The Arty Semite

Music and the Laws of Poetry

By Jake Marmer

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy of KlezKanada

If, as Shelley had it, poets are the legislators of the world, then at this past year’s KlezKanada Poetry Retreat their law was music. Hosted at the large, week-long klezmer festival, the poetry was surrounded by accordionists, tsimbelists, people tapping out rhythms or tuning their violins. I was privileged to be co-teaching the retreat along with poet, scholar, and performer Adeena Karasick. It is a further privilege to introduce some of the poems, written at the retreat, to Forward readers. This kind of Jewish poetry, as it became clear throughout our sessions, doesn’t merely escape definitions. It drops words like notes into a stewing, communal, dialogical collective, quite like the one that unfolded amongst us.









Her room
Hinde Ena Burstin

Her room
is dark and musty and smells
of muscles that pulse
and pull me in.
Her curtains are made of tea
steeped in sandalwood.
Her sandals lie in a corner
teasing my shoes
to join them
in gay abandon.

She has racks and racks
of ties on display
by her table.
Khais and khamsas
nestle among books
by Dropkin and Shtok and Korn.
A scarf draped on top
begs me to undress
their words so fresh,
yet written so long ago.

By the glow of the candle
are lines and lines of
numbers that have some kind
of meaning
I’d like to explore.
A half-eaten apple
tempts me to know
the Unknowable,
while a shawl snakes itself
round a lamp
that lights like a moon
in full glow.

I’m a fool to enter this cave
of forbidden delights,
and yet,
my tastebuds are all aflame.
Salty windows
bitter paintings
sour faces
sweet bed
with a velvet cover
to caress away my woes.

I hear breath quicken
Hers?
Mine?
Or both?
I take it all in
from my place by the door
smell heartbeat
hear muscles
taste velvet
touch sweet
see a chance
and so I dare
to enter.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Poetry, KlezKanada

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!
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • 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.