Sunday, 25 September 2016

Alwayswriteagain: 5777 כתיבה וחתימה טובה

Alwayswriteagain: 5777 כתיבה וחתימה טובה:   The first day of Rosh Hashana , the Jewish New Year, falls next week, Monday 03 October 2016. May everyone who is celebrating have a gr...

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

On Rachel’s Birthday …

Israelis love their writers so much that many  are lauded as latter-day seers and saints.

Rachel BluwsteinSo it is with Rachel Bluwstein whose 126th birthday is celebrated today by Google Israel. Indeed, so revered and renowned does she remain even 85 years after her death, that she is still referred to simply as ‘Rachel The Poetess’.

Earlier this summer during a visit to Tiberias, I attempted to make a pilgrimage to her gravesite at the old cemetery, overlooking Lake Kinneret. But despite spending more than hour there wandering among the many fading headstones  and poorly tended plots, I was unable to find it.  I would appreciate a word from anyone who can point me in the right direction for a future occasion.

I conclude here with Perhaps, taken from the Anthology of Modem Hebrew Poetry, translated from the Hebrew by A.C. Jacobs.

Rachel Bluwstein Google


Perhaps it was never so.
I never woke early and went to the fields
To labour in the sweat of my brow
Nor in the long blazing days
Of harvest
On top of the wagon laden with sheaves,
Made my voice ring with song
Nor bathed myself clean in the calm
Blue water
Of my Kinneret. O, my Kinneret,
Were you there or did I only dream?


© Natalie Wood (20 September 2016)

Friday, 16 September 2016

A Jewish Dadaist Without Borders

Jacob GlatshteynJacob Glatstein (Yankev Glatshteyn) was one of the great figures of mid-20th century American Yiddish literature.

I mention him now because Words Without Borders, which promotes cultural understanding through the translation and publication of contemporary international writing, features his work in its current newsletter.

I am intrigued by this piece, translated by Asya Vaisman Schulman, as on a first reading, I mistakenly assumed it to be a sly satire of Ladino  -  Judeo-Spanish and Sephardi Jewry’s linguistic counterpart to Ashkenazi Yiddish.

However, research tells me that Glatshteyn designed it as a ‘dadaist hymn to Yiddish’ and used it in a public reading in November 1966, during which he asked his audience not to applaud between each poem so they may “have the opportunity without distraction to immerse themselves fully in the sound, rhythm and texture of the poetry.”


Sing Ladino

Sing Ladino, you blond songer,
Our magicjargonino,
Multicolored chattering,
Multitongued languageing
Sundownino, nino-nino,
Finegolden radiating, bursting—
All the breads, all the deaths,
All the taigas, all the tundras,
All the wonders multicolored,
All the wicks, all the skins,
Yellowred and Falashino,
Palestino speakerino,
Ours, our universladino,
You, blond Alladino, sing.

From the deeps and the stilldeepers,
Slavic, Luvavich, Turkavic,
Pollackic, Kazakhic,
Greekish and Teutonic,
Caucasian, Ashkenazi,
Carpathian and Asatic –
Our languagenoiseration,
Our tragic multihyping,
Our bulkheap, our buzzing,
Our Latvic, our
Scrawny thoughtster,
You blond songer,
Sing Ladino.

© Natalie Wood (13 September 2016)

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Disinheritance and Continuation

John Sibley WilliamsIn less than a month this past summer American writer John Sibley Williams has become the father of twins and produced a new collection of hauntingly beautiful verse.



Even so, the title of this latest book is Disinheritance **.

But unlike other readers who have offered it unstinting praise, I find the volume deeply disquieting. At a time when many fathers would write joyously of the new lives they have helped to create, Sibley devotes himself to death and mourning. Disinheritance

Further, as one poem in the collection is titled A Dead Boy Speaks to His Parents, it is followed by another, Things Start at Their Names. The latter refers to ‘Gabriel’ – also the name of his new-born son and means “God is my strength”.  Enough said!

Williams also writes fiction, is a free-lance literary agent, publicist and presently the marketing director of Inkwater Press, a self-publishing company. So I was surprised to note printing errors in the final poem, Denouement.


Can I say that a child died inside us
when all we have conceived is a name
for what could be?

We’ve built a cradle of nails and wood
to house a body too busy dying
to rest, a trophy of grief
we polish in case of tomorrow.

Yet still he cannot see through
the eyes I tried to give him.

My mother has woven a shroud
to warm the son, blue for the sky
and gold for its promise, black
around the edges to resemble
the distances between them.

Our friends have their mantra
the world will wait for you
and we have our reply
spelled out in silence.


** Disinheritance is published by Apprentice House @ $6.99 (Kindle) and $11.99 (Paperback).

© Natalie Wood (13 September 2016)

Sunday, 11 September 2016

What Black Poets Know By Heart

A 20-year-old US black poet has won the prestigious ‘Most Promising Young Poet Award’ from the Academy of American Poets. Donte-Collins_thumb17

Donte Collins scooped the prize for a poem dashed off in only 15 minutes and which was triggered by yet another shooting of a fellow black man by a white police officer.

Collins is a young man who may well be suffused by an uncomprehending, unrelenting rage.

After all, he could demand, as he was born in Chicago why were he and a brother summarily despatched to be adopted by a total stranger in Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota when he was aged only two? Didn’t they have a say in the arrangement? Why weren’t they allowed to be raised and loved by their natural mother – like other kids?

“My childhood was filled with both beauty and struggle … I was so angry. I didn’t understand what adoption meant. I had so much grief,” he says. It was only later that he began to understand that he could best express himself by using words instead of fists.

Amy-King_thumb13Below I repost Donte’s poem, what the dead know by heart along with Perspective by Amy King, who was co-winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize.


what the dead know by heart

by Donte Collins


lately, when asked how are you, i

respond with a name no longer living

Rekia, Jamar, Sandra

i am alive by luck at this point. i wonder

often:  if the gun that will unmake me

is yet made, what white birth

will bury me, how many bullets, like a

flock of blue jays, will come carry my black

to its final bed, which photo will be used

to water down my blood. today i did

not die and there is no god or law to

thank. the bullet missed my head

and landed in another. today, i passed

a mirror and did not see a body, instead

a suggestion, a debate, a blank

post-it note there looking back. i

haven’t enough room to both rage and

weep. i go to cry and each tear turns

to steam. I say I matter and a ghost

white hand appears over my mouth.



by Amy King

When I see the two cops laughing

after one of them gets shot

because this is TV and one says

while putting pressure on the wound,

Haha, you're going to be fine,

and the other says, I know, haha!,

as the ambulance arrives—

I know the men are white.

I think of a clip from the hours

of amateur footage I've seen

when another man at an intersection

gets shot, falls, and bleeds from a hole

the viewer knows exists only by the way

the dark red pools by the standing cop's feet,

gun now holstered, who

yells the audience back to the sidewalk.

I know which one is dying

while black and which one stands by white.

I think this morning about the student

in my class who wrote a free write line

on the video I played

that showed a man pouring water

on his own chest, "...the homoerotic

scene against a white sky" with no other men

present. Who gets to see and who follows

what script? I ask my students.

Whose lines are these and by what hand

are they written?

© Natalie Wood (11 September 2016)