Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Because the Poets are Healers

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Murdered BoysNigerian girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is just a piece of what’s going on in the world. 276 Nigerian girls kidnapped, three Israeli boys kidnapped and murdered, a Palestinian boy kidnapped and murdered, burned alive. I live in Jerusalem, so the latter is more poignant; there has been rioting, violence, racist cries for death, ignorance, calls for revenge, and suspicions all over Facebook feeds and in the news. I am also a mother of daughters; I can’t forget–as it seems to be already forgotten– about daughters taken, god knows what is being done to them away from home and in the hands of violent men. And this is just a piece, there is more, always more–

At times like these, I think of the quote by the late great Maya Angelou,

“We are all human; therefore, nothing human can be alien to us.”

I think it means that we fail to recognize how easy it can be to go so low. We love to hail the beauty of the world, but there is ugliness, and a lot of it and it is all human. It is jarring, disturbing, heart-wrenching, when I allow myself to think about it. I normally don’t, I must admit. Sometimes, I am afraid that if I let in all the woes of the world it would break me in despair. But when I do, I want to fight the horrors; I still don’t know how. I find solace in poetry; others have as well. I don’t mean be naive. There is a level where poetry clearly won’t do a damn thing to change politics and the minds of murderers. And yet, there is great power in words– poetry is the epitome of that force. Poetry has a long history of documenting the times, telling legends, inciting, enticing, eulogizing; the danger of poetry, the sanctuary of poetry is well known; it crosses all boundaries and rises above–and the poets are healers. When we say ‘there are no words for this,’ it is poetry that finds the words. There is a way to know through the eye/I of the poet.

I want to share with you three poems–written out of that spirit in the midst of hate– that I believe have found the words. Two were written by friends of mine who live in Israel, one by me.

 

Revisions

People

children die every day

 

Revision of life

means revision

of meaning

 

Revenge or honor

killings   No

matter

We live to die

 

The homosexual boy:

Boy bled

in the crook of his father’s arms black sedan’s

back seat–a suspected execution

block–a coffin with seat belts and airbags

Burnt and bound–found

in a forest

 

[ put your heads down!

gunshots and Arabs singing ]

Three extreme zionist religious Jewish boys

deserved what they got

 

Murder takes back seat

to rhetoric

as do point blank

bullet wounds

 

Instead of words

a rocket will be sent from a schoolyard

and a missile returned to sender

They’ll get what’s coming to them

 

Two hundred and seventy six

Nigerian schoolgirls

will not be returned

without a war skirmish

Though their children will

with machetes and machine rifles

nestled in their dark slender arms

 

Hashtags won’t save our generations

A mortar

round in the hand

is a mortar round

in the air

 

People

as we digress

our children suffer

 

We live by the sword

we die by the sword

No meaning changed

by our revisions

-m z friedline

 

[Untitled]

Days, blurred into each other
Like there was no sleep.
The fuzz
of a hundred TV sets
and radios…
remnants
of another forest fire.
Newspaper print
on the fingers
of early-morning travelers,
the serious concentration
of the bus driver…
Another headline
and children, searching for truth
in the faces
of surrounding adults.
Waves of pain
drifting through neighbourhoods…
Sparks of strength
and unison
running through city streets
and a soft, gentle stroking of each other…
a blinding light
calling us all
away from the darkness…

~Louise Harris- Zvieli

 

Stop the Game

I know it’s hard. You are sitting there thinking, those could have been my boys, my brothers, me. You are thinking, summer has barely started; schools just got out today and some are now on eternal break, broken eternally. No one has won the game anymore–if you’re going to stop the game, then *stop* the game, dammit–no one has won, just lost. But what they don’t tell you in the games, is that nations are made from suffering together–more than shared joys. Is this a good thing, or very, very sad? Perhaps it is a part of the human support mechanism–come closer when it hurts. All I know is, the news will be on forever, especially here–there are hundreds of girls missing too–and the news is forever on, forever on, there will never not be news, only, what is news is old, very old, ancient, never-ending and we have to fall asleep sometimes, but the news will outlive us all.

~Shoshana Sarah K.

 

~~~

Moshe Ze’ev Friedline was born in Boulder Creek, California. He is currently studying English literature at Bar Ilan University in Israel. He is married and has a young daughter and younger son. He realized two years ago that he really enjoys writing poetry. He once found himself in an awkward conversation with a bull in a steakhouse.

Louise Harris- Zvieli says she’s just herself.

 

 *Poetry shared with the permission of the authors. All rights remain to the respective poets.

 

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

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poetsofbabelAug28

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.

 

Young Writers’ Evening at Tmol Shilshom

Video

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:

“There”

“Rhyme & Reason”

“Talitha kumi”

 

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.

….

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!

Strangers

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The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers

The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers (c) HarperColllins Publishers

I have a confession: I’m afraid of the make-up ladies in SuperPharm. It doesn’t matter which branch; they are all the same to me.

Downtown Jerusalem at 21:47 on a Sunday just looks downright seedy in general. Everyone appeared shady tonight, just like a page out of the Berenstain Bears book about strangers. For example, everyone stopped, turned and stared at me when I approached the bus stop- after missing two of my buses- with empty, yet prying looks in their eyes. A man walked too closely behind me after I’d stepped off the eerily slow train. I stopped in my tracks and walked in the opposite direction. (Reading about international sex trafficking, forced prostitution, and systematic rape as a weapon of war has got me paranoid…though it’s a fascinating and inspiring book otherwise.)

Even couples seemed suspicious.

Maybe I was just tired. Today was a big BOO in my book and I was threatening tomorrow to be better.

My only consolation, as I approached my home- much later than I’d intended- was a woman who smiled at me as we simultaneously crossed the street. Somehow, in the seconds that we waited across from each other at the traffic light, we bonded. Perhaps it was the way we both had shoved our hands deep into our coat pockets to brave the Jerusalem winds: Me, in my teal patchy fleece with the elfin hood, her in her llama colored woolen jacket tied at the waist with a dark brown accented sash.

And yet, I knew there was undoubtedly something strange in this evening (even in the day co-workers spoke of the surreal feeling and I’d had trouble focusing on people during meetings, suddenly sensitive to the wall colors behind them) when I saw a pair in their early twenties behaving like teenagers under the influence of something walking smack in the middle of Hebron Road, which is busy even after 10pm. As I heard no screech of tires or smacks against the pavement, I can assume they survived…

Another strange man tosses a creepy glance as he passed me.

I’m almost there. “Mazal tov” is scrawled in colorful chalk on the brick sidewalk leading up to my apartment building; an arrow points straight towards the door of my entrance. ‘Stranger than a yellow brick road,’ I thought. If hadn’t lived there, I wouldn’t have gone in…not tonight.

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Not my usual, but hey, gotta keep it real; there will be sunshine in the morning.