Happy Writing?

by Mary Padilla

Attaching an emotion to writing – specifying one in advance – seems unlikely to succeed. How could you know what will pop up when it’s all about spontaneity?  Each thing leads to the next; if it’s working, it’s unpredictable. If we could anticipate it, we wouldn’t need to do it – or want to. What makes it interesting is finding out where it wants to go on its own. Such things are not subject to free will. Perhaps nothing is, but surely not such things. Let the pencil go where it wants and follow where it leads. If we’re leading it, it’s lemmings for sure. How can we know what we think until we see what we write?  

Art that can be planned is not worth doing. We need it to surprise us, as it always will if it comes from what we don’t know that we know. That way we’ll never be bored, nor will the reader. To be happy is to be engaged, to be interested in what’s coming next, and to want to be around to find out. This is why we show up – because we want to. And wanting something is necessary but not sufficient for being happy. We need to care about something enough to want it. Whether we get it or not is much less important, neither necessary nor sufficient. 

Not trying allows it to happen of itself, if we’re not invested in making it materialize. It’s not some product we’re after, but the experience of having it pass through us freely and without interference, not needing or wanting for it to be examined or perfected. Being unexpected, it will be original – there is no other choice.

If we’re happy writing, then we’re not thinking about whether or not we’re happy.  If we’re wondering whether we’re happy, we probably aren’t. If we’re happy to be happy, that’s about all it takes. It doesn’t matter what it is we’re happy about. And if we’re not happy in this moment, that doesn’t mean that we won’t be in the next one.  It’s just not predictable. These things can come and go without our knowledge or consent, but they’re not entirely beyond reach. Just keep writing.  And then comes the most important part: knowing when to stop. When whatever we add makes it worse, it’s complete – before we start to over-think and over-write, just STOP.  

Since joining the LP2 several years ago, Mary has been trying new things, like essay writing.




Letter from the Director


This semester begins the 50th Anniversary of the Institute for Retired Professions (IRP), the first campus-based program for retired and semi-retired adults – a program that has become a model for more than 400 other Institutes for Learning in Retirement. Those of you who are reading this know that the IRP offers its members an opportunity to create and maintain a community in which all share responsibility for a unique academic adventure.

In 1968, only six years after its founding, the IRP created its first publication devoted entirely to the creative writings of retired and semi-retired people – stories, memoirs, and poetry. That year happened, also, to be the 50th anniversary of the founding of the New School! So it seems particularly appropriate that this, our first on-line publication, appears in IRP’s 50th year.

Many thanks to all the IRP writers who have shared their concerns, their creativity, and their lives with us. Our gratitude, also, to the editors and the members of the reading committee who helped to create this journal. Congratulations to all.

Michael Markowitz
Director, New School Institute for Retired Professionals

Voices 1968

The article below was written for the first official, bound edition of an IRP publication; at the time, it was titled “The IRP Review.” The date is November 1968

The booklet format replaced a mimeographed, hand-stapled edition that was distributed for a number of years. It’s coincidental that the new format celebrated The New School’s 50th anniversary; our new online format will celebrate the IRP’s 50th.

The article was written by Hy Hirsch, the Director of IRP at the time.


Half-Century Birthday

“The New School opened with éclat for the Spring term of 1919. Every liberal in the city was excited by the novel venture of an institution headed by two such dynamic figures as Robinson and Beard, self-defrocked from the conventional academic life.”

Thus Alvin Johnson, also a founder, recalled how the New School for Social Research was started. During its fifty-year life its roster of faculty members include such names as Thorstein Veblen, Morris R. Cohen, Charles A. Beard, T. S. Eliot, etc. Even today it boasts of scholars of international reputation such as Erick Fromm, Hannah Arendt, Rollo May, and Charles Abrams among its faculty. Few universities can claim similar distinction.

It brought not only a distinguished faculty out of academia, but also rescued some of the scholars of Europe in its University in Exile during the thirties. Its imaginative programs in adult education have been coopied by many institutions of learning.

We in the IRP represent a new venture for an institution of higher learning to accommodate the expanding educational demands of retired professionals. So too in the establishment of the Art Center, and most recently the New School College and the Center for New York City Affairs, the school has attempted to meet the pressing needs of youth and our urban society.

Beginning this fall The New School will celebrate its fiftieth birthday. In the course of the year a series of events will bring the school to national and international attention. All of its pioneering programs of the past and present will be publicized and subjected to public scrutiny, and the IRP will come in for its fair share of publicity. Perhaps other institutions of higher learning over the country may be motivated to start programs similar to ours.

During the celebration year the school will announce the expansion plans. As a department in the School, the Institute for Retired Professionals, you may rest assured, will be included. It is my sincere wish, and I am sure this is also true of most of the membership, that The New School will succeed in its program.

Current Issue

John Krajci (1927-2011)

IRP members fortunate enough to know John Krajci will not forget him. After years spent as a marketing executive for Met Life, he began to dedicate much of his life to reading and writing poetry. His work delighted us with its individuality, keen feeling, and faintly outrageous humor. In this first issue of IRP VOICES on line, we eagerly pay tribute to John’s quiet but impressive accomplishments.

John Krajci, Please Believe Me

John Krajci, Mohs Survivor

John Krajci, From a Brook At Moon Dance

John Krajci, East Meadow, New York – 1935

Victor Hughes (1930-2010)

Whenever you saw Victor your day became a little better. A generous spirit with a quick wit, Victor loved playing the curmudgeon but that was just an act. A familiar sight whizzing through the streets of New York on his bicycle, or offering wry commentary in one of his IRP classes or engaged in a conversation, Victor made you smile from the inside out. Victor may be gone but he left behind a wonderful body of writing.

Victor Hughes, Danger Deferred 



Publisher: Tom Ashley
Associate Publisher: Ron Russo
Associate Editor: Charles Troob


Eileen Brener
Lorna Porter

James Avitabile
Ivy Berchuck
Judith Granite
Alix Kane
Carmen Mason
Dolores Walker
Elaine Greene Weisburg


Sarah White

Mark Fischweicher
Judith Fried
Ruth Kavesh
Fred Shinagel
Lucy Wollin

Letter from the Publisher



The New School’s Institute for Retired Professionals has had an august history since its founding in 1962 as our nation’s first peer learning institution. One venerable component of this tradition has been the publication of VOICES, celebrating the original writings of program participants.

VOICES has moved forward into the digital age with the new IRP VOICES ONLINE. This shift will allow us to accomplish many goals. We will publish more works in each issue, will come out twice a year rather than annually, and will keep all digital publications on-line. Photography will be included in our spring edition. Eventually other media may also be included, including painting, sculpture, and video

You will be able to access IRP VOICES ONLINE from anywhere in the world: via our own URL irpvoicesonline.com; on the New School University’s IRP site; and on the IRP’s internal site, irpzine.org.

We received unwavering support in this project from IRP Advisory Board vice-chairman Miriam Lawrence, and from the IRP Director, Michael Markowitz. My heartfelt gratitude goes to our staff, who made all this happen: Associate Publisher Ron Russo, Associate Editor Charles Troob, editors Sarah White, Eileen Brener and Lorna Porter, and a dedicated group of readers. Our highly professional web designer, Wei Tchou, has given us both this issue and a template for further development.

And finally: the IRP is a community engaged in a rich, diverse learning experience. Along the way we develop friendships extending well beyond the classroom. In recent months we lost two beloved members, John Kracji and Victor Hughes, both great writers. We dedicate this inaugural issue to them.



Tom Ashley, Publisher



by Harriet Sohmers Zwerling

“She comes on drenched in perfume called

            Self-Satisfaction from feather boa to silver pumps.

Edward Field, Mae West

Her hair glows like the moon and her fiery lips have a cruel
turn that says I conquer!

She loves herself and expects you to …
While you are looking fearfully
in the bathroom mirror,
slathering your cheeks with cream,
plucking doubtfully at your eyebrows,
seeking a fuller shape for your lips,
she is queening it on the screen with men—
Cary Grant groveling in admiration before her
bountiful breasts and full white arms.

Truth is; you don’t have to be a beauty to rule!
You do have to burn with
sensual fever. You do have to empty your mind
of banality. You do have to be daring
and free of those antique prohibitions.
that kept us humble  You do have to imagine yourself
as the proud, conquering female of your tribe,
and never refuse an adventure.

Harriet Sohmers Zwerling: Ex-expatriate, ex-nude model, ex-school teacher. Forever hedonist, grandmother and of course, writer.


by Harriet Sohmers Zwerling

At first glance it is all one blue,
but nearer, you see the
indigo above, the teal below.
A pale ocher line divides them
into two unequal parts,
sky above, bay below,
the town wharf between.
Light from somewhere paints
the facades of the boat house,
the cold storage, the office.
And lined up along the pier
are the tiny fishing boats,
like wispy mosquitoes.

Judging from the darkness, a storm is coming.
That thick sky will soon glimmer with
lightning; the almost emerald water
leap with raindrops and
the pier disappear into the fog.

And I will be back at Beach Point
with you, love…

Harriet Sohmers Zwerling: Ex-expatriate, ex-nude model, ex-school teacher. Forever hedonist, grandmother and of course, writer.

To Barbara Tuchman

by Lucy Wollin

Despite you, we are
Refugees from history,
And out there in the stars
Spacemen adjust a bolt
And come back, wanting to
Ignore the news.

The Khmer Rouge threw doctors headless into pits
We do not hear the cries from the boneyards
Blind as a veteran’s thousand-meter stare
John Wayne is marching into El Salvador
Children are dragged from their parents screaming

We belly our ambushes into jungles
Men and women hide behind the giant ferns
Lobbing curses
Yankee so’jer you die tonight
And take our guns from us
And hang our ears from their belts
And paint their faces green

And so’jer you die
Despite fields of fire
Agent orange
Rumors of war
We are lost
And they are lost, too.

Lucy Wollin has been writing poetry on and off since she was able to write. Attending the Bread Loaf English School and Writers’ Conference helped her to focus and taking Sarah White’s IRP classes was a source of ideas as well.

Sweet Five

by Sarah White

Five o’clock
on a winter morning.
Half asleep

at the door.

Bad dream,
I mumble—
Crawl in …
It’s warm.

At dawn
he wakes,
looks around,
 is really living,
he exclaims.

Sarah White: Author of Cleopatra Haunts the Hudson (Spuyten Duyvil, 2007) and Alice Ages and Ages (BlazeVox, 2010), she is working on a collection of linked poems inspired by Dante’s Purgatorio.