Her mother was as talented at writing poetry as Robert Frost.
That’s what then-Great Neck resident Pauli Libsohn thought after bringing home a book of the poet’s seminal works in the 1990s, more than two decades after her mother Mitzi Libsohn began scribbling lines in a notebook.
“I went into her closet and got out all the poetry at, like, 10 o’clock at night and I started reading Robert Frost and then her, and of course she laughed at me, but then she realized there was something to this, that she really was as good as Robert Frost,” said Pauli, a longtime receptionist at Rallye Mercedes of Roslyn and current Manhasset resident.
Now readers will be able to compare the two poets for themselves.
After Mitzi died in 2008, after years of rejections from magazines and publishing houses, Pauli embarked on a mission to see her mother’s poetry in print.
Nearly six years later, she’s released a posthumous anthology, entitled “Immortal Kisses, Confessions of a Poet,” through Page Publishing.
“She was different. She was a cut above the rest,” Pauli said. “I know she had gold in her poems. I want recognition for her. It’s taken 40 years, but I’ve never given up.”
Mitzi’s first poem came in 1971, after Pauli took a creative writing course as an undergraduate student at C.W. Post and was assigned a poem in the style of an English renaissance author that she read aloud to her mother and father.
Over the next three decades, the work fell out of Mitzi, a housewife, Pauli said.
“I would come home and she’d say, ‘I wrote another poem today,’” Pauli said. “She’d sit at the kitchen table and write, and I’d type them out. The kitchen table became her place to write and receive adulation from me and my father.”
Mitzi’s husband David was often a source of inspiration for her poems, her daughter said.
The couple met at Rockaway Beach in the early 1930s, where Mitzi’s parents had a bungalow and where David worked as a lifeguard.
Each day, she’d occupy him with books of poems, and when they would part – she to Forrest Hills, he to the Bronx – they would exchange letters about the stories they shared that summer and whatever he’d read that winter.
“It’s funny because they met when my mother was 12 and my father was 17, and she would just never let him go,” Pauli said. “The poem ‘Immortal Kisses’ represents their romance and meeting on the beach, and that’s why I made it the title [of the book]. I believe the nature of her poetry is symbolic of their romance.”
Eventually, Pauli convinced Mitzi to attempt to have her work published.
One by one, the poems were rejected, first from magazines and newspapers, then from publishing houses.
But Mitzi kept writing, even after David died in 2004.
“When my father passed, her poems became even more glorious,” Pauli said. “I think she used poetry as a catharsis.”
When she died for years later, Mitzi had written more than 200 poems of varying lengths.
The work wouldn’t be discovered until 2011, when Pauli discovered her mother’s manuscripts and began typing any lingering lines that remained in Mitzi’s notebooks.
Pauli organized the poems in the order she said her mother would have wanted and shopped the anthology. Page bit on Pauli’s line.
“My mother had trouble getting published because she was an unknown, and people have this stigma about poetry that it’s too existential and hard to understand,” Pauli said. “But Page Publishing is fantastic. They really get poetry. They saw that there was something to this, and I am just so determined to see the fruits of her labor recognized. I want everyone to know about her.”