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Lynn Strongin – OSIP born in Warsaw

Strongin profile LEP&W July2021

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing August 2021

Lynn Strongin is a Pulitzer Prize nominee in poetry. A recipient of a National Endowment Creative Writing Grant, nominated twice for Pushcart Prizes, Lynn Born in NYC at the end of the dirty thirties, she grew up in an artistic Jewish home in New York during the war. Earliest studies were in musical composition as a child and at The Manhattan School of Music. Took a BA at Hunter college, MA at Stanford University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. Lived in Berkeley during the vibrant sixties where she worked for Denise Levertov and took part in many peace demonstrations. Poems in forty anthologies, fifty journals; Poetry, New York Quarterly. Forthcoming work in Poetry Flash and Otoliths. Known from New Zealand to Canada, she has given many public readings. Canada is her second home. The late Hugh Fox said Strongin is the “most exciting poet writing today.’ Danielle Ofri wrote to her, “you tear the veil off that mysterious disease polio.” Strongin’s work has been translated into French and Italian.


OSIP born in Warsaw

…to a leather merchant
& his music teacher wife
Always had a tender preoccupation with the past.

It was not tender at all
Of course:
Akhmatova, husband Gumilev knew.

Nailed into his skull the persecution of a Polish Jew
While his artist’s hands trembled
Music manuscript in hand
Vellum light bulb on
Lilac scent in room, the trodding, the heaviest naily boots coming in snow
the color of limestone hammered opened.


Poetry is a plow

Poetry is a plow, which turns over the earth so that the deep layers of time,
the black earth, come to the surface – Osip Mandelstahm

Underneath song
Bleak time rolling, inexorable, burying most of us

In this revolution.
He writes of “The thread of golden honey” drawing us out of here.
What terrifies is that it is 1917 & Osip can withdraw into a dreamworld. Dark
sheep, diamond sparkles.

He saw a time sinking “to the seabed”
The miserable results of the Russian revolution.
Yet he plucked one violet to place in Anna’s dark hair.
Word. Flesh. Bread. He’d have no truck with militiamen
But never lost faith in the plow, never lost faith in the song incubated in the


Two degrees apart, eleven days from winter

We cannot shed the fear
neither with wool nor fox fur.

Heart-shaped face,
Come near
Straddling turned-around cathedral-backed chair.

Rising I see the norths star
Mercury the color of the dented teakettle near

Silver to blue.
Hard to believe, we are only two degrees apart
Yet closer than ever to love’s peak, eleven fays from winter. Deep breath.
We will get there.



Believe it can still shine thru.
In my kicky tortoise shell glasses from the drugstore, and military watch from

Here is the heart of the world
“My mother kept us safe like am umbrella does from heat & rain”
In Somali, Zebriah says.

Bed wetting at nine still?
Pure innocence. Protect me from wind, from rain: leave grief.
Collective effervescence returns, yes!
All suppers are the last supper:
That is Christ at our elbow, plucking our sleeve, requesting that we stay
when we’ve work to do, with blessing at last leave.


Wearing dark glasses being blind

All your life
Life against the sky is still good.

The ocean air makes me feel thin.
What is beyond us is unbearable.
What you cannot see you cannot cull.

The train going by on the tracks
The scrub ignited by a thrown spark
The wildlife just born in the brush killed instantly by a shot spark.
We find
Less detail, perhaps less thralldom, being wide-eyed, carless, unblind.


Quite a beast

Quite a sweetheart
Used to be a brilliant fighter

My cigarette, my little dolly
I will jam you in this glass ashtray
You will be dressed in white

Whirl about ash
Boy with a sash
Help me die.
Nail to my box,
Behind closed eyes, I see you in whorls, your deadly locks, burnt flax.


When the airborne landing in Holland

Fail to dislodge the Germans
How do we survive

Eleven days till
When that eclipsing joy comes

It tightens breathing
Ribs ache
It is the aftermath
Tobacco flowers shimmer, shiver in the Oklahoma scrawl
It is a lessened blessing, but blessing overwhelming, nonetheless.

© Lynn Strongin