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Judi Goldberg received treatment for a brain tumor ten years ago.  She, too, used poetry to help her through and also to look back to process what occurred.   I benefit from reading her poetry as well as writing and reading my own.  We learn together, whether we are the one in or the one through with treatment, or the one in support.  Writing is a tool to understand.  Here is one of Judi’s poems.


looking back I guess to look forward
to remind and remember the capturing of a mind
and the tendering of a heart

to the having of endless moments
otherwise taken up with sickness
that is still life not a still life
thing is thing was being sick
was only the half of it

I am not the same
I was never the same
or I was always the same
am the same like the river
or the axe with a new handle
and then a new head

I gulp or sigh
I breath deeply and exhale from the deep
I make noise

I knew I didn’t want to die
more importantly I wanted to live
I did live am living
am not at all the same
or am even more of the same
and the mind which I minded
the life that I mind which I mind
which takes minding
it was about redecorating the interiors

it was life, my life
it took a toll I charged a toll
I am rich now

and now I am still that person
and of course not that person at all
my vision has changed, no really

– Judi Goldberg

Anne Carson in her book, If Not, Winter, presents fragments of the poetry of Sappho, who lived on the island of Lesbos about 630 B.C.  Fragments of her writing have been found preserved on papyrus.  As I read these words, I think of how we attempt to write in a connected form.  What is conveyed when our words are separated from each other? Is that how it is when we move in and out of friendship, adjustment that may lead to something new?

I am enamored with the following.  The brackets show there is something lost before and after and yet what we are left with is perfect.  My head clears with the image of  “barefoot thought,” my interpretation of what is left preserved.




] thought

] barefoot





Good Morning.  My son pointed out that those of you new to Breast Strokes may be confused by this blog. Where do you enter?  Do you know enough about Jane and me?

Here is some background.  I began posting about my cancer treatment on October 27, 2005.  You can read those words as they were posted on my blog, an online journal,  through the archives here:

Look for the archive on the left and go to October, 2005, or you can see what I am posting these days on the Live Journal blog.

Jane and I learned that speaking to each other, then writing, and then, reading out loud to each other what we wrote were keys to healing and health.

In this moment, I am here on WordPress considering what to share.  I am still getting a sense of who you might be, wanting our time here to be a give and take.  When I began my blog in 2005, it was easy.  My family and friends wanted to hear how I was doing. Now, I am well and I am curious about you and what I may have to offer.  I want to pull one of your many needs out of a hat and respond.  In the moment, I am with a new word for me, “prosimetrum”.

I saw the word yesterday in my friend Tamam Kahn’s new book, Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad.  Fred Chappell introduces the word “prosimetrum,” to describe what Tamam does in her book.  It is a literary form which “alternates sections of prose with poems”.

That is what we do in Breast Strokes. I was unaware it was a form. It felt right to us to use poetry and prose to capture and explain our journey.  It is why I suggest a mix of writing poetry and prose to you, to anchor your journal, and stimulate and verbally and mentally explore.  I find it useful to paint and write the words that come.  I am often surprised as the words change the longer I paint.  A painted piece may have many titles or may write its own poem.

Chappell says of “Untold,” that: “When the journey provides understanding, the abrupt bursts of poetry offer exhilaration.  Each is indispensable to the other.”

I wonder if in our daily lives, in our habitual thought patterns we forget to do exactly this, to burst into the song of poetry, to document our lives, yes, and also, sing them.

I recommend Tamam’s book because of the deep way she explores her own life through the lives of these other womenAlicia Ostriker, writes that Tamam’s book is a “bridge between worlds.”

Yes, and there are many worlds to bridge, many of them within.  Begin!  Write for yourself and write to share.   Find the balance you are.  Fly your own kite.  The words are yours to bare and bear.

Tamam quotes from the poem of Naomi Shihab Nye, Kindness:

…. Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing

You must wake with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth ….

About this blog:

Cathy and Jane started writing together during Cathy's illness, and that writing became a blog, which then became a book!

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