Sydell Rosenberg, a teacher and Briarwood resident, had a writing career that spanned decades and in April, her daughter will fulfill Rosenberg’s lifelong dream of publishing a children’s book.
Rosenberg, who taught in a number of New York City public schools, including P.S. 99 in Kew Gardens, began writing poetry as a child. She continued to write throughout her decades-long teaching career and was anthologized in a number of journals and books.
The one thing she did not accomplish before her death in 1996, was publishing her manuscript full of children’s haiku from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Her daughter Amy Losak set out to share her mother’s poetry with the world and on April 10 Rosenberg’s book, “H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z,” will be published by Penny Candy Books.
“When I was looking through her work, I saw that so much of her work still had value and appeal for today’s audience, for today’s readers,” Losak said. “I responded to the work and I felt that others would respond to the work, as well.”
Losak said it took her time to “marshal the emotional energy” needed to look through her mother’s manuscripts and pitch the work to publishers, but she always knew it was a project she had to complete.
Throughout the process, Losak shared her mother’s work at events with the Queens Botanical Garden and partnered with Arts For All, a nonprofit that offers “artistic opportunities” to city public school students. Her mother’s haiku have been used at P.S. 76 in Long Island City to teach art — painting, drawing and collage and music.
Losak said her mother “woke up every day excited about life” and this zest for adventure can be seen in her poetry.
“I want people to know she had a gift for life and a joy for seeing special moments in everyday things and to maybe try to impart some of that through her book and her poetry,” she said.
Her poems “reflect an urban sensibility” and there are references to Queens in the book:
Queuing for ice-cream
Sweat-sprinkled office workers
on Queens Boulevard
“[Writing a haiku] is a wonderful way to try and slow down and really pay attention to what’s going on around you, to use all your senses to engage with aspects of the world and then put that down on paper,” Losak said.
The book will be published during National Poetry Month and the 50th anniversary of the Haiku Society of America, whose first president was Leroy Kanterman, a Forest Hills resident. Rosenberg was a charter member of the organization and Losak, who writes her own haiku, is a member today.
She said she hopes her mother’s book also inspires children and adults alike to try writing their own poems or to begin their own creative endeavors.
“I just want people to enjoy the poetry, just have fun with it and if it sparks a desire or a motivation to try their own hand at any kind of creative activity that’s great,” she said. “[My mother] loved Queens, she loved having adventures every day — we’re not talking about grand adventures, walking down the sidewalk to Queens Boulevard could be an adventure. That’s what she tried to capture in her very simple poems for kids and it’s not about the big grand adventure, it’s about finding the richness in everyday things.”
“H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z” will be released through Penny Candy Books on April 10 and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon for $13.21. It will also be available at independent bookstores throughout the city.