The Arty Semite

Forward Fives: 2010 in Poetry

By Forward Staff

  • Print
  • Share Share

In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish poetry books of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

JEMIMAH KUHFELD

All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems
By Charles Bernstein
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pages, $26

Co-founder of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, Charles Bernstein has long been recognized as one of the key avant-garde figures on the contemporary poetry scene. Until now, however, most of his work has been published by university or indie presses. This handsome sampling of his oeuvre presented by FSG is a reason for celebration, yet it is bittersweet, for doesn’t it imply a shift toward the mainstream? Or is it vice versa, and we have all become, in a sense, avant-garde? The Jewish angle in Bernstein’s work is complex, fraught with ambiguity and tension, though thankfully, also with humor. It is discussed in further detail in last year’s “Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture” (University of Alabama Press) which, aside from Bernstein’s work, contains the poetics of many of his excellent colleagues.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘All the Whiskey in Heaven’ here.


War & Love / Love & War
By Aharon Shabtai
Translated by Peter Cole
New Directions Books, 175 pages, $15.95

Gritty, controversial and intensely lyrical, this is an excellent collection from one of Israel’s most important contemporary poets. Spanning more than three-and-a-half decades of writing, it exhibits a wealth of experimentation with various styles, and a multitude of yearnings and obsessions. As the title implies, engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the book’s chief subjects. The real gem, though, is the closing cycle of poems, which mourns the passing of Shabtai’s wife, Tanya Reinhart.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘War & Love / Love & War’ here.


Coming to Life
By Joy Ladin
The Sheep Meadow Press, 89 pages, $15.95

Poet Joy Ladin — previously known as Jay — is, literally, a creator of a new transformed self. And, in the image of the Creator, she brings herself into her new life with words: poems that mark, examine, and agonize over every step of the gender transition. An excellent follow-up to her previous collection “Transmigration,” many of these poems further the exploration of Ladin’s complex identity. In addition, she ventures into experiments with textual cut-up methods and delivers a scintillating sequence of Kabbalistic/Gnostic meditations on the nature of the Divine.


Howl: A Graphic Novel
By Allen Ginsberg, with illustrations of Eric Drooker
Harper Perennial, 224 pages, $19.99

Allen Ginsberg’s revolutionary poem “Howl,“ published by City Lights Press, has now sold over a million copies. Illustrator Eric Drooker re-imagines the poem, turning it into a surrealist graphic novel. Staying true to the text and avoiding the trap of explicit interpretations where meanings are ambiguous, he intensifies Ginsberg’s poetic power without co-opting it. The two artists collaborated during Ginsberg’s lifetime, but with this book Drooker was on his own. Yet there’s little doubt that the late poet would be snapping his fingers in approval. These illustrations are also used in the recently released film “Howl,” starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg.

Read the Forward’s recent article on ‘Howl’ here.


Paul Celan and the Messiah’s Broken Levered Tongue: An Exponential Dyad
By Adam Shechter and Daniel Y. Harris
Červená Barva Press, 58 pages, $4

For those interested in truly avant-garde contemporary Jewish poetics, this chapbook collaboration of Adam Shechter and Daniel Y. Harris will be of interest. Donning the masks of various mythic, historic and archetypal characters, the two poets keep up a convoluted, traumatized and hilarious dialogue about Jewish identity, poetry, and their own personal (at times all too personal) histories. Skipping across eras and continents, remixing mythologies with confessions, the two poets create a highly original and challenging read.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Paul Celan and the Messiah’s Broken Levered Tongue’ here.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tanya Reinhart, Poetry, Peter Cole, Paul Celan, Joy Ladin, James Franco, Howl, Forward Fives 2010, Forward Fives, Eric Drooker, Daniel Y. Harris, City Lights, Charles Bernstein, Books, All the Whiskey in Heaven, Allen Ginsberg, Aharon Shabtai, Adam Shechter, 2010 in Books

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.