Posted in General Interest

In Memoriam Michael Rothenberg

Michael Rothenberg

On Monday, 21 November 2022, at around 11 PM EST, Michael Rothenberg left the world. Even though he had told me that he had cancer and I had recently heard that he went into hospice care, the news of his death that arrived yesterday devastated me. Michael was a close friend, a relationship first built online and then cemented in person at the 2015 100 Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC) World Conference in Salerno, Italy. Over the years we communicated online by text and voice. He would send me poems he was working on, and I would send him my drafts. We each reviewed works-in-progress of the other—often as not arguing over lines and words in the spirit of making the work stronger. We spent time together when I had the honor of being in a 100TPC writer’s residency in Tallahassee, Florida, where he and his wife Terri Carion moved to from the Bay Area of California. We shared work, giving each other feedback during the day. And we explored the area, ate in local restaurants and visited local bars to hear local music, often with Terri Carion, his partner.

That week 17 high school students were murdered and others injured in Parkland, near Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Michael, as he seemed wired to do, responded both with outrage and with a plan to use poetry to respond. I recall sitting next to him as he began to plan work with others online and I shared ideas and contacted others to arrange 100TPC poetry readings in response, focused on the Parkland shootings but also all other gun violence and the need for socio-cultural change to stop the killings. And soon there were others organizing readings for Parkland, independent of our efforts—synchronicity at work. Of course, mass gun killings haven’t stopped. Neither has poetry or protest against it.

As I write this, there have been two mass shootings this week, the second last night—Colorado Springs, CO, and Chesapeake, VA. And it’s only Wednesday. I seem to hear Michael’s voice in my head, “What are we going to do?” He insisted that others join him to fight oppression, war, the climate crisis, social injustice in any form. And he included himself in his urgings—What are we going to do?

Michael, of blessed memory, and his partner, Terri Carion, founded 100 Thousand Poets for Change in March 2011. In 2014, Jamie Dedes, of blessed memory, our founding editor, began an online 100TPC event for those who wanted to participate but were homebound or distant from in person events. At the Salerno conference, those of us present decided to focus globally on three interrelated issues: peace, environmental sustainability, and social justice. When The BeZine went from monthly to quarterly, we chose to use these three themes in our rotating quarterly themes, adding life of the spirit and activism to make four. We see life of the spirit (broadly defined) as being integral to supporting our activism, our art, our lives, and our values. Michael, z”l, Terri, and 100TPC have influenced and supported the mission of The BeZine.

Michael also founded or co-founded Big Bridge, Poets in Need, Read a Poem to a Child and many other events and projects. In recent years he has worked as the poet behind the Ecosound Ensemble, a poetry and music performance group based in Tallahassee. He wrote many books of poetry. He painted. He collaborated with many. He grew orchids and bromeliads. He enjoyed friends. He mentored many, argued with all, and loved people.

We will miss Michael Rothenberg at The BeZine. I will miss my friend. His poetry and activist spirit will live on, though, this I believe.

—Michael Dickel, 23 November 2023

All photos from Michael Rothenberg’s FaceBook page. Copyright belongs to original copyright or photographer, or to Michael Rothenberg’s estate. Text ©2023 Michael Dickel

Posted in General Interest

In Memoriam, Contributor Ester Karen Aida

In the Jewish tradition, our first words on hearing of the death of someone are usually Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet, Blessed is the True Judge. It reminds us that we may not know why, but our friend has been taken. We give up our questions to a higher power.

Today, I learned that a friend here in Jerusalem from the creative-activist communities, Ester Karen Aida, passed away. Her funeral will be this evening, as I write this. In 2018, I published some of her poems on my blog, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play. Karen, as I knew her, contributed to The BeZine starting in 2021, when I invited her to send her words and art to us. Her most recent contributions were in this summer’s Waging Peace issue—an important theme in her activist and creative work. Her writing and artwork added strength, beauty, and compassion to each issue in which it appeared.

Psalm 24
Ester Karen Aida ©2022

I first met Karen some years ago at a reading in an art gallery in Jerusalem, which had been organized by our mutual friend, Lonnie Monka. She was in a wheelchair, but active, engaged, and cheerful. We spoke, finding common ground in our creative work and activism. We both had trained in Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) techniques. And we became friends from that conversation.

We would see each other mostly at poetry events. We kept up in email and on Facebook. She was making progress with her ongoing health issues, from wheelchair to walker to cane. I gave her rides home from some of these events, after she moved to a neighborhood near mine. She supported peace in the region here with words and deeds, helped individuals in need, and encouraged NVC training. She also supported accompanying and traditional health practices (aka alternative) to work alongside of Western medicine.

Woman in a Field of Marigolds
Ester Karen Aida ©2022

She was a dynamic, compassionate, and strong woman. She leaves grieving family, friends, colleagues. I am still in a bit of shock at the news. Not long from now, I will get ready to attend her funeral, drive across Jerusalem, and join the mourners.

In our Jewish tradition, the family will sit Shiva for 7 days. It is customary to sit with these mourners and listen to their sorrow and their memories as they process the loss. The stories they tell preserve their memory in our hearts. May it be so for all who knew and loved Karen, that her memory be for a blessing.

Children’s Community Garden, Arnona, Jerusalem
(Pastel on brown paper grocery bag)
Ester Karen Aida @2022

Those who visit to comfort the mourners say, when we leave: Ha’makom yenahem etkhem betokh she’ar avelei Tziyonvi’Yerushalayim, In this place may G-d console you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

—Michael, Jerusalem, 11 August 14:36


See Ester Karen Aida’s work in The BeZine.


Featured image at top of the post: Pines, Pencil on Paper, Ester Karen Aida ©2021


Words ©2022 Michael Dickel
All rights reserved