75-year-old Piedmonter picks up pen, publishes poems

ever eat fruit in the nude?

it tastes so much better

So writes Arthur Weil, a 75-year-old poet and resident of Piedmont.

That "shortie," what he calls his works of a few lines, appears in his second self-published book of poetry, "Exploding Mind or (Not Over the Hill Yet)."

He self-published his first book, "Life, Love, and Gems That Shine," in 1999.

Weil, who has penned "hundreds of poems," enough for several more books, writes a few each day.

"Sometimes, until the pen goes on the paper, I don't know what I'm writing," he said. "But then, as soon as it happens, it's amazing how the words flow out."

Weil wasn't always so prolific.

Born in Hanover, Germany, he came to the United States in 1938, as part of the Kindertransport. He was 12, and was placed with a Jewish family in Chicago. His mother was able to flee Germany a year later, and his father, after being in a concentration camp, also managed to get out. But almost all of the rest of his family was killed.

Weil then served two years in the U.S. Army, as an interpreter. After finishing his master's degree, he and his wife, Lillian, moved to California, having never been here before.

A doctoral candidate in American history at U.C. Berkeley, Weil completed all the coursework but never wrote a dissertation.

Calling himself "a frustrated writer," he said, "I would sit in the Cal library putting stuff together for term papers for hours. I loved it."

But with two small children and working as a public school teacher, he wasn't able to finish.

Weil taught in the public school system for more than 25 years, and also taught Sunday school at Congregation Beth Sholom in San Leandro. A former member of Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland, he also served on the board of Jewish Family and Children's Services of the East Bay.

And some years ago, he began to dabble in real estate, becoming a broker, and investing in various apartment buildings. He is also an arts lover, attending the theater or the symphony on average two times a week.

About six years ago, he began writing poetry.

"I had wanted to be a writer when I came out of the Army," he said. But his wife, whom he described as "so brilliant, with impeccable English," discouraged him, so he stopped.

He picked up the pen again when she fell ill — she died of lung cancer in 1996. Weil first began with poems on special occasions for family, or for the Kiwanis Club, of which he is a member.

And like most poets, he uses life for inspiration.

Another "shortie":

Spend each day

Life for all of us is brief

Days wanted, stolen like a thief

It's up to you and me

To fill each day with worth and glee

Result in happiness and inner satisfaction

For how we spend this day

Is our choice and our own election

Many of his poems are about family, spirituality and his foray into the dating world as a widower. An active member of Jewish East Bay Singles, Weil said, "Since my wife died, I'm sort of looking at women; the hormones still pucker."

God also appears in many of Weil's poems, and he said, "I have certain religious inspiration." While he meditates daily and lights candles on Friday nights with his children and grandchildren, he said, "I'm religious in a different kind of way, not in a prayer sort of way.

"There is room for something that isn't too heavy in the world," said Weil, who tries to inject a good dose of humor into his poems, many of which rhyme.

"I like to write about philosophical subjects," he continued. "Life is exciting, day by day, and you have to appreciate it."

Weil's books can be found at Cody's Books in Berkeley and online at Amazon.com. And he's given lots of copies away. Even people who say they don't like poetry find they like his works, he said.

He occasionally does local readings, but his biggest challenge is getting exposure.

"I'm not doing it to make money but just to have people read them," he said. "The sharing of ideas transmits your mind and feelings to the next person, and they can take it for whatever it means to them. You're very grateful when somebody does read it."

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."