Meditations on Mortality
In Bhutanese culture, it’s encouraged that in order to live a happy life, one meditate on one’s own death five times a day. While this may not be our exact practice as poets, if we’re doing our job we will come face-to-face with life’s big mysteries: our own mortality, the inevitability of loss and the elusiveness of permanence. Paradoxically, by familiarizing ourselves with death’s taboo territories, we encounter our own vivid aliveness and find ourselves more present, more open, more whole. Guided by the work of Gerald Stern, Angel Nafis, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Jean Valentine, Aracelis Girmay and Japanese death poetry, among other examples, we’ll accept Bhutan’s invitation. By writing odes, elegies, litanies, epistles, and more, we’ll explore what it is to be a body-mind-spirit that is bound to lose everything, including oneself. And, most fiercely, we’ll do so with playfulness, openness and even joy. Class sessions will meet synchronously via Zoom every Wednesday night, and assignments, poems and critiques will be shared via Wet Ink.
Shira Erlichman is a poet, musician and visual artist. She was born in Israel and immigrated to the US when she was six. Her poems explore recovery—of language, of home, of mind—and value the “scattered wholeness” of healing. She earned her BA at Hampshire College and has been awarded the James Merrill Fellowship by the Vermont Studio Center, the Visions of Wellbeing Focus Fellowship at AIR Serenbe and a residency by the Millay Colony. Her work has been featured in the PBS NewsHour Poetry Series, Huffington Post, Seattle Times and New York Times, among other publications. Her debut poetry book, Odes to Lithium, was published by Alice James Books in September 2019. She is also the author and illustrator of the picture book Be/Hold (Penny Candy Books, 2019). She has taught for Urban Word NYC, the Volume Summer Institute and York College–CUNY, and she has been teaching online poetry classes via her company Freer Form for the last nine years. She lives in Brooklyn.