Memories are stories we tell ourselves.
One man’s trash is another’s treasure.
Vladimir the Small, as history is sure to remember him, has pulled the iron curtain off the trash pile and ordered it rehung. His security blanket. Thirty years exposed to Western ideas of choice – enough of that. Obedience or destruction, enough choice for his people.
The good old days.
Ready to dive into unchartered waters? Then read Lena Hegemann’s graphic coming-of-age story, “Calm as the Ocean.” Her beautifully designed narrative takes us on a trip to New Zealand – on a trip that turns out to be one of self-discovery.
“It’s August 13, 1961 – the day East Berlin starts building the wall,” my grandma remembers.
“On Sunday night, August 13, Walter Ulbricht, East German head of state, issues an order to close the Berlin border. Police forces put up barbed wire fences. Within one day, West Berlin became an island in the sea of communism. Trains do not run anymore, and West and East Berliners stand shocked on opposite sides of the border.
I hear about it at Moabit hospital, where I just gave birth to my first child on August 9. I remember being afraid of a new war and feeling helpless in the hospital, alone with my child, barely 20 years old. Also, we’re separated from our family. My grandparents lived in the Russian sector after the war, just ten minutes from where we lived in the American sector. My husband had fled to West Berlin from Rostock in the East to marry me. His parents, grandparents, sister, and other relatives still live there. I feel so helpless and yearn for my family. The future seems so unsure.”
I’m named after my grandfathers: Johann and Juan. My name is Johanna. Throughout my life, I’ve met many Johannas. At my university alone, I know nearly a dozen. It’s led to funny and to confusing situations, but it’s always been something to connect over. On their own, my names are nothing to brag about: Johanna. Gabriela. Hernández. Schäfer. Johanna and Schäfer are common names in Germany, Gabriela and Hernández are typical Peruvian names. Only together are they special. Only together are they me. But – had I been born 50 minutes earlier, my name might have been Paula (find out why at the end of the poem).
Anyone can write free verse – or so the saying goes. Free verse poems are free from limitations of meter, rhythm, or rhyme – all aspects that sometimes cause grief to creative writing students. Most of my students are happy if, for once, they are free to follow their own ideas without having to pay attention to what many perceive as the artificiality of traditional rhymed and metered poetry. However, even free verse poems are not void of artistic expression.