I was born in Queens, New York in 1951, across the street from an amusement park called Fairyland. The nurses in the hospital wrapped me in a yellow blanket and sent me home to a family of talkers, readers, storytellers, and prolific fabricators who shared their love of words with me. Drawing and painting were my first loves, I was read to every night and soon became a constant reader. But it wasn’t until my third grade teacher recited Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Bells,” that it occurred to me that I could be a writer myself. Enthralled by the way Poe made music with words, I went home to write my first poem, certain of my path.

Some people travel. My journey has taken me through fairy tales, mythology, archaeology, books on slavery, Native American spirituality, Russian novels, Brecht, all of Jane Austen, Doris Lessing’s Canopus books, Jane Roberts’ Seth books, and Nachman of Bratzlav’s stories. My favorite writers are Woolf, Colette, Proust, and Kawabata. My favorite stories: Gogol’s “The Nose,” and Peretz’s “Bontshe Shvayg.” Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and Sufi texts have fed me, along with the Jewish stories I heard growing up, the Jewish books I’ve devoured, and the gay stories I had to intuit until they started to be told around me.

My life’s work seems to be an integration of all of my loves, through the mediation of my aging Jewish body. You will find in my writing a range of voices, some my own and some received, a term I prefer to ‘channeled.’ My styles vary. I write very long novels and very very short stories. My published work includes books on angels and pieces in gay erotic anthologies. Years ago I decided that I would write a book in every genre. Cookbook and murder mystery lie somewhere in my future. And twenty-three unpublished books live in ream boxes in a cabinet in my study, along with a good number of blessings and prayers to be found in the newly published siddur of my synagogue, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco.

photo by andrea Andrew

Words enthrall me: on the back of a cereal box, a conversation overheard on the 22 Fillmore bus. Stacks of books surround my desk, my bed. The single most sustained act of my life has been keeping a journal, which I began in 1971. I write with a fountain pen, not daily, but often, and am now in Volume 125.  While I reside in San Francisco, my soul’s work is writing and my true home is a house of words, words the luminous bridge between matter and spirit.

May 2010
Iyar 5770


House of Words

Andrew Ramer