The book is divided four sections: Elaine Ash’s introduction, telling how she met and became acquainted with Mia Elkovsky Phoebus; Mia’s stories about her childhood, her Russian émigré parents, her success as a mezzo-soprano, and her personal life; and two chapters of Mia’s poems, edited and arranged by MLRigdon and June Mauritzen. In her poems, Mia considers life, love, beauty, creativity, philosophy, hopelessness, loneliness, the Jewish plight, justice, and death as well as whimsical thoughts and tributes to people such as Martha Graham, Kafka, Toulouse-Lautrec, and a number of Russian poets who fled to Jerusalem during 1939-1945. Her poems offer startling images and sardonic observations about the state of the world and even modern poetry, about which she says seems “astringent and cold silencing melody we need to hear/ so we can live.”
Now in her nineties, Mia continues to be a vibrant advocate of the arts. Through her poetry, she speaks with a distinctive voice of time, beauty, and creativity, albeit with an undercurrent of longing for reason, order, and language. “Where are the elegant outbursts of Oedipus, Socrates, Hamlet, Thomas Paine?” she asks. “The language of Homer, Shakespeare, Goethe was shipped on the last train to Auschwitz…” she writes with sorrow. In spite of such themes, she states, “To say ‘yes’ to life is not for the weak or indecisive.” Instead, one must "offer a stranger a glass of red wine….”
After reading a few pages of Walking the Dunes, my reaction was spontaneous and quick. “I am reading Mia’s book, and I’m loving it,” I wrote to a friend. Here is a story both realistic and rich in detail and substance, a remarkable book by and about a remarkable woman.