Miriam Halliday Borkowski | Photo by Jean Weisinger
I first met Miriam
at a poetry reading that happened monthly in an attic in New Brunswick, a small city in New Jersey, USA in the early 1980s. It was viewed as the ‘other’ reading in town, different from the ‘popular’ reading in one of the bars downtown. I thought it was the best reading around. Eight or ten people, who always had new stuff to read each month, who were talking about putting out books of poetry, or writing their first novel, or starting literary magazines. Among them were Miriam’s future husband, Matt Borkowksi, and John ‘Lunar’ Richey, whose work appears here in Outlaw Poetry. They were serious. They cared about the Word. One of the most serious was Miriam.
I remember these words bursting forth in a torrent from this tall, slight woman.
I remember how they looked on the page, zigging and zagging across it, with all these odd line breaks….that made perfect sense…..such vivid, colorful images… and words that hit all five senses.
Above all I remember the sense of urgency in her poems. There was a fierce sense of caring in her work, a caring that made you want to care too. The lines had such an crisis quality to them, as if they must be read and acted upon NOW. There was such a yearning, searching quality in the poems. To me, they all seemed like a continuous stream, a wild torrent. And she demanded you jump in and swim for it whenever you read her work.
For a few years, Miriam and her husband Matt lived up the street from me. I felt really fortunate to have them nearby. I remember dropping over there and discussing all these half-formed, half-baked ideas with both of them, late into the night. Miriam was always giving me stuff, new books to read, or poetry from another of the local poets she knew. I hardly remember leaving that house without something to read tucked under my arm. And she always urged me to read more than she had given me. Always mentioning new strange books I had never heard of. And when I rolled my eyes, urging me to read them anyway. Always challenging me to widen my horizons literarily. Always egging me on to try new things with my writing.
Even though her work and mine were so different from each other, we seemed to agree on a lot about poetry. Her work was so frenetic, so spiritual, full of vivid metaphor, so metaphysical. Mine was matter-of-fact, realistic, very work-bar-and-street kind of stuff, conveyed by simple images. My work was more limited really, still is. Yet somehow we connected whenever we discussed poetry or any other art. I think that’s because we were trying to get at the ‘underneath’ of the poetry, what went on behind, the force that drove it, what it meant and felt. I think that’s what we both understood, and that’s what helped form our connection and friendship. And better yet, it was a connection that we never talked about. It was more felt and understood at an intuitive level. We never even mentioned it.
That’s what I remember about Miriam
Ken Greenley, Denver, CO 11/17/09
Ken Greenley February 4, 1958 – February 12, 2020 was a writer who lived in Denver, Colorado. The number of places he’s lived is only exceeded by the number of job’s he’s had. Greenley liked to explore the themes of class division (in a supposedly classless country), the struggle to stay spiritual in the modern world, and the growth episodes that occur in childhood. He thought art, particularly writing, should combat media brainwashing, and should examine the clash between what we’re told and what really happens. He tried to make his material as funny as possible, because he found it hard to make modern life seriously, and considered it his mission “to make people laugh and think at the same time.”