Great Neck Plaza poet tells grandma tales in new book

Great Neck Plaza poet tells grandma tales in new book
The cover of "Grandma Poems - Not Too Sweet" by Carolyn Raphael, which features her five grandchildren holding lemons, alludes to the sweet, but not too sweet theme of the book. (Photo courtesy of Carolyn Raphael)

When Carolyn Raphael, a 45-year Great Neck Plaza resident and grandparent of five, sat down to put together her latest book, she wanted to do more than just look at the glamour of being a grandma.

“I’ve been looking at a lot of books about grandparenting and most of them seem to be covering the wonderful parts… Nobody was dealing with the equally interesting parts,” Raphael, 77, said in an interview.

The result was “Grandma Poems – Not Too Sweet,” a collection of 27 poems touching on both the joys and tribulations of modern grandparenthood.

The first poem, “Long Distance Grandma,” looks at how rare it is for grandparents and grandchildren to be close to each other, for example, while another one explores what she felt with the birth of her first granddaughter.

Raphael also noted a variety of other tales, like how her younger grandson once wanted to get his nails painted rainbow, how a carpooling trip showed generational differences through music, and teaching them about World War II through ration books.

“I hope people will see a wider picture of grandparenthood than just the pleasures and delights – not that you can take them for granted,” Raphael said.

The book is divided into four sections, with the first focusing on the role of a grandma. The next three sections go chronologically, Raphael said, and are complemented by line art work made by local artist Amy Finkston.

Raphael said the book was officially published in October, but it came out on Amazon and in several book stores in late November and early December.

Since then she has presented the book to the Great Neck Social Center and Veterans Club and plans to read at the Great Neck Library in April.

The book differs from her previous three poetry books, Raphael said, because they drew on her more formalist roots. “Grandma Poemsaims to be “more for people who are not poets.”

“This book is really for people interested being grandmas and an occasional honorary grandpa,” Raphael said. “So it’s a change in pace, and I love it.”

Raphael said that one of the most important things she learned while writing the book was just how much of a learning curve there is to being a grandparent.

“I learned how much learning was involved in being a grandparent,” Raphael said. “When I thought about being a grandparent, I thought it was all pleasure. Not only did I discover that it wasn’t, but there was a lot to learn.”

This book comes on top of her continued involvement in Great Neck Plaza’s annual poetry contest, in which she has solicited poems from Long Islanders and New York City residents.

“It’s really a lot of fun and I enjoy it a lot because it gets people moving,” Raphael said.

Before writing poetry, Raphael wrote and edited academic books as an English professor at Queensborough Community College, looking at topics like English as a second language, composition and language and cognition.

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