Woodrat Podcast 3: Rachel Barenblat on Embodied Miracles

Rachel talks about writing poetry vs. writing liturgy, studying with David Lehman, images of motherhood and divinity, wordless prayers, and the challenges of writing while caring for an infant. Two-month-old Drew adds a few wordless prayers of his own.

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Theme music: “Le grand sequoia,” by Innvivo (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence)

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15 Comments


  1. Thanks again for doing this, Dave — I’m delighted to be part of the podcast, and this conversation was fun.

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    1. It was a blast! Thanks for doing it. I hope I can have you back next year, after your ordination — get you to put on your scholar’s hat and talk about Jewish poetry through the ages, or something.

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  2. This was extraordinary. I listened and felt completely with you both, somewhere in a time and space that was not now and not when you recorded this, not Massachussets and not Pennsylvania and not London, UK, but in and between and beyond all of them – both of your words and listening and Rachel’s prayers and poetry falling limpidly into a very deep space. The power of poetry and the power of both your spacious attention and presence – little Drew’s too, perhaps. Very special. Thank you so much for doing this.

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  3. Rachel and Dave, what a pleasure it’s been to spend part of my evening with you! I was fascinated, amused, and moved by your words, Rachel, and like Jean, touched by Dave’s quality of attention and the pace of the interview. Rachel, you manage to combine a keen intelligence with a very developed way of talking about feelings – something I haven’t found to be all that common in the clergy, especially male clergy, but it’s so important. You’re giving women permission to talk in a new way about spirit and emotion and the most tumultuous events of life, and this is sorely needed if we’re going to live integrated lives. The poems were very moving, and how perfect it was to hear Drew’s voice at the end!

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    1. I agree — Drew’s vocalizations were the crowning touch here. We honestly didn’t set out to come up with such a symmetrical and thematically unified podcast; I didn’t send Rachel any questions in advance. She’s just that good.

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    2. Thank you so much for listening, Beth! I’m tremendously moved by the end of your comment here — the notion that I’m giving women permission to speak in a new way about spirit and emotion and our embodied lives — thank you so much for saying that; I needed to hear it.

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  4. I just reread what I wrote above and thought really what amazingly basic and naive things for someone who’s been listening to the radio all her life to be thinking. I think because this was of professional standard – technically and content – but featured two people I’ve met and whose work and ideas I admire and am moved by, the whole nature and basis of audio broadcasting suddenly came to me afresh and anew.

    I would not, if asked before you started this, have expressed particularly huge enthusiasm for a venture into podcasting (though I’ve loved some of the Qarrtsiluni podcasts too), but these have surprised me with how strong and lovely they are and how different from text-blogging. I haven’t had time to say how much I enjoyed the previous one with you an Beth also – again, the combination of professional standards and very, personal content (but of wide interest) made it very special.

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    1. Jean, it’s very gratifying to hear you say all this. I hope the podcast continues to satisfy, though I’m sure I won’t get too many more guests as adept at interviewing themselves as Rachel was! The next couple episodes should be almost entirely secular in content, but I hope to be able to return to religious questions for time to time, especially considering the nature of the parent blog. So glad to know you’ll be listening.

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    2. Jean, thank you so much for listening and for these comments. The interview was a real pleasure, and now knowing that people are listening and responding is its own kind of pleasure, too.

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  5. Tremendously engaging and illuminating. God of mountains, God of breasts! How satisfying to recapture what has been lost (intentionally buried) in translation.

    I also loved the discussion of prayer/poetry without ceasing, extending to the bathroom stall wall. What could deserve words of gratitude and awe more than the bowel?

    Rachel, I envy your future congregation.

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  6. It’s such a pleasure to hear you both and the topic was equally interesting. thank-you Dave. Rachel is a gift to her community and Dave, you are good at this!

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    1. Thanks, q.r.! Podcasting is a blast so far, especially with guests as easy to talk to as Beth and Rachel. Now if I can just keep from getting bogged down in technical difficulties here at La Casa Negativa…

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