It is a study in the mystery of light that illuminates the cover of Adagio & Lamentation. Naomi lovingly shared with the audience her understanding of the precious legacy of light in three portraits created by her grandmother: a self-portrait of a mature woman alive with raw sorrow and tenderness at the same time, a portrait of Naomi’s mother as a young girl also a study in the pain of sorrow drawn with tenderness, and a luminous portrait of Naomi at age 2. The resolute little exhibit featured a fine sketch of Albert Einstein who, proclaims a family anecdote, assured Emma Hoffman that she was a professional artist, but he was only an amateur physicist. The world owes much to Einstein’s humilitas.

"Naomi Ruth Lowinsky’s presentation of poetic journeys from Adagio & Lamentation anchored the intrepid afternoon. First poem in the heart felt collection is titled “Oma” and sketches with the greatest clarity Naomi’s relationship with her grandmother...."

Hiemstra reminds us that "It is always the poet’s challenge and prerogative to create the luminous moment among so many shades of sorrow.” He continues,

"...the three glowing musicians reappeared with a selection of Naomi’s poems set and/or alive on a musical line. 'What broke?' is an almost microscopic observation of a child’s world and the terrifying importance of every detail: at that moment and for the rest of that child’s life. The poem begins with the child/poet hiding under the dining room table wondering 'has it already happened or is it about to?' Premonition is often the most grotesque and perplexing bugaboo....

"Imagine, if you can, the power of 'what broke?' set to a double flow of poignant, questioning lyric voices.

“'Missing child' from Naomi’s book red clay is talking, Scarlet Tanager Books: 2000, was sung as a lament, a prayer, a search, and much more. It begins with a quote from Pablo Neruda:

And it was at that age…Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know
where it came from, from winter or a river.

"Many landscapes in the poet’s childhood are visited: all looking for the moment poetry arrived in the child’s life. From the midst of the exploration:

the totem pole of all
the children i have been
is falling into place
down to the baby
on a blanket in the sun
tongue reaching for
the shape of sound
before it turns
into a word

"The poet/child must and can wander everywhere or anywhere. That is the precious legacy of the poet. There is no place that imagination cannot take the poet/child:

no wonder you’ve been lost
I watch you wandering off
into the 16th century
winter scene by breughel
that hangs over the living room couch
you are standing among the hunters on the hill
returning after a long cold journey
among the dogs sniffing
the scents of earth under the snow
you have no voice
you have no body
you are longing for the unseen
of some house
tucked away in the valley
in the bottom
near the wooden frame—

longing for poetry

to arrive

"For a final gesture the villanelle title poem, Adagio and Lamentation, was first read by Naomi and then sung by Lisa and Misha with an ethereal cello counterpoint by Chris. Lisa composed the reverie based on sublime modulations loosely based on Bach progressions. Here are the first, third, and sixth stanzas following the poet as she works her way through the present and the past:

when my father’s fierce fingers made Bach flow
our dead came in and sat with us a ghostly visitation
and my grandmother sang lieder of long ago
music accompanied us into the valley of the shadow and lo
Bach was torah Mozart was our rod Schubert led us into contemplation
my grandmother sang lieder remembering long-ago
long gone now my grandmother my father although
sometimes I call them back by villanelle by incantation
come my fierce father play for me water my soul in Bach’s flow
sing my sad grandmother your song is my covenant with long ago

"So much Enlightenment and Comfort in one unforgettable afternoon! Thanks to Dan Safran, the poet’s stalwart husband. Thanks to Mel Mathews and Patty Cabanas from Fisher King Press who presented a table of poetic treasures for the event. Thanks to the Angel Room site with its noble genius loci, faded, but filled with love. When that remarkable building is someday gone, where will the joyful spirit of music go to dream of moments well-played?

"To thrive in the midst of a resplendent family is a rare privilege. To share that privilege with the world is a great gift of compassion, understanding, and delight. Adagio & Lamentation is Naomi Ruth Lowinsky’s generous gift to all of us."

Marvin R. Hiemstra’s book, A Poet Wrangler at Work, will appear in 2011. His column, Poetry in Spite of Itself, appears regularly in the Bay Area Poets Seasonal Review. Comments about this column are welcome. drollmarv@aol.com

Friday, September 10, 2010

Child of My Child: Poems & Stories for Grandparents

A new anthology, "Child of My Child: Poems & Stories for Grandparents," features two poems by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky,"In the Garden" and "Emanuel," about her grandsons.

Naomi, who has 10 grandchildren, was interviewed by Janice De Jesus for a recent Contra Costa Times article about the anthology and Naomi's work. In the article, Naomi recounts her memories as a teen-ager of visiting her grandmother, Emma Hoffman who wanted Lowinsky to be a painter. One of Naomi's poems, "Oma," in her newest collection, Adagio and Lamentation, pays tribute to Hoffman, whose self-portrait and other paintings serve as inspiration to Lowinsky's poems. "My grandmother taught me that art could help you hold yourself through tragedy. She taught me that you could be a mother and still be an artist."


for Obie

In your new house—painted shades
of sunlight and sky—there are many rooms
and windows that contemplate

summer hills, the bay.
Your little brother clatters from playroom
to living room to kitchen over shining floors.

You show me your garden, its secret
hiding places, the apricot
brimming with fruit and your own

personal apple tree. You give me a taste
of the tart green fruit; we talk of death¾
my father’s, and that of Florence

the Great Dane. “She stopped breathing”
you tell me. “Did your father
stop breathing too? Why?”

You are not yet four.
I pray that this house
with its filtered light,

its many rooms that remember
other lives, will protect you. Long
may your parents and your brother

breathe, long may you taste
the fruit of both trees
in the garden.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Healing Memoir...

In the Spring 2010 issue of Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture, David H Rosen reviews The Sister From Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way.

Rosen explores and comments on each chapter of The Sister and concludes his review with "This healing memoir is a mandala....Naomi Ruth Lowinsky has written a remarkable autobiography about her individuation process, that is, her journey toward wholeness. I wholeheartedly recommend this original and immensely creative book -it's one of a kind and full of integrative honesty."

David H. Rosen is the McMillan Professor of Analytical Psychology, Professor of Humanities in Medicine and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Texas A&M University. He is the author of over one hundred articles and eight books, the most recent, with Joel Weishaus, The Healing Spirit of Haiku.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recent Publications

Naomi is pleased that two of her environmental poems, "Patiann Rogers Comes to Mind During an Oil Spill" and "Lailah Wants a Word" were accepted for publication by Poets for the Living Waters. (Check it out. It's a great site.)

She also had poems recently accepted by three print journals:
* Verdad (forthcoming) took "Bereft in Early Spring"
* Darkling (forthcoming) took "I Will Die and Go To My Mother"
* Ellipsis (#46) published her poem "To the Harvest God," reprinted below:


Look at me Lugh, before you sling
that bag of my life
over your shoulder

and walk down that hill.
Have you followed
my red thread? Remember me?

wild horse girl—in flight
from that cranky kitchen?

Stay awhile, Lugh
in summer’s last tilt
I want more time

to eat apricots
breathe deeply, while the children
of my children play circle games
under the fruit trees…

Before I give back
this belly, these hungry
hands, god of the darkening

help me gather
my stone

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Glowing Review on Amazon.com

Adagio and Lamentation, Naomi’s most recent collection of poems, published by Fisher King Press, received a glowing review by Amazon.com top reviewer, Grady Harp.

“ADAGIO & LAMENTATION, …the title bearing connotations of sorrow and 'music played slowly', by a rather extraordinary poet - one Naomi Ruth Lowinsky…. Lowinsky writes from the perspective of the scribe remaining to record the effects of the Shoah (Holocaust) on not only her ancestors but also on the minds and souls of people throughout the world scarred by that indelible tragedy. But Lowinsky seems to not find it necessary to recreate the horrors of that event but rather to assure us that it will not be forgotten, that transplantation of her surviving ancestors to the New World holds moments of joy and life made more rich by the presence of that devastation in their history.

“There are so many superb poems in this collection, some of them being the absolutely magical: 'at 19 before she became my mother Havana 1939', or 'on the anniversary of her first marriage', or 'what we did today in Venice'. Music and great literature and spirituality and physical passion pour out of these pages with a golden ladle. This is some of the finest, beautifully constructed poetry written today.”

Sunday, June 27, 2010

When the Moon Casts a Woman Off

article by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

The moon and then
the Pleiades
go down

The night is now
half-gone; youth
goes; I am

in bed alone
—Sappho (1)

When the Moon Casts a Woman Off

The muse is erotic. This is well known to the men who adore her. For me, her erotic nature can show up unexpectedly, as it did in India, or as it did during that powerful transition in a woman’s life—menopause.

The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her WayWhen the moon has cast a woman off, and she is running hot and cold in a confusion of purposes, body and soul fighting over the terms of their engagement, she may find herself lost, wandering about in a flat landscape, emptied of the drama of her cycles, unfamiliar to herself. When her soul, having lived in all the female places, isn’t sure where she lives anymore; when her mind loses track of itself and falls through the cracks in the floor of her brain; when her spirit is short of breath, confused by the weather, by sudden surges of heat that lack any erotic purpose; and her womb that has been telling time, keeping her in tune with the sea and its tides, goes silent, keeping its secrets inside; she may find herself thrown back to what called her before her first blood flowered, as though soul, mind, spirit, need to root themselves again in her beginnings; her life needs to come full circle. For me, that circle brings me back to a reverie about my early sexual stirrings, and a fantasy about Sappho.

Sappho. Have you heard of Sappho? She lived 2600 years ago, in a time when the division between the erotic and the sacred had not yet hardened, when a young woman’s education included the arts of love as well as of poetry, dance and music. How is it she suddenly fills me with her presence, as though I’ve always known her; as though I can remember my time with her as a young woman on Lesbos: the temple to Aphrodite, the meadows with flowers we maidens wove into one another’s hair; what we sang around the altar in the moonlight; as though Sappho was my teacher, my priestess, my wild older woman crush.

How can I claim to remember Sappho? She is a revered ancestor in my poetic lineage. But all we have of her poems are fragments, all we can gather of her life are glimpses, pottery shards, passages in Longinus and Demetrius. Yet even those fragments, those glimpses, give us a lot. They say she is a great lyric poet, perhaps the greatest of all time. They say that she, like Socrates, taught the young. The aristocrats of 5th century B.C. Greece, sent their daughters to Sappho, to her thiasos, where she initiated them into the mysteries of love; taught them ritual, poetry, dance, officiated at their weddings.

The Greeks did not divide sexuality up as do we. Young women learned love, their bodily and emotional responses, from other women. Some of them went on to marry men and live what we call heterosexual lives. Others stayed in the temple, as priestesses. Some, it is clear from Sappho’s work, preferred to stay with women.

As Judy Grahn points out in a powerful evocation of Sappho in her book of essays, The Highest Apple, Sappho was born into a now lost lineage of women poets that stretched behind her for a thousand years.(2) She lived in changing times. Already by her time, Greek women were oppressed and controlled by the patriarchy; they could not own property; they belonged to their husbands. But on Lesbos, in Sappho’s thiasos, we catch a glimpse of a world where, in Grahn’s words “women were central to themselves.” I long to have access to such wholeness of female being, such authority of voice and image.

I took my lyre and said:
Come now, my heavenly
tortoise shell: become
a speaking instrument(3)

Would I could be such a speaking instrument. Would I could summon such elegance and clarity. In Sappho female flesh becomes word. Her poems are personal, embodied, full of desire and of sensuous physical detail: descriptions of beautiful clothes, advise on what flowers a girl should wear in her hair. They are luminous.

H.D. brought Sapphic lucidity back into the language, describes Sappho’s poetry as: “containing fire and light and warmth, yet in its essence differing from all these, as if the brittle crescent-moon gave heat to us, or some splendid scintillating star turned warm suddenly in our hand like a jewel, sent by the beloved.”(4)

I wish I could study poetry with Sappho; learn to speak from female passion as did Sappho; I wish I could be on as intimate terms with Aphrodite, know the altar, know the ritual.

You know the place: then

Leave Crete and come to us
waiting where the grove is
pleasantest, by precincts

sacred to you; incense
smokes on the altar, cold

streams murmur through the
apple branches, a young

rose thicket shades the ground
and quivering leaves pour

down deep sleep; in meadows
where horses have grown sleek
among spring flowers, dill

scents the air. Queen! Cyprian!
Fill our gold cups with love
stirred into clear nectar(5)

But wait a minute. Is this the time to be invoking Aphrodite? At midlife, dealing with hot flashes and memory loss, struggling to keep track of many obligations, is this the time of life for Sappho to be stirring in me? Sappho who loved young women, sang of their beauty, taught them the erotic mysteries? Where was she when I needed her, when I had never heard of her, when I was a young woman, overcome by a confusion of passions?

I came of age in a time when it was believed that young women should be sexually initiated by men. The ancient practice of a woman learning the responses of her body in the hands of an older woman, had been mostly forgotten. There was an archetype missing (still is, for the most part), one the Greeks knew well: the archetype of sacred sexuality. In my day, a young woman’s passion was dangerous; if she expressed it, terrible things could happen to her. There were names: clinical names, colloquial names. Nymphomaniac. Slut. There were dangerous consequences. Pregnancies. Illegal abortions. Doors slammed for life. Shutters closed on her sense of self.

In the 1960s, some of us got wind of Sappho’s energy, without really knowing much about her. We saw that women had to learn to love women instead of only valuing our relationships with men. We formed circles of women and talked personally, about sex, our bodies, our passionate lives. In such a group, “consciousness raising” we called it, I remember wondering what menopause would be like. We asked an older woman some of us knew to write a letter about her experience. I can’t remember what she said. I do remember her tone, wise, funny, amazed and pleased to be asked. If I were to write such a letter now I’d have to say that nothing has prepared me for the power of change. It’s archetypal, like going through puberty, or becoming a mother.

And then it occurs to me: no wonder I’m fantasizing about Sappho. It’s not just that she’s a priestess of Aphrodite; she’s a priestess who facilitates archetypal change, and she does it in the voice of a woman-centered woman. As Judy Grahn says, when we lose access to our ceremonial stories “we fall out of history . . . out of mythic time . . . out of poetry except as the objects of it . . . out of meaning into a kind of slavery, a no-world, a no-place . . . ” How then can we make sense of female initiation, profound bodily changes? We need Sappho. We need her to teach us the lore of the body, the creative process, the invocation of the divine.

And I say to myself, why not try to invoke Sappho? What would it hurt? At worst she won’t come. At best, we’ll have an experience of the imagination.

The Tenth Muse

Imagine that we knew Sappho when we were young. Imagine that we can remember the island in the middle of the blue Aegean, near Turkey as it was 2600 years ago, a landscape of olive trees and apple orchards. The scholar of Greek lyric poetry, C.M. Bowra, describes it thus: “an abundance of natural springs fills the valleys with plane trees and lush grass; in the spring the ground is covered with anemones, orchids and wild tulips.”(6) The poet Alcaeus, a contemporary of Sappho, describes her as: “violet-tressed, holy, sweetly smiling Sappho . . .” (7)


tell me, Sappho,
whose delicate fingers
wove the violets into your hair?
whose soft seashell ears burned
at your song?

and would you take her back
after the years
she forgot you

opened her body
to his song

would you come to the tip
of her tongue
to her image making

would you send for her
the very chariot
that carried the goddess
she of the doves
and the smile that is
evening star?

lady of Lesbos
we gather
pieces of you
out of the mouths
of buried vases

i wish it were mine
to remember
how we danced
around the altar in full
our tender young women feet
crushing the grass

holy Sappho
make a place for me now
the moon is waning
we whom the tides
have released
long for a fragment
of you— (8)

She’s come. Can you see her? She is so vivid, as though she’s always been here, just under the surface, energetic, curious, intense, showing off her dark skin in bright clothing. She’s wearing the purple and yellow outfit she described in a poem. Listen to her beloved Atthis:

Sappho, if you will not get
up and let us look at you
I shall never love you again!

Get up, unleash your suppleness,
lift off your Chian nightdress
and, like a lily leaning into

a spring, bathe in the water.
Cleis is bringing your best
purple frock and the yellow

tunic down from the clothes chest;
you will have a cloak thrown over
you and flowers crowning your hair… (9)

She stands before a white temple, the blue Aegean glowing behind her. She’s smiling at us. Sappho, speak to us!

You wonder where I’ve been. I say, where have you been? I’ve been here all along, the old voice of female poetry, glad to be released at last from all those tiresome, bookish discussions about me. You’ve read all that nonsense. Was I short and dark? Did I die for love? Was I married to a man called Kerkylas, a wealthy merchant, or was this an obscene pun in an Attic comedy, because Kerkylas can mean “prick from the Isle of Man”(10) Was I a love priestess? Did I have jealous fights with my rivals for love or for power? Finally you stopped reading all that scholarship that just chops me up into smaller fragments, fits me into small categories that break up my wholeness. How can you separate body from love from soul from ritual from poetry? It is only in what’s left of my work that you can know me, and in the imagination of poets. There are those in your time who know me. H.D. knows me, as:

an island, a country, a continent, a planet, a world of emotion, differing entirely from any present day imaginable world of emotion…
A song, a spirit, a white star that moves across the heaven to mark the end of a world epoch or to presage some coming glory.
Yet she is embodied–terribly a human being, a woman, a personality as the most impersonal become when they confront their fellow beings.

Judy Grahn knows me, and traces her lesbian poetic lineage through H.D. and Emily Dickinson straight back to me. (11)

You can know me, not only as a particular poet of 6th c. B.C. Greece, but as the fragmented voice of woman, the ghost of the wholeness of woman that’s been ripped into shreds. What woman has written straight out of her body, her feeling, since I did, until now, in your time? My voice is the passion of woman for woman, the passion for the goddess. Every woman needs to know this passion, whether she sleeps with women or with men. Then she can express for herself what Freud found so mysterious: what a woman wants.

Why do you suppose you’ve been so consumed by poetry recently? It hasn’t occurred to you that I might have had something to do with that? For two millenia I was a sleepy spirit. But I’ve been right under the surface, waiting to be invoked. I have not been forgotten, but my poems, what has become of my poems? I wrote them down. I wanted them to last forever. It looked like they would. The Alexandrians published me a few centuries after my death. My work survived for a thousand years. I was known as the tenth muse, first among lyric poets, the queen of poetry. Once, everyone knew my poetry by heart. My words were ripe fruit on the tongue of every cultivated person. Now, all that’s left are fragments.

Don’t think because I’m a shade, I don’t mourn the loss of my work. Don’t think it doesn’t humiliate me, even in death, that my voice got torn to shreds of papyrus, that handwritten copies of my work were used to stuff a coffin, mummify a crocodile. Why did my books disappear? I have not been forgotten, but my poems are lost. I have not been forgotten, but for two thousand years who has written in my tradition? I have been quoted but the whole shape and luster of my work has been lost. Who has invoked me intimately, as I did Aphrodite, as you just did me? Why has it taken you so long? I’ve been knocking at the door of your consciousness most of your little life!

Dead poets long to be read. We long for our living audience, for the poets we influence, the poems that carry on our tradition, bring it into new territory. Suddenly your time is full of women poets, as though a fire swept through old woods releasing seeds that haven’t sprouted for 2600 years! You’re waking me up, exciting me, calling on me to return.

Now you want me to help you in this second rite of passage, in the Lesbos of your imagination. But I need your help. Events keep tearing you away from me. Important meetings. Conferences. Telephone calls. I say: come to Lesbos; make time for solitude; be alone with me. Imagine yourself in the grove of apple trees. The apples are reddening, growing ripe. The breeze in the trees has more to say to you than any group of colleagues. What do they know of your essence, your struggle to release your spirit from other people’s purposes? If I am to help you find the self you left behind, I need your full attention, your ear to my voice, your mind to the flow of images. Most of all I need your body!

You want my body?

No, I’m not propositioning you, not in the usual sense. I’m a ghost, a spirit. What I want is words for your body’s experience, your desire, your longing. When young women came to me on Lesbos I prepared them for the changing of the gods in their bodies. I called down Aphrodite. I taught them the pleasure of their bodies, what flowers to wear in their hair, what would make the blood run hot under their soft skin. Here they were, young and so lovely, breasts just blossoming. How could I not fall in love? I who was teaching them to cultivate the goddess of love, to make her incarnate in their own flesh, was cultivating my own body of love.

I brought girls from childhood to womanhood, teaching them to sing and to dance, to cultivate the subtle play of blood and fire in their loins, the connection to their feet, to know what colors to wear, how a dress should drape.

If I had known you when you were young, you would have known your own beauty. You would have learned to express your own passion, in words. No matter how overcome with passion a woman may be, if she can make a poem of her experience—she retains herself—has made a vessel for herself. I did this time and again.

He is a god in my eyes
the man who is allowed
to sit beside you—he
who listens intimately
to the sweet murmur of
your voice, the enticing
laughter that makes my own
heart beat fast… (12)

Can you imagine how it is to love a young woman, train her in the erotic arts, and then have to officiate at her marriage? Making poems held me together, as making poems has been holding you together in the change of life. What you need is some of our ancient Greek love for our bodies. We did not suffer from that post Christian fear of the body which has caused the fragmentation of my voice. Nor had we any desire to “rise above” our bodies. We knew what you need to remember: the body is where the gods speak to us. Your body is speaking to you, in hot flashes, in memory lapses, in a deep disorientation from the moon. You need me to help you in this change of the gods. I need you to give poetic voice to the change.

There is something I don’t understand. Do you not know about the change? Didn’t women of your time live past menopause?

Of course. Women have always known about menopause. In the ancient world we had our secret rituals, we knew the herbal remedies, all the lore of the wise blood. But none of this was valued, or written down. And as the men took over, and women’s spiritual practices were deemed dangerous, witchcraft, you forgot what we once knew. It got lost, like the poems of the poets before me, lost like the mysteries of Eleusis, like the many forms of the goddess.

The previous article is an excerpt from
The Sister From Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way
by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

Naomi Lowinsky is the author of The Sister From Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way, The Motherline: Every Woman's Journey to Find Her Female Roots, and the just published book of poems, Adagio and Lamentation. She has authored numerous prose essays, many of which have been published in Psychological Perspectives and The Jung Journal. Her two previous poetry collections, red clay is talking (2000) and crimes of the dreamer (2005) were published by Scarlet Tanager Books. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times and is the recent recipient of the Obama Millennium Poetry awarded for "Madelyn Dunham, Passing On.” Naomi is a Jungian analyst in private practice, poetry and fiction editor of Psychological Perspectives.

Naomi’s publications are available from:



Barnes and Noble
Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US and Canada, International +1-831-238-7799.

Below are links to download the FKP newsletter, current catalog, and price list/order form:

Fisher King Press Newsletter
Fisher King Press Catalog of Publications
Fisher King Press Price List and Order Form

(1) Sappho, Barnard trans., fragment #64.
(2) Judy Grahn, The Highest Apple : Sappho and the Lesbian Poetic Tradition, p. 7.
(3) Sappho, fragment #8.
(4) Hilda.Doolittle. (H.D.), Notes on Thought and Vision and The Wise Sappho, pp. 57-58.
(5) Sappho, fragment #37.
(6) C.M. Bowra, Greek Lyric Poetry, p. 130.
(7) Alcaeus, Greek Lyric Poetry, p. 239.
(8) Lowinsky, unpublished poem.
(9) Sappho, fragment #43.
(10) Sappho, The Poems and Fragments of Sappho, translated by Jim Powell, p. 33.
(11) H.D., The Wise Sappho, pp. 58-59.
(12) Sappho, fragment #39.

Copyright 2010 © Fisher King Press - Permission to reprint is granted.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Press Release: Adagio and Lamentation

Advance Press Release for July 1, 2010

With great pleasure, Fisher King Press presents a new il piccolo edition:

Adagio and Lamentation
Poems by
By Naomi Ruth Lowinsky
ISBN 9781926715056, 112 pages, July 2010

Naomi’s words and images meander through shadows and light, between demons and angels, yet the poetry is always accessible.  In this moving collection, she often goes back in time, to the days when her family lived in (and escaped from) Hitler’s Europe.  The journey helps inform who she is today, including the indelible scar worn by anyone whose family has borne witness to genocide.
—Stewart Florsheim, author of The Short Fall from Grace.

“(W)e are all/each other’s/raw/material” writes Naomi Ruth Lowinsky in her wise and moving book Adagio & Lamentation, the “we” born not only of others but histories and places, all of this inspiring our very human connection over time to vitality and imagination.  Lowinsky’s music is poignant and haunting, moving the listeners and readers of her poems with the miracle of arrival that is all new life and the celebration of thriving.
—Forrest Hammer, author of Call and Response, Middle Ear, and Rift.

Naomi Lowinsky’s poetry is both fierce and tender, political yet intimate; and, for her, the political is personal.  Lowinsky’s poems “voices from the ashes” and “great lake of my mother” are particularly moving. Her work is deeply lyrical and transformative.  It makes you think and feel.  It makes you wish you’d written these poems.  Adagio & Lamentation is a stunning and memorable book.
—Susan Terris, author of Contrariwise, Natural Defenses, and Fire is Favorable to the Dreamer.

Naomi Ruth Lowinsky was the first child born in the New World to a family of German Jewish refugees from the Shoah. Many in her family were lost in the death camps. It has been the subject and the gift of her poetry and prose—to write herself out of the terror, into life.

Naomi had a special tie with her only surviving grandparent, the painter Emma Hoffman, whom she called “Oma.” Oma showed her that making art can be a way to transmute grief, a way to bear the unbearable. The cover of Adagio and Lamentation is a watercolor by Emma Hoffman—an interior view of the Berkeley home where Naomi visited her often as a teenager. Oma tried her best to make a painter of her, but Naomi was no good at it. Poetry was to be her vehicle.

Adagio and Lamentation is Naomi’s offering to her ancestors, a handing back in gratitude and love. It is also her way of bringing them news of their legacy—the cycle of life has survived all they suffered—Naomi has been blessed by many grandchildren.

Naomi Ruth Lowinsky is the author of The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way and The Motherline: Every Woman’s Journey to Find Her Female Roots and numerous prose essays, many of which have been published in Psychological Perspectives and The Jung Journal. Her two poetry collections, red clay is talking (2000) and crimes of the dreamer (2005) were published by Scarlet Tanager Books. She has had poetry published in many literary magazines and anthologies, among them After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery, Weber Studies, Rattle, Atlanta Review, Tiferet and Asheville Poetry Review.

Naomi has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times and is the recipient of the 2009 Obama Millennium Poetry award for "Madelyn Dunham, Passing On.” Naomi is a Jungian analyst in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area, poetry and fiction editor of Psychological Perspectives, and a grandmother many times over.

Place your order for Adagio and Lamentation here.
Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US and Canada, International +1-831-238-7799. www.fisherkingpress.com


Fisher King Press / PO Box 222321 / Carmel, CA 93922

Friday, April 30, 2010

“…a unique and uplifting journey, an inspiring read”

The Sister From Below, reviewed in February Poetry Flash

The current (February 2010) edition of Poetry Flash features a review of The Sister From, Below by Lucille Lang Day. Lucille Day is the founder and director of Scarlet Tanager Books. Her new book of poetry is The Curvature of Blue.

The review describes The Sister as “a book about self-realization, finding one’s deepest self, and discovering the connections between one’s life and the timeless realm of myths….The Sister is Lowinsky’s muse in her many guises. She can take the form of actual people, living or dead, mythical figures, or individuals drawn wholly from Lowinsky’s imagination: an Italian nurse who tended Lowinsky in early childhood, Lowinsky’s grandmother who died in the Holocaust, Sappho, Eurydice, Old Mother India, the biblical Naomi, and many others. The muse can even appear as a male figure, such as one of Lowinsky’s early lovers or the mysterious Shaman of the Stones.”

Lucille Day asks, “Ultimately, who or what is the muse? Lowinsky suggests that the muse could be the soul, the Self as in Jungian psychology, inspiration, a lover, a god or goddess, an intermediary between worlds, or all of the above. Wisely, she does not try to pin the muse down to a single definition or explanation, but instead focuses on conveying her own experiences in which the muse 'lifts the veil on other realities.'”

See www.poetryflash.org

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gallery Cafe Reading

Naomi will be reading new work on Monday, May 3, 2010 at the Gallery Café

1200 Mason (@ Washington St), San Francisco CA (415-296-9932)

7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

The Café serves light food and beverages, including wine & beer.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mothers Day, The Motherline, and The Great Mother Re-Imagined

With Mothers Day fast approaching, perhaps the following Fisher King Press titles will be of interest:

The Motherline: Every Woman's Journey to find her Female Roots
by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky.

Product Description
The Motherline takes the perspective of the mother who is always also a daughter. It is a book for women who have mothers, are mothers, or are considering becoming mothers, and for the men who love them. Telling the stories of women whose maturation has been experienced in the cycle of mothering, it urges a view of the psyche of women that does not sever mother from daughter, feminism from "the feminine," body from soul.

It argues that the path to wholeness requires us to reclaim aspects of the feminine self that we have lost or forgotten in our struggle to free ourselves from constricting roles. It describes a woman's journey to find her roots in the personal, cultural, and archetypal Motherline.

Our mothers are the first world we know, the source of our lives and our stories. Embodying the mysteries of origin, they tie us to the great web of kin and generation. Yet the voice of their experience is seldom heard. We have no cultural mirror in which to envision the fullness of female development; we are deprived of images of female wisdom and maturity. Finding our female roots, reclaiming our feminine souls, requires us to pay attention to our real mothers' lives and experience. Listening to our mothers' stories is the beginning of understanding our own.

“(In) this perceptive and penetrating study . . . (Naomi Ruth Lowinsky) imaginatively applies Jungian, feminist and literary approaches to popular attitudes about . . . mothers and daughters and movingly, to personal experience.”
—Publisher’s Weekly

“A combination of years of scholarship and recordings of personal journeys, this book belongs in every woman’s psychology/spirituality collection.”
—Library Journal

“In this accessible volume, Jungian psychologist Lowinsky explores the pain that women feel when their mother-love is undervalued or erased.”
—ALA Booklist

About the Author
Naomi Ruth Lowinsky is the author of The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way and The Motherline: Every Woman's Journey to Find Her Female Roots and numerous prose essays, many of which have been published in Psychological Perspectives and The Jung Journal. She has had poetry published in many literary magazines and anthologies, among them After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery, Weber Studies, Rattle, Atlanta Review, Tiferet and Asheville Poetry Review. Her two poetry collections, red clay is talking (2000) and crimes of the dreamer (2005) were published by Scarlet Tanager Books. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times and the recent recipient of the Obama Millennium Poetry awarded for "Madelyn Dunham, Passing On.” Naomi is a Jungian analyst in private practice, poetry and fiction editor of Psychological Perspectives, and a grandmother many times over.

Order The Motherline directly from Fisher King Press

Re-Imagining Mary: A Journey Through Art to the Feminine Self 
by Mariann Burke

Artists plumb the depths of soul which Jung calls the collective unconscious, the inheritance of our ancestors' psychic responses to life’s drama. In this sense the artist is priest, mediating between us and God. The artist introduces us to ourselves by inviting us into the world of image. We may enter this world to contemplate briefly or at length. Some paintings invite us back over and over again and we return, never tiring of them. It is especially these that lead us to the Great Mystery, beyond image. Re-imagining Mary: A Journey through Art to the Feminine Self is about meeting the Cosmic Mary in image and imagination, the many facets of the Mary image that mirror both outer reality and inner feminine soul. Jungian analyst Mariann Burke explores symbolic meanings of paintings and sculptures by several famous artist from the renaissance period on up to our modern age including: Fra Angelico, Albrecht Durer, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Nicolas Poussin, Parmigianino, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and Frederick Franck.

Aspects of Mary explored include: Mary not only as Mother of God, a title from the Judeo-Christian tradition, but as Mother God, a title reaching back to an ancient longing for a Female Divinity. In western Christianity this Mary bears the titles and the qualities worshipped for thousands of years in the Female images of God and Goddess. These titles include Mary as Sorrowful One and as Primordial Mother. Recovering Mary both as light and dark Madonna plays a crucial role in humanity s search for a divinity who reflects soul. Also discussed is Mary as the sheltering Great Mother that Piero della Francesca suggest in the Madonna del Parto and Mater Misericodia. Frederick Franck s The Original Face and the Medieval Vierge Ouvrante also suggest this motif of Mary as Protector of the mystery of our common Origin. Franck s inspiration for his sculpture of Mary was the Buddhist koan 'What is your original face before you were born?'

"In this beautiful book, recounting her personal journey of discovery, Mariann Burke offers us her awakening to the experience of the Feminine. We follow her as she encounters and responds to images of Mary which hold meaning for her: Mary as Virgin Mother, Mary as Mirror, Mary as the Compassionate Sanctuary for suffering humanity, Mary as Temple, Mary as Black Madonna and Divine Wisdom. Through her contemplation of these images, she leads us deeper into an understanding of the Feminine and into unexplored dimensions of the soul. This is a book to savor and return to often."

"Mariann Burke has undertaken the remarkable and urgent task of grounding one of the major icons of Christian history, Mary. She plants Mary side by side with her ancient sister colleagues: Isis, Kali, Demeter, Tara and others, revealing Mary's ancient roots. This reading is critical for the 21st century since, through Mary, one expression of the Feminine archetype, matter can again be seen as divinized and the idea of incarnation pushed solidly into the matter of all things. Re-Imagining Mary is really re-imagining ourselves as women and men giving birth to God in newer and more relevant ways today. It is reimagining not only our own personal soul s journey but also the deep sacredness of the soul of the world itself."
--Fred Gustafson, author of The Black Madonna.

About the Author
Mariann Burke is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Newton, MA. She holds graduate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, Andover-Newton Theological School, and the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. She has done graduate work in Scripture at Union Theological Seminary and La Salle University. Her interests include the body-psyche connection, feminine spirituality, and the psychic roots of Christian symbolism. She is a member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ).

Order Re-Imagining Mary directly from Fisher King Press

Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US and Canada, International +1-831-238-7799. www.fisherkingpress.com


Fisher King Press / PO Box 222321 / Carmel, CA 93230 /
Phone: 831-238-7799 / info@fisherkingpress.com / www.fisherkingpress.com

Friday, April 16, 2010

City Lights Bookstore: 7pm on April 29, 2010

You are cordially invited to attend a New Issue Release Event for the publication of: LEFT CURVE no. 3 www.leftcurve.org

With presentations/readings by
Dominic Angerame - Rebecca Bella - Michael Cooper
Agneta Falk - Susan Galleymore - Jack Hirschman
Arionó-jovan Labu - Naomi Ruth Lowinsky
Alejandro Murguia - Csaba Polony

(Program subject to change)

City Lights Bookstore www.citylights.com
261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA
April 29, 2010 at 7:00 P.M.

Monday, March 15, 2010

“The Muse is both the anima and the Self.”

Patricia Damery, a writer and a member of the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, reviewed The Sister From Below in the Winter 2010 issue of Jung Journal www.ucpressjournals.com (Patricia Damery’s articles on shamanism and alchemy and her poetry have appeared in professional journals.)

“…The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way, maps a creative person’s developing relationship to the psyche through active imagination and dialogue with inner figures and ghosts. Marbled with details of what is also a remarkable life, Naomi’s story leads us through a series of conversations with muses, beginning with Our Lady of Florence….The muse is both the anima and the Self—at once, psychopomp and feminine core of the psyche.

Damery points out that the cover painting (Phases of the Moon, by Bianca Daalder-van Iersel) is an image that also carries the theme of the book. “In Florence at certain times of the day, the Ponte Vecchio is two bridges: the bridge itself and the one reflected in the water.” She quotes from The Sister from Below,

There is the flesh and blood bridge, full of tourists, which you’ve just walked over, looking at rubies and pearls. There is the other, deeper bridge, insubstantial, with its reflected arches and yellow painted shops in the dark waters of the river. They touch each other, these two bridges, reflect on each other, can’t be without each other, and yet are inhabitants, like you and I, of different realms. Your lost Lydia is like the bridge, dreaming of itself in green waters. It is because of her, that every time you come to Florence, poetry flows. For it is not just the Lady herself, but the longing for the lady, out of which poetry is made. (38–39)

“Experienced at once, these two bridges form a mandala. To know wholeness we must access with both realities, often through suffering.”

Damery continues, “The book is also smart, steeped in mythology, literature, and history. The Shoah, in which most of Naomi’s extended family perished, is ever present. There are the other muses too: Sappho and her erotic poetry; Helena, the Root Vegetable, first met in a dream; ancient Naomi of the Book of Ruth and of Canaan, where the goddess was still worshipped; and last but not least, a male muse, John, a poet Naomi loved in her youth.”

“Through Naomi’s sensitivity…we learn how one woman has lived and created in the watery realms of synchronicity and of dreams. It is memoir of her soul. It also reflects the transformative power of the creative process that can heal not only the wounds of personal self, but also, through the honoring of mystery, that which ‘appears to us when we close our eyes and look into our own darkness—the place where gods and humans meet’, those of a culture that has become overly rational and linear.”

The Sister From Below reviewed in the NAAP News

Lynn Somerstein, reviewed The Sister From Below in the Winter 2010 Issue of the NAAP News. http://naap.org.

Lynn Somerstein writes, “I read voraciously; sometimes finding sisters, brothers, lovers, parents, selves inside the pages of books. My deepest of all of these leaped and raced with me in The Sister From Below….

"Chapter seven- Old Mother India blowing minds away, wearing a sapphire blue sari. Lowinsky writes,


Old mother

Which one of us swallowed the other?

“And I feel again birthing the baby who became my son and not knowing if I was birthing or borning, if I was I or if I was my mother, and this is the territory, the “terrorstory” the muse stalks, the birthing ground, where your cells snort and breathe….”

And Chapter 9, titled ‘Helena is a root vegetable.’ A Pan-like creature visits, says, Everything is alive. Even the stone you sit on. Even the dead leaves. Even the dead are alive in me. There is no death. Climb on my back. I will carry you. I am the secret of what green does in the darkness, of what rain does, and the wind.

Lowinsky is a Jungian feminist writer artist analyst. Fearless and incandescent; this is her ground- and ours. Come visit.”

Visit indeed!