An afternoon with Marvin Farber

It’s the Great Depression, and a 16-year-old Martin Farber dances a jaunty jitterbug on the dance floor of downtown Chicago’s Panther Room. Farber’s nights in the Panther Room marked the beginning of a rebellious streak, eventually pushing Farber to leave his native Chicago and move to Los Angeles.

Born Jan. 9, 1921, 91-year-old Farber grew up in Chicago, where he attended Sullivan High School. At 20, against his parent’s wishes, Farber was on his way to Los Angeles.

Seventy-five years later, in his Santa Monica home, comfortable in a blue checkered button-down under a faded orange sweater, Farber leaned back in his grey swivel chair to discuss his new book of poetry, “I’ve Always Been a Dancer.”

Twelve years ago, Farber graduated from Santa Monica College¾a proud moment in his illustrious career. During his time at SMC, he was an active writer for The Corsair.

Written in what Farber calls his “octogenarian years,” “I’ve Always Been a Dancer” sheds light on his feelings towards growing old and his philosophies on life. Enriched with memories from his youthful past and departed friends, Farber writes to engage all ages.

“I left Chicago because I was going to Northwestern University which was just a couple of miles from my house, and I didn’t like it,” Farber said.

Under pressure from his father, he studied business administration. “I wasn’t at all interested. I wanted to go to journalism school.”

But it wasn’t growing up in the Great Depression, seeing jazz legends play, or traveling 2000 miles alone for the first time that inspired him to write poetry. That inspiration came half a century later.

“After I graduated from SMC, I enrolled in some classes at Emeritus college,” Farber said. “A friend of mine took me to a class that she felt I would like--it was a class in poetry.”

His interest in creative writing burgeoned. Written over a nine year span, his poetry almost exclusively deals with his twilight years, but this collection is sweetly contrasted by a section dedicated to his wife, Ruth, and Anna, his granddaughter, who has a featured poem in her namesake section.

The tension between father and son presents itself in “I’ve Always Been a Dancer.” As a young man, Farber dreamed of being a tap dancer, but his sports-oriented father would not allow it. In the poem, Farber reasons, “No shame, Papa, hardly pathetic/ I’ve always been a dancer.”

Perhaps most telling is “An Octogenarian’s Write of Passion.” Farber composes straightforward poetry that speaks to overcoming an old man’s fear of growing old, comparing it to a “Herculean task.” He cites this poem as the most emotionally revealing, in which he tells himself to “embrace the riches of time on hold/ enhance the wealth of growing old.”

These days Farber attends an autobiographical writing class on Saturdays, as well as Green Poets on Tuesdays, a spinoff of the Emeritus poetry class he took.

“My philosophy is, as we get older, our bodies don’t function as well, and it’s very hard for me to walk, but it’s very important to adjust your life,” he said. “And by so doing, you go at a different pace, because you continue everything you’re interested in doing.”

Farber’s collection of poems, I’ve Always Been a Dancer, is available on for $12.95.