February 15, 2006

by Reb Yudel
Talking about Jewish poetry

Looking for good Jewish poetry?

We at Ben Yehudah Press have a poet we're looking forward to sharing with the public... which is perhaps why the following comments from Publishers Weekly about a new work from Sheep Meadow Press, Morning Prayers, caught our eye:

Eve Grubin draws on her commitment as an observant Jew in fashioning poems that connect biblical text with contemporary life.
"Many of my poems would be considered prayers because they convey religious ideas or spiritual yearnings,"
said Grubin, programs director for the Poetry Society of America in New York.
"All poetry is filled with struggle, praise, gratitude, despair—it's a crying out of those struggles or noticing the things in this world that evoke praise. Prayer notices all of these qualities, and some poems are consciously written from those conditions."
and there's more from Publishers Weekly on Amazon:
In her strong, spare debut, Grubin writes from, and about, her Jewish faith, exploring and justifying it in careful images from modern city life, and in juxtapositions of Jewish liturgy with her own memories of crisis and epiphany:
"I have had moments that make hope/ superfluous."
Her most ambitious work gives philosophical and theological propositions a dramatic clarity, even when they explore what she does not know:
"Heaven is like unhappiness/ on earth only inverted into a finer tone/ I am certain of nothing."
Grubin (based in New York City and currently program director for the Poetry Society of America) is also a poet of illness and recovery, of childhood and of maternity, watching and worrying about young daughters, then considering (in the exceptional "Brooklyn Window") her links to her own mother and to the radical '60s.
"My transgressions hope I will seek them,"
Grubin speculates in one passionate, long-lined meditation,
"as God wants me to pray."
For all its explorations and doubts, however, Grubin's collection finds a final strength in paradoxical belief,
"living/ inside the laws and the lightning."
A bit of Googling finds some of her poems published in The Drunken Boat.

Here's my next question: Any other poets we should be paying attention to?


Re. yr question about other poets: try Ilya Kaminsky's Dancing in Odessa (Tupello Press).

Posted by: Eugene Ostashevsky at May 19, 2006 2:54 PM
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