Israeli poetry evening

On March 23, I greatly enjoyed and helped to facilitate an evening of Israeli poetry in Los Angeles, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the state. For my portion, I read – in Hebrew and English – a poem by a young Mizrahi writer, Adi Keissar. Her “For Those Who” /”Le-Mi Sheh…” is a combative spoken word piece, influenced by hip hop. It’s not nuanced or balanced. It’s in-your-face political, and it makes you think.

Our program was based on the selections from the poetry anthology Israel: Voices from Within, edited by Barry Chazan et al, (Third Place Publications, 2020). The poem I read came from its last, contemporary section, which also features several other Israeli Jewish poets like Erez Biton (my choice #2), Eliaz Cohen, and Ronny Someck, alongside the Druze poet Salman Masalha and the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

After presenting Adi Keissar’s piece, I engaged the participants in a contemplative discussion, following something I’ve written about before – how to meditate by reading poetry. It’s a wonderful technique that allows you to move away from reading the text for literal and figurative meaning and open up to the awareness of your own internal reaction to the poem.

Our discussion, fruit/nosh, and music (some poems we read by Nathan Alterman and Zelda Mishkowsky have been turned into songs) reminded me of those fabled banquets from the golden age of Hebrew poetry – in Jewish homes in medieval Spain. A delight on a rainy night.

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