SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ORIT GIDALI

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KOHELET
By Orit Gidali, Translated by Marcela Sulak

I, Kohelet, was king of Jerusalem,
I really was.
Treading over a thousand flowers on my way to the white bed
where my wives waited to remove the crown from my head–
made of marzipan in the biting of sweet tongues–
my silk rubbing against their silk, my flesh would choose among
them, and my flesh was already sweet in their flesh.
Kohelet, I held a thousand women
and I didn’t have a single one
I could recognize by smell
or by her skin or her feet,
her steps as she walked away from me: David’s lament.
Her steps toward me: his song.
I am Kohelet, Solomon,
my linen is the mystery of shrouds
and my bitten crown is above me.



קוהלת

אני קוהלת מלך הייתי בירושלים
באמת הייתי
דורך על אלף פרחים בדרכי למיטה הלבנה
שם חיכו נשותי, שהסירו את כתר ראשי
העשוי מרציפן בנגיסת לשונות מתוקות, משיי
מתחכך במשיין, והייתי בוחר מתוכן לבשרי,
ובשרי כבר מתוק בבשרן.
קוהלת החזקתי אלף נשים
ולא היתה לי אישה יחידה
לזהות את ריחה
ועורה ורגליה
צעדיה ממני: קינת דוד
צעדיה אלי: שירתו
אני קוהלת שלמה
סתרי תכריכים של סדיני
וכתרי הנגוס מעלי.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in The Bakery, was published in the collection Esrim Ne’arot LeKane [Twenty Girls to Envy Me] (Sifriat Poalim, Tel Aviv, 2003), and appears here today with permission from the translator.)

Orit Gidali is an Israeli poet. Her first poetry collection, Esrim Ne’arot LeKane [Twenty Girls to Envy Me], was published by Sifriat Poalim in 2003. Gidali is also the author of Smikhut [Construct State] (2009), and the children’s book Noona Koret Mahshavot [Noona the Mindreader] (2007). She is married to poet Ben-Ari Alex, and is a mother, writing workshop facilitator, and lecturer in the Department of Communication at Tel Aviv University.

Marcela Sulak is the author of two collections of poetry and has translated three collections of poetry from the Czech Republic and Congo-Zaire. Her essays appear in The Iowa Review, Rattle, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. She directs the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University, where she is senior lecturer in American Literature.

Editor’s Note: Kohelet is the original Hebrew name for Ecclesiastes, one of the Writings that comprises a portion of the Hebrew Bible. The book is an autobiographical account of Kohelet’s search for the meaning of life and the best way to live. Kohelet introduces himself as “son of David, king in Jerusalem,” and is therefore sometimes believed to be Solomon. This book, however, was written anonymously and is believed to have ben penned late in the 3rd century B.C.E., while Solomon’s reign was circa 970 to 931 B.C.E.

In today’s piece the poet associates Kohelet with King Solomon and explores the notion that “heavy is the head that wears the crown.” To get to his marriage bed the king must trample a thousand flowers. He has “held a thousand women” (Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines and may have had an affair with the Queen of Sheba), but “didn’t have a single one / [he] could recognize by smell / or by her skin or her feet.” His wives remove his crown from his head—perhaps an allusion to his wives’ polytheism which influenced Solomon and displeased God—and at that his crown is “made of marzipan” and therefore vulnerable to “the biting of sweet tongues.” In the end he is left shrouded in mystery with a bitten crown.

As fascinating as the midrashic element of today’s piece is, it is the vibrant and lyrically explicit language that brings the scene to life. The beauty of the lyric is itself almost biblical: “my silk rubbing against their silk, my flesh would choose among / them, and my flesh was already sweet in their flesh.” It was no small effort on the part of the poem’s translator, Marcela Sulak, whose original work was featured on this series last week, to translate today’s poem from Hebrew into English while still maintaining elements of rhyme, meter, and lyric beauty. This is a piece as rich in English as in the original Hebrew, and which carries as much depth and beauty in both languages.

Want to read more by and about Orit Gidali?
Author’s Official Website (in Hebrew)
The Ilanot Review
Blue Lyra Review
Buy Nora the Mindreader on Amazon
Orit Gidali’s Blog (in Hebrew)

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: DANUSHA LAMÉRIS

Author Web Photo
ARABIC
By Danusha Laméris

I don’t remember the sounds
rising from below my breastbone
though I spoke that golden language
with the girls of Beirut, playing hopscotch
on the hot asphalt. We called out to our mothers
for lemonade, and when the men
walking home from work stooped down,
slipped us coins for candy, we thanked them.
At the market, I understood the bargaining
of the butcher, the vendors of fig and bread.
In Arabic, I whispered into the tufted ears
of a donkey, professing my love. And in Arabic
I sang at school, or dreamt at night.
There is an Arab saying,
Sad are only those who understand.
What did I know then of the endless trail
of losses? In the years that have passed,
I’ve buried a lover, a brother, a son.
At night, the low drumroll
of bombs eroded the edges of the city.
The girls? Who knows what has been taken
from them.

For a brief season I woke
to a man who would whisper to me
in Arabic, then tap the valley of my sternum,
ask me to repeat each word,
coaxing the rusty syllables from my throat.
See, he said, they’re still here.
Though even that memory is faint.
And maybe he was right. What’s gone
is not quite gone, but lingers.
Not the language, but the bones
of the language. Not the beloved,
but the dark bed the beloved makes
inside our bodies.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in Rattle and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Danusha Laméris’s work has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, The Sun and Crab Orchard Review as well as in a variety of other journals. She was a finalist for the 2010 and 2012 New Letters Prize in poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize four times. Her first book, The Moons of August, was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the Autumn House Press poetry contest, and is set for release in early 2014. She lives in Santa Cruz, California and teaches an ongoing poetry workshop.

Editor’s Note: What riches lie within today’s poem. How alive the market of the poet’s memory. Reading this piece is like walking through a souq; the corridors are buzzing and vibrant, but be aware. Keep your eyes wide open. In the caverns below the language lie both treasures and warnings. Both the language and the bones.

Want to read more by and about Danusha Laméris?
Author’s Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: RAUL GUTIERREZ

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LIES I’VE TOLD MY 3 YEAR OLD LATELY
By Raul Gutierrez


Trees talk to each other at night.

All fish are named either Lorna or Jack.

Before your eyeballs fall out from watching too much TV, they get very loose.

Tiny bears live in drain pipes.

If you are very very quiet you can hear the clouds rub against the sky.

The moon and the sun had a fight a long time ago.

Everyone knows at least one secret language.

When nobody is looking, I can fly.

We are all held together by invisible threads.

Books get lonely too.

Sadness can be eaten.

I will always be there.


(Today’s poem originally appeared on Heading East, and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Raul Gutierrez, Founder and CEO of Tinybop, is an entrepreneur with a 20-year history in technology and the arts. Tinybop was born out of a belief that all kids are explorers. His hope is to build a company where ideas, design, and engineering come together to delight, inspire, and educate children. Raul was born in Monterrey, Mexico, grew up in Lufkin, Texas, and now lives in Brooklyn, with his wife and two young boys.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem has universal appeal. It captures the magic of imagination, and of love, before ending with a turn that both surprises and speaks to the heart. It is the kind of work that one reads, and shares, until it takes on a life of its own. It has been translated into over ten languages; just this week it was translated into German! (Check it out below.)

Today’s post is dedicated to my husband, who found and shared it with me, and to Natasha and Darren Brown. It is your inspired parenting that Matt and I both thought of when we first read this piece.

Want to read more by and about Raul Gutierrez?
Heading East – Mexican Pictures
Read today’s poem in Deutsch (German)!
Follow Raul Gutierrez on Twitter

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE BAAL SHEM TOV

shem_tov
TWO SOULS
By the Baal Shem Tov

From every human being
there rises a light
that reaches straight to heaven.
And when two souls
that are destined to be together
find each other,
their streams of light flow together,
and a single brighter light goes forth
from their united being.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


The Baal Shem Tov: Rabbi Yisroel (Israel) ben Eliezer (d.1760), often called the Baal Shem Tov, was a Jewish mystical rabbi. He is considered to be the founder of Hasidic Judaism. (Annotated biography of the Baal Shem Tov courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is a quote from the Baal Shem Tov that gives rise to the age old question: What is poetry? If poetry is beautiful lyric that speaks to the human condition, that considers love with eloquence and a care for words and ideas, today’s quote is most certainly that. Today’s post is dedicated to my husband, with whom I am beginning a journey as a “united being.” May we shine brightly together from our single light.

Want to read more by and about the Baal Shem Tov?
Wikipedia
Jewish Virtual Library

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: OSIP MANDELSTAM

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“HEAVINESS, TENDERNESS . . .”
By Osip Mandelstam
Translated from the Russian by Eugene Serebryany

Heaviness, tenderness—sisters, your traits are alike.
Honeybees drink a rose that is tender and heavy.
Someone passes away. Once-warm sand cooling down . . .
They are carrying yesterday’s sun in a shroud.

Heavy honeycombs, webs of tenderness—
Lifting boulders is easier than repeating your name!
All that remains is one care in this world,
A golden care: how to flee from the burden of time.

I drink clouded air; I drink it like dark water.
Time was plowed up, and a rose became earth.
Like a slow-moving vortex of soft tender roses,
Heaviness, tenderness—sisters—prepared the wreaths.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in AGNI Online and appears here today with permission from the translator.)

Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938) was born into a Polish-Jewish family in what was then the Russian Empire. He became one of the great poets of the Russian Silver Age, with a keen sense of the melodies of spoken language. He often spoke a finished poem before, or even instead of, writing it down, and many of his lines became proverbial. He was persecuted in the Soviet Union for his political views, especially a 1933 poem satirizing Stalin. He died in Siberia while being transferred between prison camps.

Eugene Serebryany grew up in Moscow, Russia. He attended Yale University, where he studied translation with Peter Cole. He is currently a graduate student in biology at MIT.

Editor’s Note: It is not easy to translate poetry, to capture the lyric, the sonic, the original meaning and the hidden. But in today’s translation Eugene Serebryany has done a masterful job translating not only the words, but the essence of Mandelstam’s heartbreaking lyric. Serebryany studied under one of modernity’s greatest translators, Peter Cole, and his natural gift coupled with superb training shines through in today’s piece. As for the poem itself, Mandelstam captures the experience of loss in a way that exemplifies the gift international poets often have for wrighting art from mere words. At once loss is both devastatingly beautiful and devastation itself.

Want to read more by and about Osip Mandelstam?
AGNI Online
Prague Writers’ Festival

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: WILLIAM KELLEY WOOLFITT

Joyland photo 1_0

SHE REMEMBERS THE WEDDING OF SAMSON AND HER SISTER
By William Kelley Woolfitt

From my hiding spot, what I saw of him
was as I thought the lion dying and torn,
or the bees—flitting from the carcass’s
dark cave—might see, buzzing with the mad
desire to make honey, replenish the stores

he emptied to bring combs to my older sister,
sweet and glistening, in the bowl of his hands.
What I saw, my sister would grease on the seventh
day of their wedding feast: feet of the destroyer
and judge, her groom, who yielded to the siege

of her tears, parleys, and cajolements,
unlocked for her the secret of his riddle.
Feet she would wash, pamper, and oil; feet pale
and blue-tinged as a ewe’s cloudy milk.
I heard in the clamor of his footsteps

and did not believe the convulsing of pillars
that was to come, the crack of flame.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in Thrush Poetry Journal and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

William Kelley Woolfitt teaches creative writing and literature at Lee University. He has worked as a summer camp counselor, bookseller, ballpark peanuts vendor, and teacher of computer literacy to senior citizens. His writings have appeared or are forthcoming in Cincinnati Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Ninth Letter, Shenandoah, Los Angeles Review, Sycamore Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem engages in the ancient tradition of midrash, of questioning and interpreting what is written in the Hebrew Bible. This piece explores the biblical story of Samson, that fierce Jewish warrior who was brought to his knees by love and who went on to destroy his enemies, bringing down their temple with his bare hands. Kelley Woolfitt re-imagines Samson as a husband, using that template to foreshadow a volatile marriage. This Samson is a man who will bring his bride honey combs fresh from the hive in the cups of his hands on his wedding day, but who will later bring about “the convulsing of pillars” and the ominous “crack of flame.”

Want to read more by and about William Kelley Woolfitt?
Draft Horse
Cerise Press
Literary Bohemian

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EDGAR RINCÓN LUNA

THE ENCLOSURE
By Edgar Rincón Luna
Translation by Anthony Seidman

At a certain moment
after having left home
you thought that you had forgotten something
an object
something uncertain
and that it was necessary to turn back

Once in particular
while in the middle of childish games and glee
a word took you by surprise
and you turned your gaze elsewhere in search of it

Then with undeniable fear
a voice surprised you while you spoke
another voice
simple another

And when the vast and
traversable night offered herself to you
you became aware how
between the dust and the city
for us
poetry was building an enclosure


EL CERCO
Por Edgar Rincón Luna
En el español original

En algún momento
después de haber salido de casa
pensaste que algo se te había olvidado
un objeto
algo desconocido
y que era necesario regresar

Alguna vez
en medio del juego infantil y la risa
una palabra te tomó por sorpresa
y volviste tus ojos a otro sitio buscándola

Entonces entre el miedo innegable
una voz te soprendió mientras hablabas
otra
simplemente otra

Y cuando la noche se te ofreció vasta
recorrible
te diste cuenta
de cómo entre el polvo y la ciudad
la poesía se nos fue levantando un cerco


(Today’s poem is taken from the collection Aquí empieza la noche interminable (Tierra Adentro; Mexico City). Different versions of today’s poem appeared in Hunger Magazine (2003) and The Bitter Oleander (2010). “El Cerco” and this translation appear here today with permission from both the poet and the translator.)


Edgar Rincón Luna is a poet from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. He is the author of several collections including Aquí empieza la noche interminable (Tierra Adentro) and Puño de Whiskey (Ediciones sin nombre). His poetry has appeared in dozens of journals in Mexico, Spain, and the United States, including Reverso, Beyond Baroque, Hunger, and The Bitter Oleander.

Editor’s Note: Inherent in the words, imagery, and meter of today’s poem, simplicity dances with vastness in a way that at once lulls me and keeps me alert. Simple, elegant, beautiful; culminating in a final stanza that is as lovely and evanescent as the dust it’s built upon.

Want to see more by and about Edgar Rincón Luna?
las afinidades electivas / las elecciones afectivas

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MARTIN CAMPS



MOSQUITOES
By Martin Camps

Mosquitoes do not die of hunger.

There is always a leg for them

an arm or a deaf ear to their hungry voice.

You will never see the aged corpse of a gnat.

They only know about violent death:

of a body burst by a slap,

by a discharge of light or by air poisoning.

They will sink the day they find out they can

walk on the water.


(“Mosquitos” appears here today with permission from the poet.)


Martin Camps has published three books of poetry in Spanish: Desierto Sol (Desert Sun, 2003), La invencion del mundo (The Invention of the World, 2008), and La extincion de los atardeceres (The Extintion of Twilight, 2009). Has is the recipient of two poetry prizes from the Institute of Culture of Mexico and an Honorable Mention in the Bi-National Poetry Prize Pellicer-Frost in 1999. His poems have been published in The Bitter Oleander (Pemmican Press), Alforja, and Tierra Adentro, among others. He answers all email at markampz@hotmail.com.

Editor’s Note: Martin Camps is among my all-time favorite poets. His work never ceases to be breathtaking in its form, its function, and–especially–its sound. The way Camps plays with language appears, in some ways, to stem more from his Spanish-speaking roots than from an experimental poetry slant, and the effects simply blow me away. And then, of course, in all his poetic brilliance, he concludes with an epic end-line.

Want to see more by and about Martin Camps?
Email markampz@hotmail.com to buy his books directly from the poet for $6 each.
See an alternate version of today’s poem: Mosquitoes

Peticao a NASA
La Belleza de No Pensar

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE ACHE AT THE CENTER OF THE WORLD: ISRAEL-PALESTINE PEACE POETRY

Editor’s Note: Peace is always a timely topic. Today much of the middle east is in a state of political unrest. Civil wars are raging, dictators are struggling to keep the masses under their control, and citizens are taking up arms – be they in the form of guns or words – in the name of freedom. Having been born in Israel, the daughter of Israel-Palestine peace activists, conflict in the middle east has been a reality in my life for thirty years. I believe peace in the middle east is not only possible, but is an eventual reality, for Israel-Palestine and beyond.

Throughout history, poets have used their poems and songs in the name of peace. Today, rather than share a particular poem with you, I want to share with you some of my favorite Israel-Palestine peace poets. May their energy, their words, and their efforts help to bring forth peace.

Yehuda Amichai

Elana Bell

Mahmoud Darwish

Naomi Shihab Nye

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: AARON ZEITLIN

POETRY
by Aaron Zeitlin

Translated by Jon Levitow (2009)

Go become yourself the words,
Yourself the essence.

– Angelus Silesius

Poems should be like Elijahs
entering the homes of wretched brothers.
I wait for poems that turn into poets,
I wait for poets that turn into poems.

I wait for unexpected wonder,
when poets become the words they write,
each poem fills with blood and shows its face
and approaches people – as a poet.
New breath for old hearts!
Make cold frogs jump!
Let dry stumps blossom!
Proclaim Sabbath throughout all the worlds!

Aaron Zeitlin (1898 – 1973) was the son of the noted Yiddish writer and thinker Hillel Zeitlin. After an invitation to New York by director Maurice Schwartz for the production of his play Esterke (“Esther”), the start of World War II on 1 September 1939 prevented his return to his family, all of whom were murdered in the Shoah. He settled in New York City where he worked as a journalist and a professor of Hebrew literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Zeitlin’s literary writings include bilingual (Hebrew and Yiddish) poems, narratives, dramas, essays, and criticism. Noteworthy is his contribution from the Warsaw period. He was a moving force in the inclusion of Yiddish literature and Yiddish writers as members of the World PEN Organization (late 1920s), whose branch in Warsaw he chaired in the 1930s. Tragically, German militarism destroyed a number of his unpublished manuscripts and works in progress, including five volumes of poetry ready for publication. (Annotated biography of Aaron Zeitlin courtesy of Novelguide.com, with edits.)

Editor’s Note:
Today’s post was inspired by a combination of outside sources. First, my father challenged me to determine the meaning of “zeesh punim,” a yiddish phrase. While contemplating the meaning of this phrase, As It Ought To Be posted a poem that inspired and moved me, that piece being On This Earth What Makes Life Worth Living by Palestinian Poet Mahmoud Darwish.

I wanted today’s post to be by a Yiddish poet. Yiddish is the language of my ancestors, a dying language that was nearly wiped out with the Holocaust. I also wanted today’s post to be a celebration of poetry and life, as Mahmoud Darwish’s poem is. What these two poets have in common is the ability to celebrate life and poetry through tragic events, to see the beauty in life even amidst so much death and tragedy. May their spirits come together through poetry to shift the energy of the middle east and bring about peace between men who would otherwise be brothers.

Want to read more by and about Aaron Zeitlin?
YiddishPoetry.org
VoicesEducation.org
Novelguide.com