Biography of a Poet/Writer

I used to think only highly literate, classics educated people had the capability to write poetry. Maybe there were a few exceptions like Robert Burns and Dylan Thomas who were born with natural imagery that could succeed. But when any others made a stab at it they were doomed for the most part. I think I wrote my first poem over 30 years ago. I was asked to speak about Dr. Spock, the world famous baby doctor whom everyone praised or blamed. He had become a leading opponent of the Viet Nam War and was defiantly anti-nuclear. It seemed I could not do it without becoming lyrical. So what I had to say became more poetry than prose. It surprised me because I hadn’t intended it. It suddenly went out of my control.

I practiced medicine for close to 50 years. The people coming to see me were largely on public assistance. They had had so many raw deals and their sicknesses and lives had become so complicated that though I wanted to become rich and famous fast previously, they stopped me in my tracks. I realized these were the people in this country I somehow connected with though I never felt I could do much for them, they had been so battered and slapped by circumstances. I am not clever. It takes me forever to figure out a situation. Ask my nephew, Jerry, with whom I bicycle everywhere. He can sit on a stone 30 yards away and know what’s wrong with the mechanism of a bicycle immediately, while I am looking and searching for 20 minutes in all directions, unsuccessfully.

The only thing I do have is persistence, a certain amount of doggedness. That’s the only way I’m like my father, though I look like him more and more as I become older. He came to this country in 1910, at the age of 15, almost totally alone. He came from a small village in the Carpathian Mountains of the ancient Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was a Jew who knew nothing of this language and had practically no education. He was a gnome of a man in physical height and appearance. But he always managed to have a job even during the depression. He helped raise four kids and kept them together despite my mother’s ravaging illness, TB, which killed her at the age of 40. He also defied the government during WWI. He refused to fight against his brethren in Austro-Hungary and Germany.

I have an intense dread of injustice, rigidness, conformity, superficiality, cruelty and waste. Though I was barely out of childhood and had never been fifty miles from home, in the infantry, I had the unearthly experience of surviving a bullet in the neck I had not yet become consciously political. I only knew I hated war and killing.

In medical school, I became political for the first time. It took every bit of my courage to protest the pending execution of the Rosenbergs during that dense McCarthy era. In the 60’s I marched with Martin Luther King in Mississippi. Everywhere we traveled the polling places were kept open until well into the night so that people who previously could not register, except with great danger, could. I worked with African-American physicians and others to crack wide the discriminating practices of Chicago medical institutions. At the same time we started a program for inner city youngsters which would make them aware of and expose them to the opportunities in the biomedical field.

I’ve been a husband, a father, a sometimes passionate lover. I have been afraid and cowardly. I have too often been alienated and hostile, more to those unjust to others than to myself. I feel I’ve lived seven or eight lifetimes. I like to believe I haven’t stopped growing. Every day of life to me is a miracle. The people I know, meet, see, hear, kiss, hug, yearn for, dislike, reject are the most miraculous. They are filled with epiphanies, essences, insights, subtleties, surprises, frustrations, challenges, disappointments which excite me continuously.

I want to get all of this in my poetry. I want to make emotional connection with all my experiences as well as those that I haven't experienced but seen and heard by others. I want to connect this all to the streams, rivers, deltas and oceans of history. I want people to see how we are all tied together in our hearts and nothing, not even the biggest catastrophes and explosions, can tear us apart.

Though I have written numerous short stories, poems, hardly any have ever been published. Primarily because I have submitted them only on occasion. One or two were published in a University of Colorado Medical School literary periodical and one in an obscure one, Clothesline Review, since defunct. The past many years, I’ve been attending a writer’s circle of mostly older people at the Cultural Center here in Chicago, each Tuesday for about 2 hours,. We each bring a one page story which we read and get feedback. I cheat. I use 10 font size type so I can squeeze a bit more on to the page. Presently am involved in considerable political work with a senior organization hoping to improve the lives of not only seniors but everyone.

I want to use this blog to reach out to people with my pieces, opinions. I am interested in feedback whether it agrees or disagrees with what I have written. Though I am practicing to move into my 10th decade, I am still learning. My best learning comes from people whatever their opinion is as long as they do not harm themselves or others. It has taken me a long way to get this far. I want to and need to get further and so am looking for your thoughtful contributions.