Poetry-letter writer dies at 93 | AspenTimes.com

Poetry-letter writer dies at 93

May Rose Salkin
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ASPEN – For May Rose Salkin, poetry was like a snapshot – a photo created by words.

“That’s exactly what they were … a little piece of life as she saw it,” her daughter, Betty Wallach, said Tuesday. “And Aspen was so much a part of that.”

Salkin, whom many Aspen locals will remember for her poems in letters to the editors of local newspapers, died on Christmas Day. She was 93.

Salkin’s poems – short, rhyming pieces about her summers in Aspen – were well-received around the Roaring Fork Valley. The retired English teacher sent stacks of her work, all handwritten in calligraphy, to both papers between June and August each summer for decades. Some years, nearly six dozen would appear in print.

But Salkin and her poetry also were known for attracting critics, some harsher than others, mocking her poetry-style letters on newspaper commentary pages.

“At first, I got annoyed with that, and I used to answer,” Salkin said in July 2003, when she told The Aspen Times she could no longer travel to altitude because of a “heart episode.” “But I thought that was ridiculous, so I stopped responding. But some people wrote very clever poems (in response).”

It was that optimistic attitude that Wallach said really defined her mother.

“She never could understand why people would get their knickers in a bunch over this older lady who would write poetry,” she said, adding that most of her mother’s poems were simple thank-yous or “charming observations.” “But even when she wrote something that included gentle chiding – something they didn’t like – these people could have just turned the page.

“She was just trying to share things she saw and loved through writing poems, which she also loved.”

Salkin first got hooked on writing when she was 10 and sent her first poem to the Brooklyn, N.Y., Daily Eagle, getting it published and receiving $5 from the paper. She studied English and journalism through school and wound up as an English teacher for 47 years in Brooklyn’s public schools.

She and her late husband, Martin, began visiting Aspen after her children discovered the Rocky Mountain town. She ultimately spent 25 summers becoming part of the local fabric. Part of that was writing simple little ditties about life in Aspen as seen through May Rose-colored glasses.

In addition to the Aspen papers, Salkin sent her work to The New York Times (where several poems were printed) and had a four-line poem published as the opening page of Judy Reiser’s book “Admit It, You’re Crazy: Quirks, Idiosyncransies, and Irrational Behavior.” Television news even got a taste for Salkin – a Denver news station profiled her when the buzz in Aspen was that Salkin was actually Elvis.

“She never really got the connection,” Wallach said. “But it was fun. It was part of her Aspen experience.”

Indeed, Salkin’s connection to Aspen – for better or worse, in humor and seriousness – was deep, her daughter said. In her final poem to The Aspen Times back in 2003, Salkin waxed nostalgic about the town she long called home in summer:

“Back-to-Brooklyn time is near / The thought of saying “goodbye” is dreary / I love the glory of large and small / In fact, Aspen, I love you all” – May Rose Salkin.

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com


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