Category Archives: Poets of Babel

LET’S GET LIT: Babbling towards Baghdad (My First Radio Interview!)

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I know, I know, I haven’t been around. But I’ve been studying poetry, falling in love lyric essay, being awaken at night by the muse. But now that the semester– and my first year of studying poetry– is over I’m getting busy again. Before I could fully get my foot out the door of the university and into summer vacation (and on the same day that I had a test in American Literature!) I had my first radio interview on “Let’s Get Lit” the TLV1 FM program with journalist and author Ilene Prusher. I was so nervous and as soon as I was done, I started obsessing about how I should have said everything differently! But instead of talking about it, how about you just listen and tell me what you think:

Let’s Get Lit: Babbling towards Baghdad

“American-born, Jerusalem-dwelling poet and polyglot Shoshana Sarah brings us inside the world of her multi-dimensional, multi-lingual poetry. She talks about “Poets of Babel,” a Jerusalem group she founded, and reads from her work.

Plus, a short review of Baghdad: The City in Verse, an anthology of 170 Arabic poems, most of them appearing in English for the first time, in a collection translated and edited by the University of Haifa’s Reuven Snir.”

 

 

Update: New Pages, such as Poetry Reading Videos

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I don’t know if any of you have noticed but I’ve been updating pages on my site with photos and videos of poetry readings and performances…drop menus! (It was exciting for me because it took me forever to figure out how to do it. You can remain unimpressed. I’ll understand.)

Just to give you a look, I’m posting here below one of my favorite pages “Poets of Babel Readings” (Found in the drop menu of “Poetry Readings (Video)”).

Enjoy! (And check out all the pages & drop menus!)

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Below are the public poetry readings I’ve given at Poets of Babel. To read more about Poets of Babel, see videos, photos and the Poets of Babel Facebook page, see here.

Poets of Babel 1 Year Anniversary at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, May 30, 2013

“Maïté ”

Poets of Babel #14 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, June 24, 2013

“אין גן עדן בגן שלנו” (“There is no heaven in our garden”)

Poets of Babel #15 at Avram Bar, July 21, 2013

“Babili/Home”

(Poem starts at 0:52 after introduction in Hebrew)

Poets of Babel #17 at Hanal’e (The Han Theater Coffee Shop), September 16, 2013

“To the Soldiers of Fortune”

Pico Iyer Asks: “Where is Home?” I Say: “Home is Babel”

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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.

 

Poets of Babel #14 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque

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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!)

 

 

 

 

 

Tuvit Shlomi, Dutch (By the way, here is a very interesting article about Tuvit)

 

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.

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See For Yourself~Poets of Babel’s 1st Anniversary Videos

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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

 

 

Poets of Babel’s Rebirth: 1 Year Anniversary at the Jerusalem Cinematheque and Beyond

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PoetsofBabel May 30Poets 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.

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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.

The First Poets of Babel Meeting! (…was 3 months ago!)

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Four months and 16 days later, the first meeting of Poets of Babel has finally taken place and it was amazing. We were only 7, but then again 7 is the number of perfection.

Ira, a Russian Israeli and Hebrew teacher arrived first. I met Ira at Hillel House in 2008 when I made my documentary film “Stranger” on stereotypes in Israel; it was love at first sight. I found her, in her flowing burgundy skirt at the table with the Mr. as I rushed in the door at 9:00. We were supposed to start at 9:30. Not long after, a girl with a sweet demeanor and a soft voice knocked on my door. She introduced herself as Isabella, a friend of Nadine’s. Isabella is a German student of philosophy and Middle Eastern studies (who hopes to switch the latter to musicology) learning in Jerusalem. I asked her “Where’s Nadine?” She didn’t know so I told her to make herself at home and the four of us chatted for well over an hour before Nadine arrived. Nadine, is the one who magically said “We should start a poetry club” on that fateful day in January.

There were only two left who we were waiting for. Both Michal, a law student and English lit, and Adi a graduate of linguistics and translation working on her masters in translation, were friends from work where we used to teach English together at Wall Street Institute in Jerusalem. Michal has a business card that reads “Muse” and she fulfilled her role when she discovered that I write poetry and started sharing her poetry magazines, such as Rattle and Poetry which fueled my inspiration for quite a few months (especially since it took me quite a few months to return them). Adi used to make me drool over linguistics during our breaks together when she discussed her studies and made me crave a return to the university. When she introduced herself to the group she said of her studies, because writing poetry is just something she occasionally does but not what she is, “I guess that’s what earns me a place in Poets of Babel.”

We drew numbers from my Broadway hat from last year’s performance. I was 3. Three is the number of truth and connection. It also represents permanence like holy utterances that must be spoken three times.

I started off by telling them that even though this was my idea, in my house, with my friends I was terrified.  It’s never easy to share but as Adi said later about her volunteer work, it’s a shlichut, a calling. Then I read Merħba, a poem of hospitality , the perfect beginning. “God sent you my friend, you brought the sun with you” is how I greeted them and the end which is really the doorway to embark on a new journey together assured that ” you will always find the door open.”

Adi started off- after trading  numbers with Isabella- with a spontaneous selection from a new poetry book I had , Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith. The poem, “It’s Not,” pleasantly surprised us all by actually being good despite being impromptu.

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This is the post that I started in May and now next Wednesday we will be having our 3rd Poets of Babel meeting. Third time’s the charm! I couldn’t seem to get this post out so now I’m just going to do it! Check out our Facebook Page!