Updated: Jan 19
Ruth Ticktin's new book, Was Am Going — Recollections in Poetry & Flash — is an audacious recounting of her life and ancestry through verse and prose, inviting readers to join in her journey and recall touchstones of their own over the years. In an interview, she describes why she embraced the book's twin styles and what she's writing now.
Q Was Am Going is a very personal life journey. What does this book mean to you?
A I want to share the Was Am Going stories with readers who’ve had both different and similar experiences. Reading of the stories and poems allows me to wrap up the recollecting and move on.
Q Writers sometimes imagine talking to people as they compose. Who were your imagined readers as you wrote this book?
A My imagined readers are former neighbors, classmates, teachers and friends. I wish Was Am Going will be found by friends I’ve lost along along the way and by those whom I wish I knew.
Q What do you hope your book will mean to its readers?
A I hope that readers will smile and relate to the characters, the times, and places. I believe readers will find music and movement in the words and I trust they will conjure up their own pictures.
Q As your subtitle — Recollections in Poetry and Flash, suggests, this is a book written in two different forms. Which makes me curious on two scores: How and why?
A We all have short attention spans, so I wanted to tell stories in bits and pieces, like our disjointed lives. Sometimes a poem conveyed the mood and conversation or details wasn’t necessary. Other times, I wanted the challenge of cutting down a traditional story arc to under 1,000 words, a flash, in order to find an essence.
Q In terms of recollections, how did you choose which scenes from a lifetime would be part of the book and which would be left out?
A Several of the short stories that I wrote in the 90’s were fiction. I chose excerpts only from the creative nonfiction stories that covered important time periods, were more complete, and had a broader appeal.
Q Often you choose to re-imagine history in this book and sometimes unravel the thread of time. So the recollections are affecting you as well as you assemble them. Does the book continue to affect you, and in what ways?
A Was Am Going feels like a completed work. I am currently focused on writing longer fiction, based broadly on people I’ve learned about in life. Maybe I’ll continue writing reflective poems and stories and create a new collection. But for now, I’m interested to see if the ideas of the book spark my students and other readers explore their own writing.
Q I’ve just read an interesting aphorism about writing to discover personal history: “Their ultimate theme is restoring memory — that most significant feature that makes humans humans.” Do you agree with Ori Z. Soltes, of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, that memory makes us human?
A Yes, I agree memory makes us human. But humans still need help understanding memories. Without education to place the memories into context, information can be misconstrued to suit the needs of certain preconceived ideas. That, as we’ve seen, can be dangerous.