SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MIRIAM’S SONG

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“Miriam the prophetess” by Anselm Feuerbach. Public Domain image.


“Miriam the prophetess… took the tambourine in her hand; and all the women followed her with tambourines and dances. And Miriam called to them: Sing…” (Exodus 15:20-21)




Editor’s Note: The most important thing that has happened to Passover this year is the Notorious RBG’s decree that when we remember the Exodus, we need to remember the women. First and foremost among them, for me, is Miriam. The unsung hero of what is usually thought of as “Moses’ story,” Miriam is responsible for everything from Moses’ birth to his survival to providing water for the Israelites throughout their forty-year-sovereign in the desert. The first person in the Bible to be called a prophet, Miriam was beloved by her people but less-loved by her creator, who struck her down with leprosy to teach her the consequences of a woman voicing her opinion.

Song is one of the oldest forms of poetry, and the poetry of the Bible is one of the oldest written records of poetry we have. Sadly, all that remains of Miriam’s song in the Bible is a call to action: “And Miriam called to them: Sing…”

We are lucky, therefore, that Debbie Friedman (1951-2011) picked up this mantle. In “Miriam’s Song” she joins her voice with a new generation of women to remember and celebrate the heroine of the Passover story, responding to the prophetess’ call to action: “Sing.” Beloved by women and men alike all the world over, Debbie Friedman and “Miriam’s Song” are the kinds of modern Passover traditions we need. Inclusive and powerful, shedding new light on ancient traditions. For, as Debbie Friedman reminds us, “The more our voices are heard in song, the more we become our lyrics, our prayers, and our convictions.”

Want more Miriam, Debbie Friedman, and Feminist Passover?
Read the lyrics to “Miriam’s Song” by Debbie Friedman on Ritualwell
Debbie Friedman via the Jewish Women’s Archive
Miriam via the Jewish Women’s Archive
Buy The Journey Continues: The Ma’yan Passover Haggadah on Amazon

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: HILA RATZABI


By Hila Ratzabi:


"Sedna the Arctic Sea Goddess" broadside, designed by poet and visual artist MaryAnn Miller

“Sedna the Arctic Sea Goddess” broadside, designed by poet and visual artist MaryAnn Miller.



SEDNA IN SPACE

             “Our newly discovered object is the coldest most distant place known in the solar
             system, so we feel it is appropriate to name it in honor of Sedna, the Inuit goddess of
             the sea, who is thought to live at the bottom of the frigid arctic ocean.”
                                                                                                                     ––Mike Brown, astronomer

Now you’re nothing
but a dwarf planet at the edge
of the asteroid formerly known as Pluto,

neighbor to demoted planet,
atmosphere-less,
stunted.

When the scientists ran out of Greek and Roman gods
they settled on you, “Big Bad Woman,”
as one tribe puts it.

You are made of water,
methane, nitrogen ice,
frozen all over.

It takes you
more than ten thousand years
to orbit the Sun.

I want to place a blanket
around your shivering surface,
tuck you in surrounded by stars.

Where I’m from, we’ve released
so much heat into the sky
it’s burning us back.

But I can’t turn up the heat
at your edge of the solar system,
can’t drag you any closer to the Sun.

From your corner the Sun
Is a wink of a star, so small
you could block it out

with the head of a pin.
Just look what a nothing it is
next to you, big girl.


“Sedna the Arctic Sea Goddess” was previously published in Alaska Quarterly Review and “Sedna in Space” was previously published in Narrative. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.


Hila Ratzabi was selected by Adrienne Rich as a recipient of a National Writers Union Poetry Prize and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the author of the chapbook The Apparatus of Visible Things (Finishing Line Press). Her poetry is published or forthcoming in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, Narrative, Alaska Quarterly Review, Drunken Boat, About Place, The Normal School, H_NGM_N, Cortland Review, and others. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in Philadelphia where she founded the Red Sofa Salon & Poetry Workshop.


Editor’s Note: In Hila Ratzabi’s Sedna poems the Inuit goddess becomes a symbol of the trauma of climate crisis as explored through the lens of feminist response.

In “Sedna the Arctic Sea Goddess” we are introduced to Sedna’s creation myth. So, too, are we introduced to the misogyny and violence inherent in her tale. She is a “bitch goddess” whose father throws her to the sea and then cuts of her fingers when she tries to save herself.

In “Sedna in Space” we see Sedna rise again when a dwarf planet is discovered and named for her, but still she is “nothing / but a dwarf planet at the edge / of the asteroid formerly known as Pluto, // neighbor to demoted planet, / atmosphere-less, / stunted.” Through poetry, Ratzabi seeks to reclaim Sedna, to save her from the grips of oppression: “I want to place a blanket / around your shivering surface, / tuck you in surrounded by stars.” By shifting perspective, the poet empowers Sedna, making her grander than the sun: “From your corner the Sun / Is a wink of a star, so small / you could block it out // with the head of a pin. / Just look what a nothing it is / next to you, big girl.”


Want to read more by Hila Ratzabi?
Read recently published poems on climate change by Hila Ratzabi in About Place and Drunken Boat.
Learn about Hila’s poetry workshops in Philadelphia at The Red Sofa Salon & Poetry Workshop.
Purchase “Sedna the Arctic Sea Goddess” broadside (pictured above).
Purchase “Sedna in Space” broadside (poem above).
Purchase The Apparatus of Visible Things chapbook.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: RESURRECTION PARTY

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From RESURRECTION PARTY
By Michalle Gould:


SELF-PORTRAIT AS A SERIES OF PREPARATORY STUDIES FOR A NUDE BY MATISSE

The breasts hang low like fruit hoping
to be picked yet still on the branch,
While the body largely reclines, a letter K
lain on its side and slightly bent,
or in a less common pose, my back faces the viewer
so I resemble a pushed in O, my arms and legs drawn in,
like a turtle withdrawing far into its shell
to escape some predator that has come to suck;
We are become a rock. Our hearts lie hidden far
Below its skin. The artist scrapes my flesh onto his brush
but cannot touch what lies beneath, whatever he thinks—
nor can you, my dear, even as you read me.



SELF-PORTRAIT AS THE MAIDEN OF ATHENS

That day, I went forth to kill the Minotaur.
Since Theseus, they sent us all naked;
I had no ball of string; I had no sword.
For tools, instead, I had only the instruments
of my body: my nails for daggers, my hair for thread.
I had heard of his legendary cruelty;
I had heard how he killed without a word.
Then I came to the center and saw him.
His strong arms beckoned—and I cut the cord.



SELF-PORTRAIT AS A PAIR OF LOVEBIRDS

Opening their beaks, they thrust
their tongues out for one last kiss
before the long journey south—
like worms they each intend to drop
into the other’s hungry waiting mouth.


Today’s poems are from Resurrection Party, published by Silver Birch Press, copyright © 2014 by Michalle Gould, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


RESURRECTION PARTY concerns itself, almost to the point of obsession, with the question of how the imagination grapples with the fear of death. The collection intertwines religious and mythical subjects and themes with more fleshly concerns about the body and decay, presence and absence. It has been described as containing poems of “almost exquisite refinement, illuminated by the taut glow of sensuous prosody and imagery” and as “a deeply meditative collection at once intelligent, tender, and utterly human.” (From the Silver Birch Press website.)


Michalle Gould has been working on the poems that constitute Resurrection Party for almost 15 years. In that time, her poems and short stories have appeared in Slate, New England Review, Poetry, American Literary Review, The Texas Observer, and other journals. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a librarian, and is in the process of researching and writing a novel set in the North of England during the 1930s.


Editor’s Note: Michalle Gould has a deep and fearless understanding of the self. In her quest to write poems that grapple with life’s big questions—life and death, self-awareness, relationships—she is bold and unafraid. She views her own body as honestly as an artist would. Yet she understands truths about the self that no other can reveal: “The artist scrapes my flesh onto his brush / but cannot touch what lies beneath, whatever he thinks— / nor can you, my dear, even as you read me.”

In “Self Portrait as the Maiden of Athens” the poet re-examines the Greek myth of the minotaur from a female perspective. Here she notes that, unlike the male hero in the story, when the maiden faces the beast, “I had no sword. / For tools, instead, I had only the instruments / of my body: my nails for daggers, my hair for thread.” This concept translates into the larger role of women in the world, and the question of what few tools and resources we have traditionally been allowed.

SPS-beloved poet Louise Mathias writes that the terrain of Resurrection Party “is somewhere between body and spirit, life and death, intimacy and solitude, elegance and intuition. Possessing a sly humor coupled with a laser sharp awareness and assertion of how all is ephemeral, Resurrection Party accomplishes the rare: it makes even the big questions fresh.”


Want to see more from Michalle Gould?
Michalle Gould Official Website
Buy Resurrection Party from Amazon
Resurrection Party on Goodreads
More Excerpts from Resurrection Party

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: JOANNA FUHRMAN AND TONI SIMON

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By Joanna Fuhrman and Toni Simon:

from FRIEND OF THE DEAD


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from HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU?


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from THE RULER OF RUSTED KNEES


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Selections from “Friend of the Dead” originally appeared in Paperbag, selections from “How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You” originally appeared in Talisman, and selections from “The Ruler of Rusted Knees” originally appeared in Posit. These selections appear here today with permission from the poet.


Artists’ Statement: In our mixed-media literary project, Egyptian gods, stripped of their context and role, wander various New York City neighborhoods trying to figure out where they belong, how to make sense of what they have lost, and how to get along with one another.

In the first step of our project, Toni Simon constructs three-dimensional, small-scale figurines out of paper, modeled on Egyptian gods. She then paints them with abstract, graphic details. We then take the little gods out into different neighborhoods and take hundreds of photographs of them. We select eight to ten images, which become the basis for a series of poems written by Joanna Fuhrman.

So far, we have created picture/poem serial combinations in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Chinatown, the Reversible Destiny Studio, Red Hook and Gowanus. Parts of the project have appeared online in Paperbag, Talisman, and Posit, and in print in the 100th issue of Hanging Loose.


Joanna Fuhrman is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Pageant (Alice James Books 2009). Her fifth book, The Year of Yellow Butterflies, is forthcoming from Hanging Loose Press in 2015. Recent poems appear in The Believer, Court Green, The Brooklyn Rail, and Puerto del Sol. In 2011, Least Weasel published a beautifully printed chapbook, The Emotive Function. She teaches poetry writing at Rutgers, SLC Writer’s Village and in private workshops. Her essays on teaching appear regularly in Teachers & Writers Magazine.


Toni Simon is a multimedia artist living in Brooklyn. Her illustrated book of prose poetry, Earth After Earth, was published by Lunar Chandelier Press in 2012. Over 80 of her illustrations appear in Contradicta: Aphorisms (Green Integer, 2010) by Nick Piombino. She has exhibited her drawings at the Drawing Center and at the AIR Gallery in NYC.


Editor’s Note: What’s not to love? Two stellar artists in collaboration, pairing visual art and poetry. Egyptian gods wandering the streets of New York, searching for life’s meaning. Unique, hand-crafted images. And the words. Yes. The words. After all, this is the Saturday Poetry Series, and as unique as this concept is, it would not be here if it weren’t for the words. “Be honest / like language // is dishonest.” “I am not afraid of you / if you’re not afraid of me.” “One can see through / more than glass.” “You can stand by the window all day, / but you won’t become a window.” “In the beginning, we didn’t need to be friends with all / the parts of ourselves.” These reflections, offered in the guise of meditations of fallen gods, are truly a reflection of ourselves.


Want to read more by Joanna Fuhrman and Toni Simon?
Joanna Fuhrman Official Website
Toni Simon Official Blog
Paperbag
Posit
Talisman