Friday, October 7, 2016

In Memoriam – Gail Fishman Gerwin

Gail Fishman Gerwin
May 7, 1939 – October 3, 2016

It is with a sense of profound personal loss that I share with you the sad news that Gail Fishman Gerwin, who wrote last week’s prompt for us, passed away on Monday, October 3rd after months of treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Gail was one of my dearest friends.

Some of you will remember Gail from previous prompts and posts. She was a gifted poet who took special joy in sharing poetry with others, and she touched countless lives with her love and her words. 

Gail is survived by her husband of 48 years, Dr. Kenneth S. Gerwin; her daughter, Karen Gerwin, son-in-law, Michael Stoopack, and grandchildren Ben and Liv Stoopack; her daughter Kate Goldberg, son-in-law Dean Goldberg, and grandsons, Jordan and Brandon Goldberg; she is also survived by a sister, Carol Miller.

 (Gail & Ken Gerwin)  

(Gail & Ken's Daughters, Karen & Kate)

(Gail & Her Much-Loved Grandchildren: Jordan, Liv, Brandon, and Ben)

A native of Paterson, NJ, Gail received her bachelor's degree from Goucher College in 1961, where she was Phi Beta Kappa. She was an elementary school teacher in Ridgewood, NJ, and then took a job in the public relations department at NYU Medical Center. After raising her daughters, she worked in the public relations department at Sea Land and, in 1984, established her own freelance writing/editing firm, inedit (Morristown, NJ). Also a dog breeder, Gail spent many years devotedly breeding champion Cairn Terriers. She taught her first Cairn, Schepseleh Darling, to say "Mama," and Gail loved her Cairn Terriers so much that when she established her own poetry press, she used her kennel name and called the press ChayaCairn: www.chayacairnpress.com.

 (Above – Gail's Beloved Cairn Terrier Eliza Jane: December 31, 2002 – December 14, 2015
Below – Gail's GrandCairn, baby Zeke)
 
 
In addition to her beloved dogs, Gail had a deep and abiding respect for wildlife and the natural world: squirrels, bunnies, chipmunks, the goldfinches and hummingbirds that came to her feeders, the turkeys that paraded through her neighborhood, and even a vagrant pigeon who took up residence in her yard. Her delight in "all creatures great and small" was very much a part of who she was.

 
                                   (Gail and Eliza Jane at a Blessing of Pets, the Pigeon, 
                    Turkeys on Parade in Gail’s Neighborhood, and Goldfinches at Gail's Feeder)

Gail was a Renaissance woman of the highest order. In 1996, she earned her master's degree in creative writing from NYU, where she studied with Ann Hood and discovered an abiding love for writing poetry. Her first book (a poetry memoir), Sugar and Sand, was a 2010 Paterson Poetry Prize finalist; her second book, Dear Kinfolk, received a 2013 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. Her poem “A State in Mind” was a third-prize winner in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards. Her most recent book, Crowns, was published in 2016. Her poetry, book reviews, short fiction, essays, and plays have appeared in a wide range of print journals and anthologies, in online literary journals, and on stage. Among numerous other readings, Gail performed several times in the Carriage House Poetry Series, reading her own work and portraying both Sylvia Plath (November 2015) and Dorothy Parker (June 2013).

(Above & Below: Gail as Sylvia Plath in the Carriage House Production "A Legacy of Words.")

In addition to being a close personal friend, I had the privilege of working with Gail for Tiferet Journal, which she served for several years as associate poetry editor. She loved presenting workshops, giving readings, and sharing her love of poetry with audiences of students, seniors, and every age in between. She was generous and caring, always ready to think of others before herself; her intelligence and quick wit were graced by a wonderful laugh. More than anything else, she loved spending time with her family, often gifting family members with poems that she wrote especially for them.

In a LitBridge interview, Gail said of her poems, “I write. Others create visual art. Others share through conversation. It is crucial for me to record my story and to pass a legacy to the next generation and hopefully to reach a larger readership able to identify with my experiences, which are not unique but simply there in a different costume. Like many, I didn’t ask enough questions when my parents were alive and I regret it but I have found documents, letters, and many photos, and have used these to let my children and grandchildren know who I was and how I felt about this and how I feel about them. I began this process with my first book Sugar and Sand and continue to add narratives to their collection. I also wanted to provide a sharp sense of place and to project the warmth that memories allow.” (Source: http://www.litbridge.com/2013/03/13/gail-fishman-gerwin-next-big-thing-interview/)

Years ago, shortly after meeting Gail, I asked her how she became interested in poetry. Without hesitating for a second she said, “Because I want to leave my girls and my grandchildren something more than memories—I want them to have something of me to hold after I'm gone.” Gail did exactly that through her poems and her books.
 

By way of sharing, here are links to some of Gail’s poems.
(Click on each to read.)
















___________________________________

May Gail rest in God’s peace. 
She is greatly missed by all who knew and loved her.


זיכרונה לברכה
zikhronah livrakha


May her memory be a blessing.   
___________________________________




20 comments:

  1. A beautiful eulogy for a luminous soul!

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  2. What a beautiful tribute you've made here. And yes, her memory feels like a blessing and also inspiration. Thanks, Adele.

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  3. Thank you, Adele, for this beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman poet and writer. A friend.

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  4. Thank you so much for doing this, Adele. It is lovely and sad to see more of Gail's photos. She was a truly loving mother, grandmother, wife, and poet. I and so many will miss her presence here but remember it through her written and family legacies.

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  5. There is no death. Only transformation. She will always be with us. Always

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  6. A beautiful spirit that touched all she met. We are better for having known her.

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  7. May the memory of her life eclipse the pain of her passing — Basil

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  8. I am recalling this morning a song in Stephen Sondheim's musical, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. Its title is "Children and Art" and it suggests that two very precious gifts we leave for the future are our children and the art we have created. Adele, this gorgeous feature that you created for Gail showcases both so beautifully.

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  9. A beautiful poet and gentle, kind soul.

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  10. Oh, Adele! I'm so sorry. Living in England, I never met Gail, but I've loved her poems and prompts on the blog, and I have her books, which I bought because you recommended them so highly. I love them all and will spend time this week reading them again and praying for Gail's family and friends. Be at peace, dear Gail.

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  11. Last week I shared Gail Gerwin's Fibonacci prompt with my students, and they loved it. Some really good poems were generated by Ms. Gerwin's ideas. When I read your post this weekend, I was both shocked and saddened. I plan to tell the students and know that they, too, will be sad. We have two of Ms. Gerwin's books in my classroom library, and I will read from them to the students on Monday. Her poems are filled with the beauty of life. My sincerest condolences to her family and friends.

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  12. This is beautiful, Adele. Thank you. Gail will be missed greatly by many...

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  13. I took a workshop with Gail Gerwin once and loved every second of it. Gail encouraged me to have faith in myself and to write from my heart. Because of her I've been published in several journals and have been featured at readings. I'm so deeply sorry and send my sympathies to all who knew and loved Gail (I'm sure that list is a very long one). May her soul rest in peace.

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  14. Adele, this is so beautifully done. It is a perfect tribute to Gail. She was a fine woman and a fine poet. May her memory be for a blessing.

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  15. Amita Jayaraman (Mumbai)October 10, 2016 at 11:42 AM

    My sincerest condolences to Gail Gerwin's family members and friends. I very much enjoyed 'meeting' her here on the blog and am so sorry to hear that Gail has passed. From this post it's clear that she was a very special person. May she rest in peace.

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  16. Gail was a generous soul and will be greatly missed. Her memory remains with us, along with her beautiful poetry.

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  17. I've been reading Gail's poems and crying. I'll never forget her kindness to me and the inspiration that she was – and will always be – to me and many others. May she rest in peace. My condolences to her family and to all who loved her.

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  18. Mary Ann B. MillerOctober 12, 2016 at 1:20 PM

    I will always remember Gail's enormous generosity in working with my students in the Caldwell University Poetry Service-Learning Project for 4 semesters. Her talent and enthusiasm could be seen in the poems she generated from my students, who repeatedly reported discovering their own voices and often shared their poems afterward by publishing them in Calyx, the university's student-driven literary magazine. Gail has touched the lives of many and will be fondly remembered and sorely missed!

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  19. Adele, this is such a beautiful tribute to Gail. It is a gift to her family and poetry friends.Thank you. I will miss my kind, super smart, dear friend and even miss wandering through the aisles of Century 21 with her as well as her sharing her superb poems -- so many that appeared in Lips. I will never forget Gail.

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  20. Thank you all for your generous and heart-felt comments. Gail is greatly missed, but she will always be remembered.

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