Author Archives: Naomi Cohn

For the past several weeks I’ve had the pleaseure of watching nine talented people take the ideas of memory and performance and make then their own. What do these folks have in common? They were all willing to take a chance and participate in Memory Matters, the workshop/experiment Zaraawar Mistry of Dreamland Arts and I schemed up to to explore ways of sharing creative work we care about enough to know it by heart, to carry it around in our bodies.

Workshop particpants will be sharing their work on Monday October 21 at Dreamland. It’s free, but register if you want to be sure of having a seat and experiencing the energy and range of their performances.

For more information check out the Dreamland Arts evnt listing.

Thanks to the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library for helping to make this event possible.

Mark your calendar… poets Ed Bok Lee and Sharon Chmielarz are going to give their take on the intersections of poetry amd memory. Through their poetry and dialog, they’ll look at what it means to know something by heart. Hear poems presented from the heart and join in a conversation about poetry and the things we value enough to remember.


Date: Monday, September 16, 2013, 7 pm
Performed by: Ed Bok Lee and Sharon Chmielarz
Host/Curator: Naomi Cohn
Location: Hamline Midway Library, 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave., St. Paul.

Artist bios:

Ed Bok Lee is the author of Whorled, winner of a 2012 American Book Award, and a Minnesota Book Award for Poetry, and Real Karaoke People, winner of a 2006 PEN/Open Book Award.

Sharon Chmielarz’s eighth book of poetry is Love from the Yellowstone Trail. Her work has been a finalist in the National Poetry Series, and in ‘99, ‘01, ‘02, ’05, ’07, ’10 and ‘11 nominated for a Pushcart Prize. It’s been featured on American Life in Poetry (‘07) and individual poems translated into French and Polish. She’s had poems published in magazines like The Notre Dame Review, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, The Hudson Review, The North American Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Commonweal, Salmagundi, Margie, The Seneca Review, Louisiana Literature, Ontario Review, CutBank. She’s the recipient of the 2012 Jane Kenyon Award from Water~Stone Review

Naomi Cohn’s poetry has been recognized by grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, VSA Minnesota, and numerous residencies. Her writing has appeared in Water~Stone, Fourth River, and Star Tribune, among other places. Red Dragonfly Press is publishing her chapbook, Nectar and Eternity, in 2013. She developed Known by Heart as part of a larger project on memory and forgetting.

Kevin Walker's sidewalk poem

Kevin Walker’s sidewalk poem

Here’s a chance for your words to be remembered underfoot. March 15 is the deadline for submitting your short poem to Saint Paul’s Sidewalk Poetry project. Since 2008, Marcus Young and his colleagues at Public Art Saint Paul and the City of Saint Paul have been creating an evolving book of poems under our feet, with our sidewalks as the pages. If you live in Saint Paul, you can be part of it.

Click here for guidelines

Good luck…

Memory as a sport? Give me a break. I didn’t expect to like Joshua Foer’s book about becoming a mental athlete, vying for a championship based on the ability to cram and recall huge amounts of useless information.

But Moonwalking with Einstein is a great read and Foer does far more than just chart his journey into the nerdy world of memory athletes.

Along the way he provides an engaging explanation of how neuroscientists currently understand memory. He shows us how the extreme accomplishments of memory champions build on ancient and (conceptually) simple techniques of linking image, place and memory. He takes us through the history of moving memory out of our heads and into technology…and he’s not just talking about SD cards and smart phones here: As Foer points out, writing and books are also forms of external memory storage.

If the question of memory intrigues you in any way, find yourself a copy of this book.

My parents, Rella and Barney Cohn, in the 1990s. Their wisecracks live on.

I think about my parents this time of year. My mother was born in October and my father died in November. They’ve both been gone years now and on rainy days like this, I think about the inadequacy of my own memory as a vessel for the entirety of their lives. But that sounds somber and serious and even as my memories of my parents erode, I remember my parents idosyncarcies and my  father and his sense of humor about the decay of his own memory. Here’s something I wrote about them when they were both still here…


What Remained

Ten years ago my father couldn’t tell a red light from a green one. We noticed when he asked the same question twice. How’s the weather up there? A minute later, How’s the weather? How’s the weather? Every visit, he was more shrunken, more confused. Stutter, silence, fall. The first time he disappeared in the Field Museum men’s room, for twenty minutes I fretted among plastic dinosaurs, at last asked a complete stranger to retrieve him, zipped, buttoned. Later on, we sought what remained—memories of a former colleague, Hail, hail the gang’s all here, his great strength of will, bald old snapping turtle gathering his endurance, waiting. Like the time my mother went on for twenty minutes about the origins of the name Zanvel. Natter, chat, a steady rain of knowledge. My father sat silent, dull,  but suddenly leaned forward, grinned, showed yellow teeth, said, I‘m worried about your mother’s memory.

As fascinated as I am by the processes of memory and forgetting, creating a memorable theater experience based on the encoding and storage of memory sounds like a tall order.

But Red Eye Theater has done just that with Meromyny—it’s heady, witty and poignant and the action literally takes place inside the mind—with the characters scrambling to accept and store the endless stream of new information we’re all bombarded with. (Miram Must as Jargon leads the excellent cast. Steve Busa directs; Rachel Jendrzejewski, playwright)

Go see it if you can.


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