Why memory?

Sidewalk Poetry

Sidewalk poetry

What triggered my interest in memory? Watching my father (Bernard S. Cohn, 1928-2003) devolve through the stages of dementia was the crucible in which I started writing poems:


I reach for a name, a song, a tune
and memories scatter,
minnows fleeing
a toothy pike.

I catch a few
but these are nothing
to the hundred fish that fled.

The little poem above emerged, almost full-grown, in a Loft workshop with poet Angela Shannon. Later it became part of Marcus Young’s St. Paul sidewalk poetry project.

At the time, I thought it was just a personal and emotional little hiccup, a pause in my fiction writing. I ended up writing a whole collection of poems, Mermaid’s Corpse, built around memory and forgetting. And still, the interplay of memory and forgetting kept me in its grip.

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