Was Am Going by Ruth Ticktin

Candle-Ends: Review
Bill Lockwood

Front cover of the poetry/flash collection "Was Am Going" by Ruth Ticktin. Image of a body of water looking toward the horizon. The sun is setting and the sky is pink-orange with clouds.

Was Am Going: Recollections in Poetry & Flash by Ruth Ticktin

Ruth Ticktin’s Was Am Going is a short book of poems and flash fiction, some of them excerpts, and some of both forms that have been published previously in various journals and publications. The start of her introduction really sets out what her work is all about:

Was Am Going: Recollections in Poetry and Flash speaks out to life experiences. Tales enfold and themes evolve, forming a camaraderie between reader and author. Merging the past, from the mid-1950s—a girl grows up, observes and discovers—to the 21st Century when a woman considers, recognizes, and carries on.

The title is quite clever. It tells where she was, where she is now, and where she is going.

The recollections she presents are both memoirs and reflections on her life and, actually, life in general, and the times she has lived through. Intriguing and imaginative were the two words that kept coming to mind as I read through the book. Both because of what she is telling and the way she has chosen to tell it.

Her journey through life and across the US starts in the Midwest, and it is broken into three parts. The first part takes her from growing up in Madison, Wisconsin to a post-college solo trip to the west coast and Mexico. It starts with her as a little girl by “the water’s edge,” which is the title of her first poem and a great image as well. Part One ends with her, a young adult, alone, stranded, and broke in El Paso, Texas and calling her parents for a ticket home.

The opening poem, “Wisconsin Waters,” is a two-verse quick introduction that sets the tone. It is focused on a river, and it bounces between its summer and winter states. It also sets up the first short story, “We Didn’t Have a TV,” which also then sets the time of the 1950s when she was growing up. It gives a very accurate description of the TV stars and shows of that era showing how she remembers it well. She also proudly proclaims herself “a reader of books,” though which ones and when, etc. are left to our imagination.

It then goes on with a few more flash fiction pieces describing her growing up. The fiction pieces are written in a pattern of one short line after another, mimicking the look of poetry though the words definitely have the feel of prose. I go back to intriguing and imaginative again. Then when she intersperses actual poetry again, it keeps things fresh and changing, and it certainly makes one want to read on.

I particularly liked one poem, “Ode to Stories.” It evokes all kinds of stories and fairy tale images that are somehow familiar. It starts with “Charlotte unravels her web…” and takes on “elves, witches, and phantoms hiding.” It is a very clever intertwining of all the images it evokes. So, too, is “Home for a Visit,” an image-filled recollection of working as a waitress and bringing home leftovers to her roommates.

Part One ends with “Haiku”, a poem that addressed the status of her was, am, going at the time, certainly appropriate to moving on.

Part Two finds her “a mom in a house.” It goes on with poems and stories of learning, passings, loss, and life. She covers it all. Some of the pieces in this section have been published previously, many of them in DASH Literary Journal. This section includes reflections on a “perfect mom,” the Jewish tradition of marking time after death, and a mail carrier who jumped in and stopped a car that rolled away with a child on board. She isn’t afraid to be political either. “Footsteps, a pantoum” compares the Nazis coming for loved ones to US immigration enforcement.

Part Three takes the title of the first poem in the book, “The Water’s Edge.” It covers the forty years she spent living in Washington, DC. “To Us,” a poem, and “To Washington, DC,” a flash, are both memoirs of her protesting and demonstrating for liberal causes. She has some very good images of Cuba, and she includes thoughts on the recent pandemic of 2020, noting in “A Perspective” that, “Historic fiction about the spring of 2020 will be written.” Prophetic, for sure, but then cryptic in its last line: “It is possible that some stories just end where they end.”

Not to say I loved all her pieces, but the ones I couldn’t “get into” were few and far between.

The book ends on a very optimistic note with a poem called “A Peace Prayer.” This does summarize the tone of the book, optimistic and uplifting. I would recommend it to anyone.


Ruth Ticktin has coordinated international programs, advised and taught English Language Learning in Washington, DC and Maryland since 1977. From Madison and Chicago, graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Ruth encourages sharing stories. Inspired by students, family and community, she is the author of Was Am Going, Recollections Poetry & Flash (NewBayBooks, 2022), coauthor of What’s Ahead? (ProLinguaLearning, 2013), coeditor of Psalms (PoeticaPublishing, 2020) and a contributor to BendingGenres Anthology (2018-19), Art Covid-19 (SanFedelePress, 2020), PressPausePress #6 and several other literary journals.


Bill Lockwood is a retired social worker having had a lifelong passion for writing and participation in community theater. He currently writes articles about the arts and interesting people for The Shopper/Vermont Journal and covers local community theater for the Eagle Times of Claremont, NH. The Wild Rose Press has published six of his Historical Fiction novels: Buried Gold (2016), Megan of the Mists (2017), Ms. Anna (2018), The Monsignor’s Agents (2020), Gare de Lyon (2021), and Forced Entry? (2022). His short story “The Kids Won’t Leave” appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Two Hawks Quarterly, and his story “Pizza, Pizza” appeared in The Raven’s Perch, April 28, 2021. Bill Lockwood is a frequent contributor to Toasted Cheese. This is his sixth book review.

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