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Sydell Rosenberg

Sydell Rosenberg

1929 - 1996

Sydell Rosenberg was born Sydell Lorraine Gasnick in 1929 in New York City, the youngest of five children. From an early age, she displayed a gift for evocative language and an eye for discerning the unusual in the everyday. Despite her urban upbringing, she had a singular appreciation for nature and life’s small moments, and she embraced them. In her early 20s, in one of her first jobs as a copy editor at a small New York publishing house, Sydell was unimpressed by the quality of the manuscripts that came across her desk. She told her boss that she could do better. “Prove it,” he said. Soon, Sydell had written a risqué novel, Strange Circle, under the male pseudonym, Gale Sydney (a reversal of the initials of her maiden name, Sydell Gasnick). It was published and sold a decent number of copies. While it would be considered quaint now, for its time, it had a hard-boiled, rather randy style typical of 1950’s pulp fiction. It’s hard to believe this novel was conjured from the imagination of a demure young woman. Sydell wrote original short stories and also translated literary works from and into Spanish (her minor at Brooklyn College). She also created and published clever and fun literary and word puzzles. But her abiding love was poetry. Over the years, her poems were published in various poetry journals and anthologies – and even, in 2002, a UK theater textbook.
     Syd especially loved and studied haiku and published her first haiku in 1967. She was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, attending the founding meeting on October 23, 1968. She served on various Merit Book Award committees, and was elected Secretary in 1975. She wrote, "Haiku can’t be gimmicked; it can’t be shammed. If it is slicked into cuteness, haiku loses what it had to give." In Cor van den Heuvel’s classic The Haiku Anthology, Syd characterized her work as “city haiku.”
     Syd earned a Master’s Degree in linguistics from Hunter College in 1972. In addition to writing poetry and other works, Syd was a public school teacher and a dedicated instructor of English as a second language who inspired affection from her students. Married in 1955 to Sam Rosenberg (deceased in 2003), the couple have two children, Amy Losak (married to Cliff) and Nathan Rosenberg (married to Deborah) and two grandchildren, Zachary and Julia Rosenberg.
     Syd’s daughter Amy Losak continues to honor her mother's haiku life in many ways. For example, on June 26, 2016, Amy read a selection of Syd’s haiku and senryu at “Only In Queens,” a summer festival held at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, NY. A “Trio of Literary Tents” hosted by Queens Poet Laureate, Maria Lisella and Johanne Civil, Executive Director of the August Queens Book Festival, was the gathering place for poets to present their work. In the fall of 2015, Amy planted a pink flowering dogwood tree in Sydell’s memory at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Teaneck, NJ via the Trees of Love program. Trees of Love provides residents with the opportunity to green their town and memorialize a loved with a tree and inscribed plaque. On June 24, 2016, the plaque, etched with one of Sydell’s haiku, was installed near the tree. This event was reported in two local outlets, the Teaneck Suburbanite and the Teaneck Daily Voice: http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/bergen/teaneck/2016/07/08/teaneck-resident-honors-mother-with-tree-planting/94882130/ and http://teaneck.dailyvoice.com/neighbors/teaneck-woman-plants-tree-of-love-honoring-her-mom/668725/. Amy also has an ongoing partnership with a nonprofit arts education organization, Arts For All (arts-for-all.org). Syd’s short poems have been used to teach the basics of drawing, painting and collage; and music and theater, to second-, third- and fifth-graders at a school in the Bronx and a school in Queens.
     In April of 2018, Penny Candy Books, established by two poets, Alexis Orgera and Chad Reynolds, will publish a picture book of Syd’s haiku and senryu. The working title is H Is For Haiku (Or: A Treasury Of Haiku From A To Z) [https://www.pennycandybooks.com/blog-1/losak].

Awards and Other Honors:    [a partial list]   Work selected for Cor van den Heuvel’s The Haiku Anthology (1974 and 1986 editions); William J. Higginson's Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac (1996); William J. Higginson's The Haiku Handbook [with Penny Harter] (1985); and "Haiku on 42nd Street" (1994) [a project in which short poems were showcased on shuttered movie theaters and in the book Haiku on 42nd St.: A Celebration of Urban Poetry and Art (Clerisy Press, 2008)]. Awards include Second Prize Winner for a “Series of three or four haiku on a single theme,” The Poetry Society of Virginia's J. Franklin Dew Award (1990); and Best of Issue Haiku, Haiku West 2:1 (July 1968).

Books Published: A collection of Sydell Rosenberg's haiku and senryu is forthcoming from Penny Candy Books in 2018.

Selected Work
 
Holding umbrellas
    children, like rows of mushrooms
         glisten in the rain.
 
Comparing the heights
    of their shadows going home:
         father and young son.
 
 
 
As the sun sets,
    the old fisherman sorts out
         the fish he can sell.
 
Rain,
how different the sounds
on autumn leaves . . .
 
 
 
Picking up a stick
    the little boy is master
         of the country road.
 
breaking the fast
with pizza and soda
on Yom Kippur
 
 
 
in pieces, yes
but how beautiful
the pieces!
 
In the laundermat
    she peers into the machine
         as the sun goes down.
 
 
 
So pale -– it hardly sat
    on the outstretched branch
         of the winter night.
 
The lawn with the rocks—
    even the dandelions
         know The Way.
 
 

Credits: "Holding umbrellas" - American Haiku 5:2 (1967); "As the sun sets" - American Haiku 5:2 (1967); William J. Higginson's The Haiku Handbook [with Penny Harter] (Kodansha International, 1985); "Picking up a stick" - Modern Haiku 1:3 (summer 1970) [from sequence "Boy Montage" (Second Prize, The Poetry Society of Virginia's J. Franklin Dew Award (1990); "in pieces, yes" - Frogpond 18:3 (autumn 1995); Frogpond 19:3 (December 1996) ["In memory of Sydell Rosenberg"]; "So pale" - Haiku West 2:1 (July 1968) [Best of Issue Haiku]; Haiku West 8:2 (January 1975); Frogpond 19:3 (December 1996) ["In memory of Sydell Rosenberg"]; "So pale" - Haiku West 2:1 (July 1968) [Best of Issue Haiku]; Haiku West 8:2 (January 1975); Frogpond 19:3 (December 1996) ["In memory of Sydell Rosenberg"];"Comparing the heights" - Haiku West 2:1 (July 1968); Haigaonline 16:1 (Spring 2015) [set to art and music, along with two other of her haiku];"Rain" - Frogpond 2:1 (February 1979); Frogpond 3:1 (February 1980); Frogpond 19:3 (December 1996) ["In Memory of Sydell Rosenberg"]; "breaking the fast" - William J. Higginson's Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac (1996); "In the laundermat" - Modern Haiku 2:4 (1971); Cor van den Heuvel [editor], The Haiku Anthology 1 (Anchor Press/ Doubleday, 1974); William J. Higginson's The Haiku Handbook [with Penny Harter] (Kodansha International, 1985); Cor van den Heuvel [editor], The Haiku Anthology 2 (Simon & Schuster, 1986); "Haiku on 42nd Street" (1994) [a project in which short poems were showcased on shuttered movie theaters]; Haiku on 42nd St.: A Celebration of Urban Poetry and Art (Clerisy Press, 2008); "The lawn with the rocks" - Frogpond 8:4 (November 1985).

Additional Reading: Gene Myers' interview with Amy Losak on the Haiku Society of America's website, originally published in The Suburbanite, a Teaneck, New Jersey weekly [http://www.hsa-haiku.org/haikucolumn-archives/26-haiku-column-7-14-2014.htm]. Also see Living Haiku Anthology [http://livinghaikuanthology.com/index-of-poets/livinglegacies/2676-sydell-rosenberg.html] and http://readlearnandbehappy.blogspot.com/2017/04/happy-international-haiku-day-national.html.

Sources Biography: Appreciation is expressed to Sydell's daughter, Amy Losak. Other sources include The Haiku Anthology, Appendix B [Cor van den Heuvel, editor] (Anchor Books, 1974); and A Haiku Path: The Haiku Society of America 1968-1988 (Haiku Society of America, Inc., 1994). Appreciation is also due Charles Trumbull for assistance in gathering representative haiku and publication credits.

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