Art Beat: Measuring The Marigolds

Mar 21, 2019

Miriam Bat-Ami
Credit Ron Rubens

Retired Western Michigan University professor Miriam Bat-Ami crosses many literary genres. She writes books for kids and young adults as well as memoirs, creative nonfiction, and fiction for adults. To choose her genre, she considers her audience and asks, "Who will be part of this conversation?" With her new poetry collection, Measuring the Marigolds (Caffeinated Press, 2018), Bat-Ami speaks to adults experiencing the ups, downs, and in-betweens of family relationships.

Bat-Ami says she started writing in her college years, beginning with poetry, but then had set it aside while raising her children.

“When I got a tenure-track job here at Western, I picked it up again,” she says. “My kids were still little, so I started writing children’s material. I was teaching English education and children’s literature. It all fit in very well.”

While Bat-Ami says she knew about the format for children’s books — that they had to be 32 pages, for instance — she found that the greatest challenge was to write simply.

Bat-Ami returned to poetry with her new collection, Measuring the Marigolds, which features her photography on the cover.

Credit Miriam Bat-Ami

“The cover is our block,” she says, referring to her home in Mattawan. “It seems to me to connect to the poem, 'It’s Just a Road,' and it also represents a kind of stretching out to the future and also to the past.”

The title for the book comes from a song in the 1952 film, Hans Christian Andersen, starring Danny Kaye. Bat-Ami explains.

“To me, the song represents the difference between a quantitative life and a quality life,” she says. “The last stanza says, inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds.”

Bat-Ami measures much of her life by measuring the time spent with family, coming and going, as she finally finds herself living in an empty nest. Measuring, she says, also alludes to her mother, a violinist who was always aware of the precise measures in music.

“She was mathematically inclined, which I think you need to be as a musician,” Bat-Ami says.

Miriam Bat-Ami lives in Mattawan where she and her husband raised two children, as well as dogs, cats, chickens, and an assortment of small furry creatures. She has published four other books. When she is not writing or gardening, she acts in local theaters and loves making people laugh.

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