After surviving cancer, Bayside resident Susan Margulies Kalish decided it was time to start doing some of the things she always wanted to, including her first book, The Cerebral Jukebox: A Collection of Urban Poetry.
Kalish said that, as a young child, she always liked to write. But as she got older, she said that “life always got in the way,” and her writing time was devoted to class work.
After college, Kalish began working for the Board of Education (BOE) with deaf and special needs education. She eventually took a sabbatical, during which time she created a greeting card line.
“That was a tremendous creative process and it was a wonderful high,” Kalish said.
In 2001, shortly before 9/11, Kalish took a second sabbatical, during which time she wrote poetry. She said it made her feel “creative and alive again.”
Kalish, who also makes jewelry, retired from the BOE in 2004. However, the day before her retirement party, she learned that she had breast cancer.
“Cancer really gave me the kick in the butt I needed,” she said, adding that it made her realize she shouldn’t wait to do things because things can happen.
First, Kalish began writing a newsletter to her friends and later started a blog. She signed a contract with iUniverse in 2008 and began the process of putting The Cerebral Jukebox together.
“It was a very long process of organization and reorganization,” Kalish said. “I wanted it to be coherent in sequence and illustration. It was a massive undertaking.”
Kalish said that the collection of poems is autobiographical and that the subject matter “runs the gamut.” They depict a variety of events in her life, including growing up in Stuyvesant Town, the death of her first husband, a trip to France, the murder of a friend, adopting cats, eating in Flushing and 9/11.
“Everything I write about has been an experience,” said Kalish. “There’s nothing that I made up.”
The poems in the book were written as early as 2001, although Kalish said that many of them were written more recently, within the last three or four years. She also said that it was very cathartic for her to open up and share about her life.
In her work, Kalish said that she doesn’t write about anything typical and tends to get hung up on ironies. She also said she likes to write about things that may seem perfect on the surface but that are actually “not quite right.”
Along with her poems, The Cerebral Jukebox also contains some of Kalish’s illustrations, as well as photos taken by herself, her father and others.
Kalish said that it was amazing to see the published book, which came out in May of this year, and described it as being “like a child being born to see it all together.”
For more information about Kalish, or to purchase her book, visit www.SusanMarguliesKalish.com.