Writer Amy Losak’s work was featured in issue #10 of Newtown Literary. We interviewed her about her writing, and her answers are below. For more of Amy’s work, check out her posts at Read, Learn, and be Happy and Inner Voices.
What is your relationship to Queens?
I spent almost all of my childhood and a large part of my adulthood in Briarwood. I attended Queens public schools and Queens College.
What is your favorite memory of Queens?
I have many great memories of Queens: they include my ad hoc adventures walking around different streets and neighborhoods. I rarely took the subway when I went to Forest Hills, for example. I would stroll up Queens Blvd to my destination -- and back. I would walk to Kew Gardens. Sometimes, I walked to Rego Park. I may have walked beyond Rego Park, as well. I would walk into Jamaica, too, and down Main Street towards Flushing. I would walk down Union Turnpike towards Fresh Meadows. My mother, Sydell Rosenberg – a published poet and teacher – also loved to walk. I guess I got the walking "gene" from my perambulating mom. She was a spirited walker – and talker. Syd had a gift for making friends everywhere she went.
And when I was a jogger, I would love to run on Queens sidewalks and in green places such as Forest Park.
I have fond memories of the Flagship Diner on Queens Blvd: the incredible French toast and coffee; the terrific salad platters (especially the shrimp salad –and portions were huge: mMm and I would split and savor together!).
Like my mom, I also enjoy talking to people on my "travels". My small adventures are rarely planned – they are serendipitous, which is what makes them all the more enjoyable.
How would you describe the writing you do?
I am an experienced public relations professional specializing in healthcare communications and media relations. I never really thought about creative writing as a profession or even a vocation. In a strange and perhaps unexpected way, I’m following in the footsteps of my mom, to carry forward the above theme. Syd was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, founded in NYC in 1968. (In fact, the cofounder and president, Leroy Kanterman, lived in Forest Hills.) In the 1974 book The Haiku Anthology (edited by Cor van den Heuvel), she referred to her work as "city haiku". Years after her death, I started to write my own short poetry: mostly haiku and senryu. Syd was student of these forms. She also wrote other poetry, short stories, created literary and word puzzles, and more. She even published a sexy novel, Strange Circle, under a male pseudonym (Gale Sydney, reversing the initials of her maiden name, Sydell Gasnick), in the 1950s. Copies are still available on the Internet.
What inspires you?
Syd’s creative writing career spanned decades. I am more of a dabbler. I learn (and, I hope, improve) as I read the wonderful work of other poets. I am humbled by the generous encouragement and support of friends, family, poets, children’s authors, and others in the literary community. I think my mom would be surprised and happy about my adult embracement of short-form poetry, because I was rather indifferent when I was growing up. At this late age and stage, my mom has become my inspiration.
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
I have a number of rewarding projects that are ongoing. One is a partnership with a nonprofit arts education organization in NY, Arts For All (arts-for-all.org). Syd’s haiku have been used in a Queens school and a Bronx school to teach the basics of painting, drawing and collage; music; and theater.
Some of my mom’s haiku have been etched into signs and "planted" in the garden beds of a cool, floating food forest in NY called Swale.
And Penny Candy Books, a children’s publisher started by two poets, Chad Reynolds and Alexis Orgera, will release Mom’s alphabet haiku picture book, H Is For Haiku, next April (National Poetry Month). This will be the culmination of her decades-long dream: to publish a book for kids. I can’t wait!
In addition, two of Mom’s senryu will be published in a young adult anthology titled, The United States of Poetry, edited by former Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. It will be released in the fall of 2018 by the National Geographic Society.
And, finally, my favorite question: What should I be asking you that I didn't?
For more information about haiku and senryu, check out these websites: