Category: Interlitq

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series: Kim Shuck, SF Poet Laureate Emerita, interviewed by David Garyan

Kim Shuck (photo credit: Douglas A. Salin, 2019)

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series:

Kim Shuck, SF Poet Laureate Emerita

interviewed by David Garyan


Click here to read Kim Shuck’s contribution to Interlitq’s California Poets Feature


DG: As a poet with Indigenous (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) and European roots, your work deals frequently with themes of nature, the growing isolation between humanity and the natural world, but also the intersection between the West and Native experience, specifically in your book Deer Trails, but also elsewhere. Along with a discussion of the book, can you touch a little bit upon the tensions, contradictions, and perhaps even harmonies of living in a city like San Francisco, so modern and innovative, yet, at the same time, inseparable from its past Indigenous history?  

KS: As long as people think of themselves as not being in the natural world, the divisions between some people and Nature will persist. The settler/colonizer mindset can’t be aligned with Indigenous perspectives, but if people think of each other as in a community, it could do some good for everyone. I think that the way that people are cut off from one another and one another’s perspectives is a deeper wound than just Indigenous/Non-Indigenous communication. I’m Goral Polish and CNO, that’s a pretty modern identity. My children are also Hawaiian and Mongolian, that combination seems very modern to me. My Cherokee dad was a telecom engineer. Tradition isn’t a foil for innovation.  I think that the answers already exist, but that the historical and contemporary tensions need to be understood, taught and discussed.

Deer Trails was my love letter to San Francisco. My San Francisco—the city I was born in, the city my mom was born in, which may or may not always resemble the city as other people see her. My most recent collection Exile Heart is a bit more focused on Indigenous issues, but the poems from both  volumes are of similar vintage.

DG: You were elected by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to serve as the city’s seventh poet laureate. Can you describe some of the projects, initiatives, and campaigns you organized during this time that helped bring not only poetry but also Indigenous issues to the foreground?

KS: I was nominated for the laureateship by my poetic peers and vetted by a group of former laureates, poetry activists, publishers, and librarians. Ed Lee picked me from a short list of three. My suspicion is that he thought I was mostly harmless. In my role as SF Poet Laureate, I organized roughly five readings a month. I was part of a team, along with Thea Matthews and Denise Sullivan, who put together four poetry chapthologies that drew from readings in the Mission District of San Francisco.  I gathered poems from SF poets that will eventually become a poetic map of the city, a project that has proven more psychological than I’d anticipated.  With much help, I curated a poem a day for a year. The poems are archived on the San Francisco Public Library site. I got up to a lot of good trouble as SF Poet Laureate. I was contacted recently by a South Asian poetry and art publication who told me that I’d put over 1000 women on microphones over the last five years. That may be true—I haven’t counted that, but there have certainly been over 1000 poets. I supported poetry activities that needed support. I’ve worked with food equity people, housing equity people, health equity people, along with poets and activists who align with the politics I agree with. It may be that my most important activism in terms of the Indigenous part of my heritage has been just working with people of all backgrounds while also being Cherokee, so that the stereotypes could evaporate without too much comment. My personal politics show up in my poetry, but as laureate my responsibility was to support poetry and poets. Certainly now I know more Indigenous poets than many people do. I’ve tried to center more Indigenous Californian voices than I’ve seen done before. I try to mention and support things of local Indigenous concern like the potential destruction of the West Berkeley Shellmound and the story of Felix Cove in West Marin. Strong and important stories feed good poetry. Truth feeds good poetry.

DG: Along with the written word, you’re also a visual artists, working in the traditional Indigenous crafts of weaving and beadwork. How do these arts influence your poetry, and, conversely, how does your poetry influence your artistic activities?

KS: Some stories are told in words and some stories are told in beads or fibers. I’m not sure that there’s much difference between one and the other. I hold an MFA in fine arts /textiles from San Francisco State University. I also tat, loom weave, fold origami and do string figures. The story finds the medium.

DG: When did you decide that poetry would be more than just a hobby, but a way of life? Do you believe you learned the craft from libraries and books or from life experiences—to some extent it’s always both, but which one do you gravitate more towards?

KS: My poetry mom/hero was Carol Lee Sanchez. She organized poetry readings at the Coffee Gallery in North Beach, co-founded the Bay Area Poetry Coalition, helped to midwife California Poets in the Schools and exposed me to live readings from the time that her son and I became friends in second grade. I’m not sure that I ever knew poetry could be a hobby and not a life.

DG: One of your works I always enjoy reading is 21st-Century Meditation, where you write the following: “Memory spirits give me days full of / Words I’ve forgotten or / Never been taught the / Language in my cells that won’t come out.” Indeed, the spoken word is a major cornerstone of culture and it’s unfortunate that Indigenous languages are dying out at an alarming rate. Efforts to digitize them, such as recording oral traditions and conversations have reversed this phenomenon to some extent, but it isn’t enough. Can you think of other ways to address these issues and is there, perhaps, something that poetry can do to preserve the languages and traditions of Indigenous peoples?

KS: I’m glad that you like that poem. My niece, Dr. Jenny Davis, would probably answer this question with more grace, as she is, among other things, a linguistics professor. I can give it a whack though. All over the world we are losing diversity of all kinds: bio diversity, linguistic diversity, cultural diversity. Think of the result of monoculture planting in fields—one successful infection, insect, rogue beast of any description, can take the whole thing out. If language nourishes thought, like a food crop nourishes body, it’s probably better to have more than one available. I’m old enough to remember when schools discouraged bilingual parents speaking a second language at home. We now understand that being bilingual or even multilingual is good for cognition. Probably not punishing or beating Indigenous children for speaking their languages has been a good thing for language retention. The best way to foster language retention is to use the language. If you go to Talequah, OK, you will see the CNO does precisely that—signs in Cherokee, opportunities to use the language. It’s not about preservation, but about use, and it’s important to have the kinds of unique thought tools that each language provides. It’s important for everyone that we retain those tools. I don’t know what poetry has to add to that, unless it’s more poems in more languages. More poems … always a good idea.

One of your most powerful works is Murdered Missing, a collection of fifty poems dealing with “murdered Indigenous women in the western hemisphere,” as you write in the introduction. Poetry, as you’ve stated, can make us aware of the issue, but what else can be done to perhaps reverse this alarming trend?

Smart murderers kill people they think will not be missed. Smart kidnappers take people who have been marginalized. The people who take and kill Indigenous women understand that we are not considered of particular value. If these crimes were investigated the way that other murders and kidnappings are investigated, we might see a change.


About Kim Shuck

Kim Shuck is a poet, educator and visual artist from San Francisco, CA. She holds dual citizenship from the United States and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Shuck is author of seven books of poetry the latest being Deer Trails from City Lights Publishing and the chapbook Whose Water? from Mammoth Publishing. She is San Francisco’s Poet Laureate Emerita.

Interviews and Obstacles, a text from Listenings, by Jason Weiss, published by Interlitq

Interviews and Obstacles

by Jason Weiss

For three and a half decades I have sometimes made a practice of interviewing people, mostly in the arts.  You might say I became a professional listener.  For newspapers and magazines, later for books, it was a mode of writing in which I felt comfortable, working with the voices of others.  Never made much money at it, but that wasn’t the point; nor did it end up turning into a full-time occupation, except at certain moments.  What qualified me for that line of work?  Nothing particular, just interest.  And because I said I could.  Besides, when I got to Paris and realized there were a few people I would like to have occasion to meet, I wondered why in the world should they care to meet another young writer.  So, I decided that writing about them might be a fair trade—assuming they wanted to bother.  Generally, that worked just fine and somehow I always came prepared.  But it was a special kind of listening:  the questions I sketched out were like a ghost script, and I had to be ready to let go of them at any turn.

Often my questions were too wordy on the page.  They just had to serve as points of departure, since from there I would follow up according to what my respondent said.  That might then trigger a question I had a page or two further in my notes.  So, whatever I thought I wanted to cover in our conversation might indeed get addressed, but in a different order than what I imagined and coming from a direction I didn’t anticipate.  I had to listen to where the conversation was going to help it find its most natural order.  If I could manage such dexterity of mind.  A sort of listening ahead and behind of the listening.

Be that as it may, I also had to read the person or personality for a sense of obstacles, willingly posed or not.  My very first interview, with Ferlinghetti in Paris in June 1980—to me at 24, he just seemed old and tired.  Not because he was 61, about my age now, but because he knew I wanted to talk to him about poetry and jazz experiments from the late ’50s in San Francisco—this was for Jazz Magazine—and he kept dodging me.  “How do you expect me to remember all that?  It was 25 years ago!”  A bit less, actually.  I understood that was old stuff for him and maybe he didn’t remember so well, or wasn’t interested and wanted to talk about something new.  He had insisted from the start that the only honest transcription of an interview was with all the pauses and hesitations intact, and I agreed without hesitation.  Only gradually over the following years did I understand that in fact I don’t agree, because I saw how difficult such texts were to read.  That principle turned out to be an illusion, in my view.  When we hear or listen to an interview, we are not hearing the pauses or hesitations, for the most part.  Rather, we are listening through those moments, that biding of time, we are ignoring those expressive snags in an effort to maintain the coherence of the statement.  As listeners, in effect, our understanding edits out those pauses and self-corrections, except to the degree perhaps that they contribute to an overall impression of a style or rhythm.

But this notion of listening through a kind of obstacle or static applies in other settings.  A year later, I interviewed the great Roger Blin, the original director of Beckett and Genet in French, amid the mess of his apartment.  In what I took to be genuine humility, he asked me first why I wanted to interview him.  Beyond that, though, I was faced with a much tougher display of resistance, or self-resistance:  he had a terrible stutter.  He was perfectly willing to talk about it, how that led him to acting and the kinds of roles he got.  I had never met anyone who had it so bad, but I quickly learned to let him set the pace; just let him speak however he does and not jump in to move things along.  And I suppose by the end of my visit I didn’t much notice it.

Another early instance of this lesson in listening:  a dozen days before I saw Blin (17 April 1981), I went out to Montfort l’Amaury (changing trains at Chartres) to meet Céleste Albaret.  Known to the world as Proust’s “dear Céleste,” she was 90 by then and some years prior had had a stroke.  I’m not sure at what point during my visit I learned of the stroke; it may have been only at the end, after Céleste carefully signed my book as I requested, that her daughter told me when I was leaving.  But certainly I did not know how to talk to a 90-year-old, let alone how to listen to her.  That seemed ancient to me, and I could see she was slowed down.  I knew she was going to have to be very patient with me, as I with her.  Besides, I had really learned French just in the past year, so my ear would also be tested.  With her frail voice Céleste spoke eagerly and answered my questions, happily recalling sixty or seventy years into the past like it was no problem.  It helped that her daughter was there, to fill in the story and add perspective.  And it also gave Céleste a chance to listen as well.



About Jason Weiss

Jason Weiss is an American writer: born and raised at the Jersey shore, schooled in Berkeley, spent a decade in Paris, and living in Brooklyn for the past 30 years, working as a writer, editor, and translator. His first book was Writing at Risk: Interviews in Paris with Uncommon Writers (Iowa, 1991; including Jabès, Cioran, Sarraute, Kundera, Ionesco, Cortázar, etc), followed by four other books on literature and music, published mostly by university presses; that first book was published in a Farsi translation in 2018 in Tehran. More recently, he published Cloud Therapy (Talisman House, 2015), a small literary nonfiction book of short texts on swimming, and Silvina Ocampo (New York Review Books, 2015), his translation of selected poems by the Argentine writer. Ten other texts from Listenings have been published bilingually in the French online journal Le Ventre et l’Oreille.

Letters for a New World, an essay by Patricia MacInnes-Johnson

Patricia MacInnes-Johnson


Letters for a New World

“Mither, mither, I want to pish in the strone,” he said in Scots slang, looking into the Atlantic as the steamer sailed from Scotland to Philadelphia in 1872.  My grandfather, about age two or three, was telling his mother he wanted to piss in the stream.

“So you can judge how much of an impression the great Atlantic made upon the small Scotch lad.”  I read this from letters my grandfather wrote to his son, my uncle, always referring to himself in the third person — he or lad.  In life, he also went by Mac. The letters covered 1934 to ’37, the last three years of Mac’s life, about two decades before I was born.

Four generations, rather than two, might have separated us, but my father was born later in Mac’s life and was 41 when I was born. The reach of fathers now spans more than 150 years through the telescoped generations.

Mac’s family were weavers in Paisley, one of the poorest towns in Scotland. Using handlooms, they wove shawls in the paisley teardrop pattern using wool dyed in colors such as seaflower bled, pearl ash, Congo orange.  The weavers had their own poets and were considered the most well-read among Scottish workers. Laboring tedious hours, they listened to books read aloud and kept canaries to entertain them.  The town was known for its paradoxes, puritanical extremes and yet its political radicalism and drunken squalor. Or maybe the religious fanaticism roused those fierce contradictions.

When the shawls were no longer fashionable, Paisley weavers struggled for work until Philadelphia factories recruited the craftsmen to make carpets and rugs in the States.  My great grandfather left to work as a weaver in a Philadelphia mill and brought his family over later — a wife, Mac, a frail girl of five, and a baby boy.

The whole ship vibrated from a loud propeller in the crossing to “the New World,” as my grandfather called the U.S. The dank-smelling steerage was an open area with tables and bunks secured to hold steady through the roiling North Atlantic.  Many passengers were too sick to move for most of the voyage but left steerage for the deck when they could. Mac might have played there with a weaver’s broken loom shuttle, twirling it like a top.

In Philadelphia, the sound of horse-driven streetcars and wagons rattling over cobblestone streets could be heard for blocks.  Men with buckets of water sponged off horses collapsing from heat in summer.

Mac’s Scottish burr was so strong he wasn’t understood.  “Mam, mam, a laddie threw cly in your bine,” he tried to tell a neighbor about a boy muddying her washtub.

When Mac was older, he helped at a horse stable and had a finger crushed in the cogs of a hay cutter. He turned a streetcar track switch for a conductor who paid him a few cents, money he spent on chewing tobacco. At the shipyards, he tried to join a ship’s crew to leave home but was too young.

In his letters, Mac began to reveal more about his father and the harsh childhood that would follow him for life.

A stern Presbyterian in religion and a strict disciplinarian, he inspired fear rather than affection in his children . . . If I were chastised for something I did not do or was not guilty of, no amount of whipping could make me even whimper. It only intensified my hatred of my father. I believe I never feared him. I never loved him. I never feared him. I believed I really hated him . . .  I can now see that he was but following out what had been “bred in the bone,” that the wife and children were not equals but only subjects to himself.

My grandfather’s earliest memory was about inadvertently bringing a hatchet down on his brother’s fingers as Mac dug a hole in their yard, impatient for his brother to move quicker. Mac crawls under a bed to hide from his father, who grabs his leg and lays on a razor strap.

The picture of the hole, the dangling fingers with blood running from them, the bed, and the frightened boy, and the hand that seized the leg and the strap that came down with a stinging sensation are all vivid after more than fifty years, a half a century. For memory not only recalls an experience but says, “I passed through that experience.” Such a record is part of one’s very life and helped to make . . . individuality or personality. 

One of Mac’s favorite memories was going to a circus with an undercurrent of fear that he’d be punished for it.

Now the city had been decorated with billboard pictures of the Great Railroad Circus . . .   — fierce lions in cages. Monkeys. Leopards . . .  And above all, the clowns . . .  But the idea of ever seeing a circus was beyond me. First your grandfather was a Presbyterian of the old school. Theatres, circuses, cards, dancing were all roads to perdition and strictly forbidden. Besides, I had no money.

A friend told Mac not to worry about getting a licking and paid their way into the circus with coins he’d stolen.

We visited all the side shows. . . . Drank pink lemonade, ate quarts of peanuts. Saw the bearded lady and tattooed man . . .  Elephants. Camels. Beautiful women riding wonderful horses . . . We sat with mouths open . . .  It was 3:30 in the afternoon when we started for home. Then the realization of what was coming dawned upon me.

His schoolteacher had sent a boy to his house to inquire where he was, and Mac’s mother was worried he’d drowned in the river.

I told her of the wonderful day I had at the circus and all about it, with ardent promises of reform. The wood was split, the coal brought up from the cellar . . .  Promises were made of the most righteous kind if only she would not tell. Finally your grandfather came from work. I waited in breathless suspense. The story was not told. Your grandmother had an understanding heart, and she would not spoil a perfect day. So no licking came.

Mac would ditch school, “bag it,” whenever he could and head for the Schuylkill River for a swim or to slide and skate on the ice in winter.

We had a good time and everything was forgotten till it came time to go home, then life was not so rosyI knew what was in store for me . . .  A hand was run through my hair and if the roots were wet, I got what was coming to me . . .  But I tried to comfort myself with the thought, Well, I have had plenty of fun. Why dread the strap? . . .  For what is five minutes of licking to five hours of fun?

At last your grandfather saw that force from without could not change the force from within. . . . So he said to your grandmother, ‘Since he will not go to school he must go to work.’ The three R’s were supposed to be enough education for the average boy. He was then ready for work in the mills. . . . He said he could keep his eye upon me but I fooled him in many ways. I was always quick to pick up a thing and fast in doing it. So I would wind up a lot of bobbins and sneak out for the day, often getting a whaling when I got home. By 16, Mac was skilled at weaving staircase carpets.

They were narrow so I could easily reach from one side of the loom to the other, and I became proficient. . . . In fact, I could bring home a bigger paycheck than my dad. I got cockey [sic]. A very unwise attitude . . .  If we should disagree, there was only one solution and that was the strap or blows . . .  Here were two antagonistic spirits, one that dictates what you must do and one that seeks to express itself in its own way . . .  It is the right of the individual to direct his own life and not have it directed by an outside force.

I came home one evening when your grandfather had been imbibing too liberally in scotch. In that condition, he was usually belligerent. He first picked on me, and when your grandmother intervened, he struck her. Well, that was too much for me. With a high hander, I laid him out. Fearing the consequences, I left the house. Near where we lived was the Lancaster Pike, a road that led from Philadelphia.   

At a railroad construction site, Mac hid in a dirt-filled cart that was hauled away by horses.  Maybe he was cold as he bargained with the severe God of his upbringing, worrying  about his mother and brother left behind. He thought of his sister, who had died a few years earlier from illness, now watching the family with exasperation or maybe repose.         

Mac ended up by a wheat farm in another county. He was hired on to work in the fields, paid in room and board. Later he took a job as a driver working on the railroad.

I was able to get a few dollars ahead and at the end of the season I was determined to get back to Philadelphia and look up my people. But I found that they had moved from Philadelphia to Canada.

After my grandfather’s death, my grandmother found a remaining letter to my uncle that Mac may not have sent.

Well, I went to work at my old trade of weaving. And at that time I began to have a desire for a better education. I worked during the day and went to night school. As you recall, up to my 8th year I hated school and every chance I had would play truant. I did not even pass the primary department.

Of course when I went to night school I had much to learn  . . .  But I was quick to learn and in earnest to get ahead. I worked that way for two years, saved my money, and decided to go to Canada where the folks were.

I had not seen my people for four years. I recall the greeting I received. My mother gathered me into her arms, held me tight, and tears rolled down her face. Dad and I just shook hands.

Mac worked again in a rug factory with his father but left after his mother passed suddenly, and his brother died from an accident a little later.

Finally I decided to give up the work and go to school. That was the beginning of my real education.

Years later I’d learn about the schools my grandfather attended and moves he made around the country.  Bucknell Academy and then a BA in Literature in 1894 from Amherst, at the time a school for “indigent young men of piety and talents for the Christian ministry.”

Mac worked as a coach and an English literature instructor at Stetson University in Florida.  He then attended the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and took classes toward another degree in English. Later he became an assistant pastor in California and a pastor in Chicago.

In 1900, he enrolled in Yale Divinity School and Yale Graduate School, receiving a master’s in philosophy in 1901.  My grandfather tutored wealthy students to help pay his way through Yale.  A photo shows him and another student in suits and ties, peering into weighty tomes in a Victorian study.  Mac is handsome with sandy hair, a moustache, and glasses.

At Yale he tattooed a cross on his arm.  Maybe it was religious passion or possibly self-punishment.  He might have been at a desk, jabbing a sewing needle and fountain pen ink under his skin for the painful creation.

My grandfather became a pastor in Connecticut and then moved west to Washington state in 1903.  From the moves, it would seem he was restless, conflicted, maybe pressured by inner dictates to pursue ministry, but his interest was in literature and philosophy.

Mac had already turned away from the Presbyterian Church and ministering, maybe struggling with a God who melded into his harsh father.  Perhaps he could no longer advise others how to live, or maybe ministry was what his father wanted for him and he rebelled, the conflict on his arms, one with and one without the cross.

In 1910, Mac came to White Salmon, Washington, to campaign for Teddy Roosevelt. Arriving after dark, too late for the ferry, he took a rowboat across the Columbia River, according to the local newspaper, and reached the town hall in time to boost for Roosevelt.

Mac stayed on, sold real estate, and helped develop an orchard company, using a root graft method.  He became the town’s mayor and part of the effort to build a highway to the Portland area through the Columbia River Gorge.

Mac first saw Viola in White Salmon where she was on vacation.  The sky is grey and about to rain. Mac makes an inquiry at her hotel. A school teacher in her early 30s, intelligent, friendly. Her long brown hair is swept up in a twist on her head. Viola, my grandmother, rode in the Oklahoma Cherokee Strip Land Run when she was a teenager. If she hadn’t been cheated out of her land claim by relatives, maybe she wouldn’t have ended up here at this time and place.

She notices he’s missing a button on his jacket, and there are worn spots in the weave that require mending. He’s a man who needs a woman but may not know it yet.

They married and moved into a two-story house with a view of the Columbia River. But in 1916, the house burned down. My grandmother watched the smoke from across the river at a hospital where my uncle was born.

My grandparents didn’t have fire insurance, and most of what was saved from the fire was stolen later. I have a teacup that survived the fire, the glaze bubbled over the Asian holy figures on it, their halos flamed from the intensity of the heat.

I believe the fire did something to my grandfather. Disappointment, despair at trying to get ahead and being thrown back into lack.  Maybe he believed the fire meant a force taking away good, a damnation for leaving the ministry and his religion.

They moved to Portland where he tried this and that to make a fortune, believing in the promise of America. Mac proudly displayed the flag on holidays, even though it was outdated with only 46 stars and embarrassed his sons.

There were inventions that didn’t pay off, a Mason jar opener and a cleaning solution for chimneys. He tried selling ultra-violet light machines that were supposed to improve health. When cigarettes and soda were selling in vending machines,  Mac decided to try apples. He  hocked my grandmother’s wedding ring, according to a story, and traveled to California to start a business, but the plan didn’t work out.

My grandfather had realized part of the American Dream, fleeing from the mills to a higher education, but the Depression, hard luck, ill health, and maybe self-sabotage thwarted his plans. He spent his time reading and took jobs cleaning furnaces.

I think of Mac’s health problems — a chronic ulcer and nephritis — as the manifestation of anger and punishment he could never stop.  His father still at him from the inside, maybe yelling that whatever he does isn’t enough, not even getting an education.  What good was it now anyway?

Maybe it was logical that Mac insisted my father go to a vocational high school instead of one that focused on academics. Mac followed what his own father had done, trying to push his son into a trade, not encouraging him “to direct his own life,” as Mac had wanted for himself. Even in his last years, my father was still bitter toward his father for trying to control him just as Mac had felt.

But Mac had shifted in some other ways — in his religious and philosophical views. In the end he believed in Christian Science and the power of a positive mind.

“Christian Science was just because he was too cheap to pay for medical care,” my father once said. But maybe Mac’s new faith signaled something else, another way of seeing divinity as loving and good, not separate from the world and shaming it.

At the end of his life, Mac was weak from a heart condition, pneumonia, and the effects of chronic alcoholism. He was in pain, bedridden in a hospital, maybe looking out a window at the rain, an apple tree with petals blown loose and sticking on the greying glass.  He might have been thinking about what he’d done in his life and still wanted to do.  There had to be more time.  Which God was with him, punishing or healing?  He was a boy again, fearless, without pain, gliding over the bright ice of the Schuylkill River.



In 2005, my husband, Henry, and I made a trip to White Salmon. I saw why my grandparents loved this place with its view of  Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge.  I got up at dawn to find what I could of my grandparents, trying to locate the foundations from their burned home.  I looked in the window of an abandoned, dilapidated house from their era.  They might have visited friends there, laughing, singing parlor songs as I’d seen in a photo, someone playing “Pineapple Rag” on a piano.

Henry and I located the orchards my grandfather had helped establish and manage. On the ground was a seedless pear, a sign of the grafting method the company had started a hundred years earlier.  At home I planted the whole pear anyway, as if it would magically sprout.

I bought flowers in White Salmon and took them back to the Portland columbarium where my grandparents’ urns were interred in the walls of a locked room on the bottom floor.

As the dead took up residence, the building was expanded.  No one goes to the Daisy Room anymore; most people who would remember the dead there are also dead.

A few days earlier, I had located my grandmother’s urn but not my grandfather’s.  The place was about to close. A workman tried to help by unscrewing the glass panel that covered what looked like an outdated card catalog drawer in a library. He pulled out the long metal box that held my grandmother’s cremains and looked in the niche for my grandfather’s urn, dropping the screw and then searching for it on the floor.  I was startled at first and then wondered if the dead would be amused at human small blunders no longer relevant in their solemn archives.

When we returned from White Salmon to the mausoleum a few days later, I found my grandfather’s urn in a wall adjoining  my grandmother’s. Among the papers my grandmother had left when she died was an aged card with a number, possibly a room number. Maybe it was from the hotel where they first met or their honeymoon.  I couldn’t find it for a while. They hadn’t wanted to give it up, keeping the number to themselves. What had the card been to them, a reminder of romance, intimacy? Passion so alien now to the ashes contained in separate walls.



Mac wrote that the history of one’s people is “handed down from parents and children,” that “all history begins with traditions.”

Traditions, the transmitted beliefs and customs, the precedents that become future influences — like genetics and generational behaviors. From Mac’s letters, I saw the distillation of both passed down. Possessed by his father and fathers before him, Mac followed in their traditions, alcoholism and the harsh physical punishment of children so common in the past.

As my grandfather had, my father resented his father for the whippings, the expectations he didn’t fulfill, for missed opportunities, for never feeling he was good enough. My father vowed never to physically punish his children but was lost in alcoholism and dark emotional ills.

Too many of those traditions carried over in my family, the chain of human errors, as well as a railing against the reach of fathers.  My brother Bill became a behavioral geneticist involved in researching the physiology of alcoholism, an unforgiving genetic disorder stringing DNA through generations. He committed suicide a day before my father’s sixtieth birthday.

In my immediate family, there are no traditions to pass on. There are no descendants.  But when there is a next generation, it’s like traveling to a New World with the highest of hopes.

The voyage was supposed to make Mac’s sister stronger, but she’d die in 11 years. In Philadelphia, the father is waiting.  Mac will be a boy mesmerized by a circus or hiding under the bed from his father, not realizing that his father was once a boy hiding from his own father’s grasp. Mac won’t know that years later he will be the father, doing what he swears he’ll never do.  If he could, he might see the pattern, his father and his sad son as one. Mac might hold them both and tell his boy that he was only doing what he knew, but he knew something else now.

Crossing the strone will bring the new and unexpected. Spectacular as the phosphorescent waves that splashed up on the ship deck at night, illuminating the immigrants’ worn shoes as they laughed and held on in the pitching ship.  Someone yelled to step into the waves, that the sea foam was lace and pearls at their feet, a sign from the New World of all the good ahead.


About Patricia MacInnes-Johnson

Patricia MacInnes-Johnson is the author of The Last Night on Bikini (William Morrow and Company, Inc.; published under Patricia MacInnes), a collection of short stories about the nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands during the 1940s and ‘50s. She has been a Wallace Stegner Fellow and a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellow. In addition to receiving grants from the California Arts Council and the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, MacInnes-Johnson has been the recipient of the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction. Her stories have appeared in Chicago magazine and the anthology The New Generation, among other publications.




El dialogo interreligioso, Parte I, un articulo por Arzobispo Eric Escala, Editor de Asuntos Cristianos de Interlitq

El dialogo interreligioso, 1 Parte

Arzobispo Eric Escala – Comunión Anglicana Continuante

Arzobispo Eric Escala


¿Qué es el diálogo interreligioso?

Consiste en conocer y respetar las diversas formas de comunicarse con Dios.

Para poder opinar sobre algo primero debo conocerlo; de otra manera solamente estoy especulando.

Muchas veces hablamos de un tema pensando que somos doctos en la materia, pero en la mayoría de las veces fuimos mal informados, el dialogo pretende subsanar esto y ampliar nuestro conocimiento acerca de la realidad acerca de la familia espiritual del otro.

¿Qué es una familia espiritual?

Son las personas con quienes me relaciono a nivel religioso, ellos comparten el mismo sentir y buscan acercarse a Dios de igual forma que yo.

Podríamos hablar mucho sobre las familias espirituales pero es allí donde entra el conocimiento, no todas las familias espirituales son homogéneas, la gran mayoría se han dividido a través del tiempo por motivos, políticos, históricos y demás, ejemplo:

Los cristianos se dividen en Evangélicos, protestantes, ortodoxos, católicos, por mencionar algunos pero estos a la vez están subdivididos.

Los evangélicos están divididos en pentecostales, neo pentecostales, asambleas de Dios, evangelio cuadrangular, adventistas del séptimo día, y podríamos seguir, estos son solo unos ejemplos.

Los protestantes se dividen en metodistas, calvinistas, luteranos, anglicanos y todos estos grupos también tienen sus divisiones.

Podríamos seguir hablando de las divisiones y subdivisiones dentro de las religiones pero el tema es el dialogo.

Como puedo entender el dialogo, a través del respeto y sabiendo que Dios se manifiesta a través de su multiforme gracia, el conoce al hombre mejor de lo que podríamos escrutar, también se manifiesta a cada quien como mejor lo cree.

Decir que la fe del otro no sirve, no es correcto, es una falta de respeto y error que la mayoría comete.

Solo cuando llegamos a una madurez intelectual entendemos esto.

¿Cómo se inicia el dialogo?

Conociendo al otro

¿Cómo le puedo conocer?

Aprendiendo como surge, donde, cuál fue su contexto histórico y político.

Otra de las cosas que debemos entender es su culto, cuáles son sus bases, en que creen y como manifiestan su fe.

No todas las creencias se enfocan de la misma manera, ni tienen el mismo tipo de culto.

También debemos conocer el porqué de su vestimenta, esta es una extensión del culto, no solo utilizamos ropas formales dentro del servicio sino en el diario vivir, entonces debemos saber de qué se trata, que significa  y cuál es su nombre.

Todas las religiones tienen libro de base, pero a veces ese mismo libro es distinto, le pueden sacar partes por no estar de acuerdo con lo que dicen, ejemplo la biblia católica y la reformada.

¿Cuál es la diferencia entre diálogo interreligioso y ecumenismo?

El ecumenismo busca la unión, es decir que las iglesias se vayan uniendo hasta formar un solo núcleo.

En cambio el diálogo interreligioso busca justamente el flujo de ideas y acercamiento al otro respetando la identidad que tenemos.

Así por ejemplo existe el dialogo entre los cristianos sabiendo que estos pertenecen a una tradición distinta sin sugerir una fusión.

Dentro del ecumenismo una de las prácticas más comunes es el culto, pero hay que tener en cuenta que no todos nos acercamos a Dios de la misma forma y dentro del mismo servicio aunque se parezca no siempre es igual.

Ejemplo la santa cena dentro de nuestras comunidades o misa para la iglesia católica  tiene como fin acercarnos a Dios, en el momento de la comunión; para nosotros todos están invitados a comulgar, no importa su estado civil o si estuvo el domingo anterior, en cambio dentro de la liturgia romana está el tema del estado civil y la asistencia regular, allí ya existe un impedimento.

¿Qué otras cosas debemos conocer?

El calendario litúrgico es esencial, nos relacionamos con el entorno y con Dios en el diario vivir, dentro de nuestras iglesias tenemos formas de estar en comunión con nuestro padre esto va desde las oraciones diarias hasta los días festivos.

Debemos saber cuándo y porque, así podremos tener una idea de lo que ocurre dentro de esa comunidad.

Muchas de nuestras festividades tienen origen en la fiesta religiosa de otro grupo, ya que algunos tenemos raíces en una religión distinta a la que practicamos por ejemplo el pesaj judío para los cristianos se transforma en la pascua, el shavuot se transforma en la fiesta de pentecostés, en este tema también podríamos seguir pero es más que nada para darnos una idea de lo importante que es conocer de dónde viene cada religión, a veces las personas forman parte de algo que no conocen.

También debemos saber que en algunos casos los personajes principales de una fe también son representativos en otra, esto nos muestra el grado en que estamos unidos, en la biblia cristiana se muestra la imagen de la virgen María y su papel, dentro de algunos grupos cristianos sobre todo en los ambientes evangélicos es menos preciada la imagen de María, pero para el islam tiene un papel preponderante tanto así que hay un capítulo entero que habla de ella.

Es por todo esto que debemos no solo conocer sino ahondar en este tema para poder comprender la infinitud de Dios y como deja que nos comuniquemos con él, sin malas interpretaciones o ejemplos errados.

Te invito esta semana a conocer más acerca de la religión que prácticas y descubrir toda riqueza espiritual que tiene.

Señor te pedimos humildad para conocerte y sabiduría para comprenderte. Amen


Acerca de Arzobispo Eric Escala, Editor de Asuntos Cristianos (Christian Affairs Editor) de Interlitq:

Su Excelencia Reverendisima Eric Escala

Nacio el 15 de junio de 1973 en la ciudad de La Chorrera; Panama, hijo de Alexis Escala y Francisca Maria Gonzalez, menor de tres hermanos Alex y Carlos.

Casado con Silvina Indelicato, padre de Joselyn y Valentino.

Realizo sus estudios primarios en la escuela Leopoldo Castillo Guevara, los secunadarios en el colegio Pedro Pablo Sanchez y obtuvo su bachillerato en letras en el Instituto Justo Arosemena.

Sus estudios universitarios los realizo en la Universidad Nacional de Panama, obteniendo la licenciatura en Humanidades con especialidad en Filosofia e Historia.

Sus estudios teologicos los realizo en la Fundacion San Alberto en la ciudad de Bogota, Colombia y en el Moore College.

Es Doctor en Filosofia y en Teologia.

Robert Pinsky, U.S. Poet Laureate (1997-2000), interviewed by David Garyan in Interlitq’s The Groves of Academe series

Robert Pinsky

Robert Pinsky, U.S. Poet Laureate (1997-2000), interviewed by David Garyan in Interlitq’s The Groves of Academe series

Click here to read the interview in Interlitq’s Groves of Academe series


Click here to read other interviews in The Groves of Academe series


About Robert Pinsky

Robert Pinsky was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, in 1940. He is the author of nine poetry collections, including Sadness and Happiness (1975), The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 (1996), and At the Foundling Hospital (2016). In addition to editing five anthologies, Pinsky has published several books of prose, translations of Dante and Czesław Miłosz, and the computerized novel Mindwheel (1985). His honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Stanford University, and he has received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the William Carlos Williams Award and the Shelley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America, and the Oscar Blumenthal Prize from Poetry magazine. From 1997-2000, Pinsky served as the U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress; he later served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2004-2010. Pinsky has taught writing at Wellesley College, the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently a professor in the graduate writing program at Boston University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.