Friday, February 11, 2011

the mystery of zingerline

Recently on NPR's Science Friday there was a piece on how our many online social media opportunities raise a question about the multiple identities we all inhabit and how we present ourselves to the world. I think I'm what you might call a "casual user" of this technology, but even I am splintered across this blog and my static website, two accounts on facebook, LinkedIn and twitter (as yet unused), three email addresses (personal,"writer" and teacher), about a dozen listservs (three different usernames) and a charter school identity. And who knows how many sites (Evite, Groupon, to name a few) think they know who I am and what kind of cookies I like?

But long ago--ten whole years and then some--before any of this, when most of us were pretty cutting-edge in having any email address at all, I considered redefining my poet self by writing under a pen name instead of under the same old scary-looking, mispronounceable Mordhorst (which, by the way, is spelled just the way it sounds and pronounced just the way it's spelled, so please don't say MordhUrst). I came back to poetry almost the minute my daughter was born (talk about identity crisis: "You are now Mommy"), and while taking workshops at the wonderful Writers' Center here in Bethesda, I started signing my drafts "Heidi Zingerline."

The new surname choice was totally legit and even served a historical purpose, I thought. My mother's maiden name is Zingerline and with only one set of cousins on her side of the family, both girls, the name is in danger of disappearing from use. Plus, how perfect is that for a poet--zinger-line? Get it?

Then I realized that there was no way to communicate all that information in a byline, and that anyone who didn't know that Zingerline was a real name, mine to use by rights, might see it as a cheesy joke. I briefly considered "Heidi Zingerline Mordhorst," but it's not like "Heidi Mordhorst" needs any further distinguishing feature--maybe, if I had been Lisa Smith my whole life, Lisa Zingerline Smith might have made some sense.

But what really changed my mind was a poem written by a fellow workshopper and instant friend from the Writers' Center. He arrived at a critique group meeting one week in 2000 with this to share, and now the only vestige of my flirtation with Zingerline is in my writer email address, Thank you, Lawrence, for your faith in Mordhorst.

Nom de plume
For "Heidi Zingerline," newly named

A commanding sound -- so majestic!
It could be a painting
by Vermeer: View of

Or a short
story, no? One of Edgar Allan Poe's
more fearsome inventions --
"The Fall of the House of

Or a series
for Masterpiece Theatre -- imagine
Alastair Cooke: "Welcome
to tonight's episode of

I'm sorry I misspelled your name. Please
don't take another just because
my fingers can't type

digits. They pay no attention, and
sometimes the eyes don't either.
But the ears delight in

~Lawrence Biemiller
October, 2000 ~ all rights reserved

The round-up today is with my new acquaintance Carol Rasco, the CEO of RIF. Does my awe at the fact that the CEO of anything big would hang out at Poetry Friday reveal a streak of cynicism, or have I just suffered bad timing?


  1. How wonderful to have that poem written for you! I do like "Zingerline" an awful lot, though -- maybe you could use it for a story character's name someday?

  2. I love Lawrence's poem. But I can also see how Zingerline would be irresistible. If it's any comfort, people misspell "Orange," too. I particularly dislike when it comes out "Drange." Sounds too much like drudge. Or deranged.


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