There are so many gems here, it’s hard to pick one. I suppose, I could start with the ending, “What is the work you can’t not do?” Just listen and learn and get started! I know I am…
Space or מרחב/Merhav in Hebrew, is a multilingual poetry journal based in Tel Aviv that I felt I had to get in touch with the moment I discovered them. I wrote one of the editors, “I’m a multilingual poetry club. You’re a multilingual poetry journal. Let’s get married!” While we haven’t ‘gotten married’ yet, I had the pleasure of getting 3 pieces published in their August issue, two poems (“Tom” and “Dareen,” in English) and an article (“The Babel in Us” translated into Hebrew, if you’re interested, I’ll post an English version).
Last week, Yekum Tarbut/ יקום תרבות (rough translation: “Culture will rise”), a website for culture in Israel, wrote about Space’s Launch of the August Issue Event that took place at the Cheetah Gallery in Tel Aviv called “Going Out Into Space.” Here’s the article (in Hebrew) where they mentioned me, Poets of Babel and sport a photo they asked for when I told them that I recited poetry at Cafe Tav (just in case you were wondering why I’m in costume and no one else is). So here’s what I really looked like at the Space poetry reading/launch event:
Pico Iyer asks: “Where is home?” I say: “Home is Babel.”
In this amazing TED talk (I know, I know, ALL TED Talks are amazing, but this one is special!) Pico Iyer just articulated everything I already knew but am just beginning to coherently express about myself. I am debating whether or not to tell you to watch the video Pico Iyer Where is Home first or later. You decide. But if you are a citizen of the world or a citizen of Babel like me then you will feel finally and completely understood, it will feel scientific even.
It’s all the more powerful that I saw this after writing and performing my latest poem “Babili/Home” , my first macaronic language poem, mainly in English with touches of Hebrew, French, Russian and one phrase in Ukrainian. It’s about home. It’s about who I am. It’s an idea I’ve been trying to iron out since I wrote “Multicultural is the New Multiracial” for the Mixed Race 2.0 project (forthcoming) on ‘blackness’ (the African-American brand) coupled with the elusive feeling of detachment from it after (and honestly even before) living within another culture and disdane with having to be defined all of the time. Or what I wrote in “The Babel in Us” (Hebrew) in the multilingual, Tel Aviv based poetry journal “Space”. about how everyone is a little macaronic these days, multilingualism is everywhere and needs places to be expressed which is why I created Poets of Babel.
Speaking of multilingual or macaronic poetry, there are a couple of poets who I know would dig this talk. You should check them out too. One, I’ve mentioned often, Antoine Cassar, the author of the first macaronic poem I read and loved, “Merħba,” as well as the lingual adventures of the book Mużajk (Mosaic), or the powerfully open-hearted poem “Passaport” , which brought tears to my eyes with the line:
“no one to brand you stranger, alien, criminal, illegal immigrant, or extra-communautaire, nobody is extra, …”
Another poet I just met over the summer at a ‘Mini International Poetry Festival’ in Tel Aviv, is Johannes CS Frank, the author of Remembrances of Copper Cream, a trilingual poetry book, in English, German and Hebrew, which is simultaneously as cosmopolitan as it is a visceral authentically Jerusalem experience, right down to the copper highlighted sketches,
“a full scale model of the universe”
“Merħba” and Remembrances of Copper Cream both appear in the photo above.
You know what, just watch Pico Iyer’s video, & my poem “Babili/Home” and then reach out to me. If you’re a citizen of Babel, not just multicultural or multilingual but have been haunted by the feeling that you basically belong nowhere specifically but to so many places at the same time, collage people, mosaic people, Embrace.
I’ve got almost a month of events to catch you up on! But we’ll do this in chronological order. If you haven’t seen it on Poets of Babel’s Facebook page, here are the videos from the poetry readings June 24th, 2013 (Late, I know! But when you see the rest of what I’ve been doing, you’ll understand!)
Emmy Raviv, English
Gilad Meiri, Hebrew (Gilad Meiri is a prominent Israeli poet, read more about him and his organization Poetry Place)
Talea Azzam, Arabic (Notice how he says Babel/Babili!)
Isabelle Cohn, German
Natan Perchikov, Russian
How about a round of applause? For the rest of the photos from the event, click here.
Since my first poetry slam, I’ve been getting busy with poetry, doing more readings this year than ever before, EVER.
This event is from June 3, 2013 at Tmol Shilshom, a bookstore cafe restaurant in Jerusalem, made famous for being a place where “Israel’s best known writers read from their works.” These days, it is a common location for literary events such as the Young Writers’ Evening organized by Jerusalem Village.
I actually joined the event quite last-minute, but I was glad I did as I met a new poet and friend there (you’ll see her in later Poets of Babel videos) as well as learned what else is going on in the English speaking Israeli poetry scene.
Here are my videos of the reading:
“Rhyme & Reason”
Just for fun! Here is a recap of the end of the year performance that I participated in with Studio 6 at the Gerard Behar Theater in Jerusalem (I danced Flamenco, Belly dancing, & Salsa). I’ve got a cameo from the Salsa performance in the video. Can you find me? 😉
…more news coming about an awesome Poetry Slam
It took me a while, perhaps too long, but I have still abided by my old rule of sharing “before the next event,” which will be next Monday, June 24th. Instead of telling you how it was, I’m just going to let you listen for yourself. It’ll be almost like you didn’t miss a thing.
~To enjoy the human voice in variation; to love the spoken word, foreign and poetic…
Moriel Rothman- English, Hebrew & Arabic
Amir Khalifa- Arabic
Alon Metrikin Gold- Hebrew
Sarina Furer- English
Valery Daniel Karasik- Russian
Shoshana Sarah – (English) Closing Poem, Dedicated to Maïté
Spoken Word Open Mic with Live Music- Nathan
Spoken Word Open Mic with Live Music- Ellen Potless
I am so moved by this post written by my favorite poet Antoine Cassar who inspired the creation of Poets of Babel!
Back in the summer of 2009, I came across a fascinating book called The Atlas of Languages, edited by Bernard Comrie and Maria Polinsky. I spent several days enraptured by its wealth of knowledge, colourfully presented in photographs, charts, maps, fact snippets, word lists and anecdotes, short stories and traditional poems. The book stands out from other ‘language atlases’ not only in its exciting presentation, but also because it never loses sight of the peoples that speak each language and write in each script. Its main message was clear: richness of language and culture is richness of humanity; the beauty and wisdom of a single language, script, proverb, folk tale etc. enrich not only the speakers of that particular tongue, but mankind as a whole.
I revisit the book from time to time to remind myself of how incommensurably wide and diverse the world is. Have you ever heard…
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Poets of Babel is metamorphosing into a larger, less familiar creature. It started in my home with only two rules: (1) Read in any language as long as there was someone who understood (bring a friend!) and (2) Everyone participates.
I had to break rule number one very early on. Sometimes there was only one person who spoke the language to be read in, like the time we had a Danish poem about a taxi driver which was quite the experience! I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it based on a silly rule.
I also learned rather quickly that I did not know as many poets as I thought did. In order to preserve rule number two, I had to loosen my hold on how I believed that should look (as in sharing original works only). Then, many friends started coming reading poems that were not their own, but that touched them, sometimes famous poems, sometimes obscure ones, sometimes a poem written by their family or friends, or a poem from books that were gifts, or books that were borrowed. It brought about even more of a cultural exchange and interesting conversations than I had imagined even though sometimes I was the ‘only poet’ there. Even the Mr., who is ‘not that into poetry’ and had assured me that if he hadn’t enjoyed Poets of Babel, he ‘would have found somewhere else to be,’ had a fancy for reading Baudelaire poems translated into Russian.
“So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be
continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”
~“Be Drunk,” Charles Baudelaire
Then I started adding activities that I mostly made-up a few hours before. The non-poets became poets after ‘bobbing for dadaist poems’ in our October meeting,
completing ‘beginnings and endings’ in our January meeting, sending ‘mishloach Valentines’ in February,or going ‘egg poem hunting’ in March.
I’d never conceived of this idea before taking ModPo, the Modern and Contemporary American Poetry course offered by Coursera which exposed me to “To Make a Dadaist Poem” by Tristan Tzara and Bernadette Mayer’s Writing Experiments.
Now all that is about to change. Poets of Babel is going to celebrate it’s 1 Year Anniversary at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. They liked the idea so much, they want to pilot it as a continuous event! The essence will be the same, poetry and languages, but it will be an entirely different energy. It’s a night with a poetic film (“Howl” based on the poem by Allen Ginsberg this time), poetry readings in different languages (this time we will have poems in Hebrew, Arabic, English, Russian,German and a trilingual poem!), and a spoken word open mic with a jazzy improv accompanyment.
I’m excited! …and concerned, full of hope and full of wonder. What will happen to the spirit of the event that I had created and enjoyed in my home where I welcomed strangers with Antoine Cassar’s Merħba, a poem of hospitality? I cannot read:
“our house is small
yet as big as a world”
at the Cinematheque and really mean it, or
“Welcome to my home, to your home, to our home,
to a home spinning in light,
in dark, in shade,
welcome to a world spinning in the light
which spins in the dark of the blood”
with the fullness of heart that I did in my living room amongst the faces of friends who were and friends who will be circling around me. I fear the intimacy will be gone…and yet. And yet I am reminded of the untitled poem that spawned from the ‘egg poetry hunt’ activity we did two months ago:
Perhaps the great error is believing we’re alone
Death, home, Daddy, love, friendship, the masses
they are all inside of us
the music, the wars, the oceans we’ve been in
they are here
the people we haven’t seen in months
the people we have yet to meet
the games you can eat
the hidden things
they are our rebirth
They are here. The poets who shared with me. The non-poets who became writers in my living room if only for a few moments. The poems we light-heartedly created together. The love that eminated from Merħba each time I read it and as time went on, when we read it together, each chimming in to read a language known. And I have no idea what new hidden things await in this new life for a group that started as a conversation in Tel Aviv, in January 2012.
I will take it all with me whereever Poets of Babel goes, into each reincarnation.
I do hope it goes far.
About a month ago, I did my first poetry slam and first spoken word performance on stage. I was petrified from the moment I agreed to do it…but I knew that I had to. I’ve wanted to for so long. And even after actually doing it and feeling like I could do it again and better next time, it took me the better part of a month to muster up the additional courage to share with those who weren’t there.
So here goes nothing…