I have loved to read since the days that my mother took me on the trolley to check out picture books from the Yonkers Public Library. After trolley tracks were paved over, I rode the bus there and back with stacks of books, the thicker the better, balanced on my lap. My Uncle Sam Berkowitz built a hook-over the bed-backboard radio/light that reflected on whatever I was reading in bed.
Growing up, I never considered myself a writer, but I adored Mrs. Meyers 12th grade, first-ever Creative Writing class at Yonkers High. Our school magazine published a poem I wrote after she urged me to submit it. She introduced us to extraordinary writers like Sylvia Plath, J.D. Salinger, and James Joyce. Entranced by the recording of Spoon River Anthology she played in our classroom, I bought the album, playing it over and over to listen to complicated, flawed, human characters describe their lives.
One died of shameful child-birth,
One of thwarted love,
One at the hands of a brute in a brothel,
One of a broken pride, in seach for heart’s desire,
One after a life in far-away London and Paris…
(from “The Hill,” Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters)
At City College of New York, I took every literature class possible, devoured books on the subway, in the library, home, in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. I loved the work of Phillip Roth, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Harper Lee, and so many others. But who was I to aspire to be an author? I didn’t dare take the poetry workshop offered by the spectacular poet Denise Levertov.
Years later, after I moved to Oregon, and my sweet son was born, I enrolled in a creative writing class at Chemeketa Community College in Salem where I taught English as a Second Language. The writing teacher, Barbara Wigginton, encouraged me. From then on, I’ve taken fabulous writing classes at conferences and from organizations including: Haystack, Fishtrap, Flight of the Mind, Centrum, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Lill Ahren’s Writers’ Workroom, Chris Howell’s Portland Art Museum classes, the Community of Writers, Oregon Writers’ Colony, Willamette Writers, and the Oregon Writer’s Project. After my retirement, Scott Nadelson at Willamette and Marjorie Sandor at OSU let me audit fiction classes. The Rainier Writing Workshop’s granted me an MFA in fiction and a Debra Tall Memorial Scholarship.
I went on to teach ESL in Ecuador and Costa Rica and creative writing at Willamette University. Having fallen in love with the PDX Writers’ Amherst Writers and Artist Method workshops, I completed the leadership training and lead AWA writing groups in Salem. I also co-founded the Peregrine Poetry Group, which I still attend, and participate in other wonderfully helpful prose critique groups.
If only my mother and father were alive now to see my two shelves filled with journals that have published my poems and stories. I wish they could see the dedication to them in my first poetry book, Pigeons. Like the birds known for survival and returning to their homes, much of my writing goes back to family and food of my childhood like latkes, herring in cream sauce, and seven layer cake. I’m also writing tales that take place in an imaginary town called Mint, close to my Oregon home. I hope to weave them into a novel.
Lois Rosen’s award-winning poems and stories have appeared in over a hundred journals including most recently: Calyx, Conversations across Borders, VoiceCatcher, Alimentum: the Literature of Food, The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, and The Night, and the Rain, and the River. She leads two Amherst Writers Workshops in Salem, Oregon where she’s taught Creative Writing at Willamette University and ESL at Chemeketa Community College. She received an MFA in fiction from the Rainier Writing Workshop. Traprock Books published her first poetry collection, Pigeons, in 2004. Tebot Bach Publications has published her second poetry book, Nice and Loud, available online and in stores since September 2015.