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!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • 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.