Caryn with her administrative assistant, Shay

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, is a poet, writer, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches. Author of more than 20 books of poetry, fiction, memoirs, and anthologies, her most recent and forthcoming publications include Miriam's Well, a novel; Everyday Magic: A Field Guide to the Mundane and Miraculous, and Following the Curve, embodied poetry. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-leads Brave Voice writing and singing retreats. Caryn leads writing workshops widely, offers one-on-one writing coaches, and roams the prairies as a visiting scholar. Sign up for Caryn's newsletter, and receive a monthly pithy e-newsletter with a writing prompt, featured writer, and news of upcoming workshops, events, and readings. Click here.

Upcoming Events

November 24, 2017 - 4:00pm
Lawrence Yoga Center, 920 Massachusetts St.
Lawrence, KS
Please reserve your spot at the Mind/Body site on Facebook event.
November 29, 2017 - 7:00pm
Topeka and Shawnee County Library, 1515 SW 10th Ave
Topeka, KS
December 4, 2017 - 7:00pm
The Raven Bookstore, 7 East 7th St.
Lawrence, KS
December 10, 2017 - 7:00pm
Transformative Language Arts Network, video conference
December 16, 2017 - 1:00pm
Turning Point: The Center for Hope and Healing, 8900 State Line Rd.
Leawood, KS
Please call 913-574-0900 to register.
January 11, 2018 - 7:00pm
Transformative Language Arts Network, video conference
January 20, 2018 - 4:00pm
Ellen Plumb's City Bookstore, 1122 Commercial Street
Emporia, KS
More Events

In Gratitude for Neil

Neil, bottom left, last Hanukkah

In memory of Neil Salkind, who died today.

We sat at a small table in La Prima Tassa on a spring day filtering sunshine across our table, sipping tea and updating each other on our children. “Hey Pal, the thing is,” Neil said, “I want them to be happy. My job is simply to love them. That’s what we do as parents: we love them and want them to be happy.” I had just been inventorying my long list of anxieties about my kids when Neil’s words stopped me in my tracks. Yes, he was right, and I remembered his words a thousand and one times, reminding me how simple, and also at times, difficult it can be to love our children without any expectation but for their happiness.

I met Neil I-don’t-know-when through the Jewish center, probably in ’83 or so, and we immediately connected. We were both from Jersey, and the tone of his voice and his sense of humor felt like home to me. I looked for him during services and the annual Blintz Brunch, happy to simply be in his good humored company, laughing about whatever we could laugh about, which was almost everything, and occasionally sneaking in short in-depth talks about what matters in life, and what doesn’t. Neil wasn’t one for gossip, and instead directed his big energy toward what he loved: his work, his community, and especially his wife and children.

Neil was over the moon and past this solar system in love with Leni, his wife of over 49 years. They were the most affectionate couple I saw, whether sitting side by side for High Holidays, holding hands, leaning in to share a thought or memory, or around their home where Neil specialized in amazing cooking and baking (oh, his challah!). He adored Leni – her style, her stories, her art, her way of being in the world, and through his adoration he modeled for us a way to always show gratitude and wonder toward our beloveds. He also was enthralled with his kids Micah (and Micah’s husband) and Sara, and he reveled in their adventures, friendships, and accomplishments.

I also knew another angle of Neil: he was my literary agent before he retired from the grind, hustle, and thrill of making deals. He got Needle in the Bone, my non-fiction book about Lou Frydman and Jarek Piekalkiewicz, published by the University of Nebraska Press, and he also tried valiantly to find Stephen Locke and me a publisher for Chasing Weather, our storm poetry and photography book. In the years we worked together in the book biz, he was consistently cheerful, supportive, and upbeat. We would do what we could, and he would bring great enthusiasm to the literary agenting, which he did.

He brought such enthusiasm to all aspects of his life, from setting out (with two other families) a huge spread for an annual Rosh Hashana community gathering held for years in his home to swimming competitively and in friendship with a long-time group of friends.

Then there’s Neil, the printer. Neil bought some old presses Ken’s dad, also a printer, collected, and he printed gorgeous letter-press broadsides with hand-set type. Recently, he did an beautiful and limited editing printing of a poem by Beth Schultz about the Jewish cemetery in Eudora. He printed my poem “Entering the Days of Awe” to sell as a fundraiser for the Jewish center as well as my poem “In Gratitude” as a fundraiser for the Transformative Language Arts Network.

Thinking of his work in printing “In Gratitude,” I’m struck by how Neil embodied a grateful life: he truly relished his connections with his friends, his community, his work (which was vast and off-the-charts successful as a professor, writer, literary agent, and many other roles), and especially his dearest beloveds. I’m grateful for what he showed me about living a grateful life, and for each conversation over coffee, lunch, or in the back of the synagogue, each hug, each time he called me “pal.” Here’s the poem he set and printed, which speaks of Neil’s legacy:

In Gratitude

The wind thanks you, unfurling over the worn

horizon so it can billow into night. The stars too,

whether talismans of light dying or just being born,

behind the small birds arriving or staying behind,

who balance gratefully on thin branches of coming winter.

The squirrel in the field, the hidden fox, the mammals

under and overground. The world is composed,

is composing itself anew even in a narrow time:

just before the red-winged blackbird folds

back in silhouette. Whatever act of kindness flies

lands in the heart of a moment, a seasonal marker

to illuminate why we live, a song of gratitude.

The Peace of a Late Autumn Day: Everyday Magic, Day 916

It's almost balmy although this late afternoon is quickly tipping toward dusk. The leaves are strangely still attached to trees around town but mostly in clumps the cold snap, hard rain, or big wind haven't yet tipped over. Although we bought a frozen turkey to begin thawing for Thanksgiving, here I am sitting on the front porch with only a light sweater over my yoga clothes. It's an unusual autumn moment, but also oddly sweet in its spaciousness and quiet. One of my and maybe your ongoing problems with fall as well as spring -- especially in these regions where [...] Read More

Losing and Finding My C’hai (Which is Not a Dala Horse): Everyday Magic, Day 915

At breakfast at the Swedish Country Inn in Lindsborg, Kansas, someone said she liked my tiny gold Dala horse necklace. It took me a moment to realize that the C'hai -- the Jewish symbol for life, luck, the auspicious number 18, and also the Hebrew letter C'hai -- looks just a little like the Swedish Dala horse, a symbol of Swedish hospitality. I explained the C'hai to her, then dug into some Swedish meatballs, pickled herring, and rye bread. Ken and I having decided to spend some time in this charming town after a gig in  equally lovely Glasco, Kansas, [...] Read More

Loving Uncle Ron: Everyday Magic, Day 914

Another visit, another time to sort tools It started with gerunds, a grammatical term for verbs that end in "ing." To write directly and precisely, writers are supposed to avoid gerunds, Uncle Ron read in a tiny newspaper article that he clipped and sent to me.  He wrote me that when next we met, we needed to get to the bottom of this gerund business. That was well over 30 years ago, and get to the bottom we did, along with picking up what we found at the bottom and tossing it back and forth over [...] Read More

Me, Too, and All the Women (and Some Men) I Know: Everyday Magic, Day 913

"Me, too." I was 19, and I knew it was sexual harassment, but there was nothing I could do about it. He managed the movie theater where I worked concessions, and after I refused to meet him a little apartment he had on the side -- one his wife knew nothing about -- he drastically cut my hours. He knew I needed the job to pay rent and feed myself, so he kept pressing. I kept saying no. Soon I was down to one short shift a week, but at least I knew why. But my [...] Read More

Connect with Caryn

Subscribe to Caryn's Newsletter: Receive a pithy newsletter each month with a writing prompt, featured writer, and news of upcoming workshops, readings, and happenings. Click here.

Read Caryn's Words in Everyday Magic, her blog, essays and interviews, and books of poetry, fiction, memoir, and anthologies.

Join a Writing Workshop: Caryn bi-monthly retreats for people living with serious illness (as patients or caregivers) through Turning Point in Kansas City, wild weather workshops through the Kansas Humanities Council, and many other offerings. More here.

Come to an Event: Caryn teaches classes through the Osher Institute, leads talks and book discussions through the Kansas Humanities Councils, and speaks, reads, and meets with people widely. See more here.

Find Your Brave Voice: Join Kelley Hunt and Caryn for their annual Brave Voice: Writing & Singing for Your Life retreat each May in the glorious Flint Hills of Kansas. More here.

Coach with Caryn: Caryn offers coaching on writing, the writing life, and right livelihood. More here.

Create Your Own Right Livelihood Through the Arts in the Transformative Language Arts Network's Right Livelihood Professional Training with Laura Packer and Caryn, launching June - October, 2018. More here.

Earn Your MA at the Goddard Graduate Institute where Caryn and other fine people teach, guiding students in self-designed, low-residency (study from your home community, and attend two week-long residencies each year) degrees in Transformative Language Arts, Health Arts & Sciences, Social Innovation and Sustainability, Consciousness Studies, and Individualized Studies. More here.

Bring Caryn to Your Community: Have Caryn present a workshop, talk, reading, or collaborative event in your community. More information here.

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