Sunday, January 16, 2011


Irina "Ira" Yarmolenko
After the Christmas stuff gets put away, I often start off the new year going through stacks of old mail, newspapers, and magazines, deciding what to keep and what to recycle. And so it was that I came upon a copy of Chapel Hill News dated January 2005. I knew right away why I was keeping it, for on the front page was a news story about Debbie Key. It was time to take a break from the stacks and read it.

I have read this before, many times, and I already know the story by heart. It's on the website. Click on the tab that says, "Press Accounts," and you'll see it there. Yet, there was something about seeing it in the newspaper that I was holding in my hands that brought back the memories of reading this story for my first time. It brought a tear to my eye.

Much later, as I was going through the last stack of paper, I found this little book that I had forgotten I had. It's called, "The Poetry of Ira Yarmolenko."

Here we go! The time between now and then just disappears. I picked up this little book at a memorial service for Ira I had attended back in 2008. I'm not gonna get anymore work done today. It's time to sit and read some more.

Like everything else about Ira Y, her poetry is unique. Sometimes I have to read it over again two or three times before I get it. It requires a certain perspective, or, should I say, a certain attitude, in order to understand what she's saying. On the front cover it says:


Inside, the first poem is about words.
The word "Words" make me think about a song by the BeeGees.
"It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away."
And then there's one by the band called Missing Persons.
"What are words for, if no one listens anymore?"
This is Ira'a poem.

In words, poets find solitude.
even if nothing is good,
it can be written as if it is.
That's what I love about poets.
Unmaterialistic intellect, the control
and power of something that is
dead before they take hold of it.
WORD. Take love, and make it
shake. Grab a gun and a bottle
and a song of tradition, make
it dance on its toes.
I love you, poet of sound, word,
grace, word, letter, syllable, haiku,
lyric, mimic, rap, therapy, beauty.

Carlos Castaneda, in writing about the teachings of Don Juan, tells about the challenge of stopping the "internal dialog," that endless stream of words that flows through our brains constantly. I have called it the "eternal" dialog, for nothing seems to stop it. You can't turn it off, but you can alter its flow. If you are a poet, or any kind of writer, you can take all these words and recycle them into art. It is indeed good therapy, for the writer, if not for the reader.