Harmless, Myra Sklarew’s tenth collection of poetry, distills the experience of a life spent in the pursuit of truth. Trained as a biologist, Sklarew draws upon the discourses of science and the arts in equal measure. Also versed in history, Sklarew is haunted by the cruelties of the 20th century, even as she affirms the present moment and holds out the promise of renewal. This moving book has something important to say, and it says it in beautiful language marked by extraordinary musicality.
Sleeping in Lithuania
by Myra Sklarew
In Vilnius, Amatininku Pub
sends Morse code
into the dreams of sleepers
on the floors above.
And at Metropolis Hotel in Kaunas
they have rented a room
to two dogs. Shrill barks ricochet
off the vaulted ceiling.
Sleep steadies herself
on the hand rail of the broad
staircase but refuses
to enter the room.
At the killing place
in Krakes, silence is so palpable
you could sleep
for a hundred and twenty years.
Myra Sklarew, former president of the artist community Yaddo and professor emerita of literature at American University, is the author of three chapbooks and six collections of poetry, including Lithuania: New & Selected Poems and The Witness Trees; short fiction, Like a Field Riddled by Ants; and essays, Over the Rooftops of Time. A research study on trauma and memory, Holocaust and the Construction of Memory, and The Journey of Child Development: The Selected Papers of Joseph Noshpitz, co-edited with Bruce Sklarew, are forthcoming. Essays on science and medicine have appeared in Nature Medicine, Ars Medica, and other publications. Awards include the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award and the National Jewish Book Council Award in Poetry. Her poetry has been recorded for the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature in the Library of Congress.
She studied biology at Tufts University, and bacterial genetics and viruses at Cold Spring Harbor Biological Laboratory under Salvador Luria and Max Delbruck. Early work at Yale University School of Medicine involved the study of frontal lobe function and delayed response memory in Rhesus monkeys. She attended the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University.