2004 Summer Tour
In The Press
Veggie Van Gogh
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Since releasing her first collection of original poetry in February, 73-year-old Frenchtown Township resident Shirley Steinman has shown no signs of slowing down and every sign of appreciating life's simplicities.
"If the sun is shining and I get to put my clothes out on the line to dry, I'm happy," Mrs. Steinman said with a chuckle. "I just like to live for every day, and don't like to plan too far ahead."
Mrs. Steinnian's poetry is much like her outlook on life, simple examinations of the daily events and people that shape her world. The book consists of 268 poems in a paperback collection, titled "Only Paper, Merely Words," is distributed by Bytesmiths Press and available locally at the Book Nook, 42 S. Monroe St.
The collection, containing poems that she has written throughout her life from her college years up to the beginning of the recent conflict in Iraq, is arranged by theme and includes everyday miracles and mysteries, love and relationships, family, writing and inspiration, personal portraits, the natural world, death and dying, political issues and humor.
"It was difficult to divide them up into the different categories," she admitted. "I just tried to lump as many of them together as possible so that there would be some semblance of organization."
Mrs. Steinman pays particular attention to rhythm as opposed to rhyme, directness as opposed to obscurity and metaphor, and puts extra emphasis on writing tightly and to the point.
"I hate being vague" she said. "My writing is very focused and simple."
The book's forward, written by Mrs. Steinman's son, Jan Steininan, describes the poems as descriptions of "quality of thought beyond being," simple, humble poems that touch on the trials of everyday life.
"My work is personal ... introspective," Mrs. Steinman said. "I just have a need to write. There is a satisfaction in being able to complete the poems and to get the thoughts from my head down on paper."
Those thoughts from her head led to her love for writing poetry, reading and eventually to teaching. Mrs. Steinman taught for several years in the Jefferson Schools district before retiring 15 years ago; she received a master of English Literature degree from Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti.
Mrs. Steinnian, a wife, mother of five and grandmother of 10, said she has a lot of inspiration to draw on from her family as well as from the many books she reads. She counts William Wordsworth, John Donne and many other authors among her immediate influences.
"I'm always reading," she said. "I have to find ways to sneak books in past my husband. I put them in the barn or in grocery bags," she said, laughing.
Many of her more politically minded poems have come from her involvement in various organizations. An entire section of her book is dedicated to anti-nuclear action and includes many poems criticizing the Fermi nuclear power plant, nuclear war and other tragedies.
"I believe we are all taking the dangers that accompany nuclear power a little too lightly," she said.
She is currently working with the Dennis Kucinich presidential campaign, designing a department of peace to rival the department of war.
"It makes sense if you really think about it," she said.
Aside from political ties, she is a member of several writing organizations and said she has been keeping a journal since she was 64. When she's not writing, Mrs. Steinman said she enjoys gardening, reading and spending time with her family.
Though her first book was just released in February, Mrs. Steinman already has aspirations of completing a second collection of her poetry that also would feature photographs.
"My son and my son-in-law are both very talented photographers and I already have some photographs in mind to accompany some of my poems," she said. "When the book first came out a friend of mine said it was a validation for why I write."
But even if she never publishes another book, Mrs. Steinman said she will be happy with the collection she's completed and keep writing until she's no longer able.
"As long as I'm thinking well enough to keep writing, I'll continue to do it." she said.
Other Monroe County residents have also written books.
Tom Bajkiewicz, 65, of Monroe is the author of "River Raisin Richie" a story about a young Monroe resident who enjoys reading books. The boy's love of reading leads him to exciting adventures and features plenty of Monroe history within its pages.
He writes about actual Monroe landmarks, including the River Raisin, the libraries, local churches, the old foundry and others.
Mr. Bajkiewicz will be signing copies of his book at the Dorsch Memorial Branch Library on Nov. 1 and at the Book Nook on Nov. 15.
Violet Gaige is a former Whiteford Township resident and the author of "A Word From Home: Letters from the War First Published in the Zion Messenger 1943-1946." The hard cover, 395-page book consists of a collection of letters from World War II that have been preserved by Mrs. Gaige since 1946. The letters were printed by the White Lake Zion Messenger in Ottawa Lake.