Note: Marina Rubin is the author of several volumes of poetry and “Stealing Cherries” (Manic D Press), a 2013 collection of very short (sometimes) autobiographical stories that each fit squarely into a block of text on a single page. The Jewish Week asked her to reflect — in her micro-story style — on her experiences writing the collection and taking it on the road.
I was proud. I had written three books of poetry and the last one had
surpassed even my own expectations in terms of craft, I called it Logic.
But when it came out no one cared, poetry was like a corset, constricting and archaic. I made the only logical decision — not to write again.
I roamed the city looking for meaning, for a new kind of logic, reading
quotes from miniature books in the gardening section until I stumbled on a line from Joseph Campbell “the goal of life is to make your heartbeat
match the beat of the universe.” I looked around, the year was 2007, what was happening in the universe? Facebook. The iPhone just came out. The screen got so much smaller. The attention span shrunk to a couple of
hundred words. That’s when it hit me — I am going to write desperately short stories, 300 words or so, a mini Babel, a shrunken Chekhov, it will
have a plot and a conflict. I remembered the lesson I learned in my
creative writing class — in order to write well, write what you know. What did I know? A family of five arrive from Ukraine with no English and two suitcases per person. College boys celebrate their first Shabbat and the two schlimazels forget to turn off the lights. Young women looking for love at the ESL classes. The book, “Stealing Cherries,” practically wrote itself
and sold itself too, there was a fellowship, sold-out venues, the book tour, customers lined up for an autographed copy. There were two older women who approached the table and one said: “Forgive me please, I hope you
don’t find me rude but I think your book is perfectly timed for the
bathroom.” Her friend objected: “what if you are constipated?”“So you
just read two or more,” the first one replied. “We’ll take three books each, please sign with love,” the two women sang. Now that was the kind of
logic I could understand. ✦
Marina Rubin was born in Vinnitsia, Ukraine, and came to the U.S. with her family in 1989. She’s the recipient of a COJECO Blueprint Fellowship.