Sid Gold on the Poetry of life … From Eastern Europe to New York and Baltimore

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Sid Gold, 73, a two-time recipient of the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award for Poetry, has published four books of poetry and is currently completing work on a fifth manuscript. He is one of four poets selected as “Best of Baltimore” by Baltimore magazine in 2019.

Sid Gold (Courtesy)

Gold’s poems have also been published in various journals and reviews, including Southern Review, Poet Lore, Fledgling Rag, Free State Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal and Loch Raven Review, among others.

The native New Yorker decided to make Maryland his permanent home when he came to the state in 1977 to work on his Ph.D. Once there, he “discovered Baltimore,” and its arts and poetry scene, and that became his new base. Today, he lives about an hour away in Hyattsville.

Of the poetry world, Gold remarked: “It is a very big tent, nationally and internationally.”

He recounted his life as a child growing up in the Bronx at 163 E. 184 St., not far, he noted, from 187 Street, where Chazz Palminteri, the protagonist in “A Bronx Tale” — the coming-of-age film with actor Robert De Niro set in the 1960s — grew up.

Gold was 3 years old when his infant brother died and just a toddler when his parents divorced. He remained close to his father, Arnold Gold, a sculptor who died in 1998. Gold remembered his father as a “superior natural athlete of some local fame.”

Gold went to Hebrew school as a child and was bar mitzvahed in a small, observant congregation. He fondly recalled his Jewish neighborhood as one dotted with “about 200 Jewish study halls and storefront synagogues.”

“I grew up in a heavily Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx shortly after World War II; the Holocaust was always with us. Seeing the numbers on people’s arms was not an unusual occurrence. It’s part of my consciousness,” he said.

There are only a handful of synagogues in the Bronx left today; the synagogue where he performed his bar mitzvah is now a Latino church. Gold acknowledged that he hasn’t attended services in years, but “if I find myself near a synagogue, I often enter to look at the sanctuary for a bit.”

Gold started writing poetry in the 1970s and taught writing courses at George Washington University for 19 years. He said he was a very “detail-oriented instructor.”

On the process of writing, he noted, “I taught some literature at different places; it made me into a much better writer.” While he is now retired from teaching, he still writes and is in the process of submitting his fifth book for publication.

Gold, who never married or had children, published his first book, “Working Vocabulary,” in 1997, followed by his second in 2010, “Year of the Dog Throwers.” Gold published his third work, “Good With Oranges,” in 2015, and three years later, in 2018, “Crooked Speech.”

‘You get an idea and start writing’

Gold majored in English at SUNY Brockport — near the Erie Canal and not far from Buffalo, N.Y. — where he instantly liked poetry, saying “it got me.” He added that “the educational systems worked at Brockport.” He loved to read, and majoring in English just made sense.

Gold’s grandparents arrived in the United States before World War I. His maternal grandfather grew up in Kiev. His maternal grandmother grew up in what is now Lithuania, was apprenticed as a seamstress at 12 years old in Vilna (Vilnius), married, then left for America after the failed revolution of 1905-07. His paternal grandfather grew up in Odessa, Ukraine, and left for the United States because of the czar’s draft, recounted the poet. With the exception of one brother and one sister, all of his maternal grandmother’s family who stayed behind perished in the Holocaust.

Gold’s mother, Judith Gold (née Friend) was born in 1922 and died in 2005. His son said: “I cherish the photos I have of my mother’s parent’s families in Europe.”

Asked about his source of inspiration, the poet reflected a bit: “I don’t know where it comes from. You get an idea and start writing. The most important thing to remember is to ask whether you are merely writing for yourself, which is fine, or intent on writing poems that anyone else will see as poetry?”

Meaning, “do you really have the ability to write poems that someone else will care about?”

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