There is so much that technology has brought to the poetry equation – not just by connecting people & poetry and poets & artists who weren’t connected to each other before, but by changing both the face and the delivery of poetry itself. Poems locked up in hard-copy print editions only available for sale are struggling in new and more serious ways, while poems delivered in multiple creative ways online have new leases on life and are reaching an ever-widening audience.
“Locked up” indeed. We shouldn’t ignore traditional media altogether, of course. Appearances in newspapers and general-interest magazines, on television, and on the radio can also reach new audiences. But it’s largely thanks to online culture that artistic collaborations are beginning to take center stage. As Rachel puts it,
Something interesting happens when we see ourselves and our work as part of an interconnected matrix of creativity. Instead of “The Poet” on her pedestal and the adoring readers clustered at her feet (ha!), the new paradigm — it’s a bit web 2.0, or a bit fannish, honestly; everyone is a creator, not just a consumer — gives us the possibility of one person making art, and another person responding in kind.
Yom Kippur is a rehearsal for the day of our deaths. Today we wear white, like our burial shrouds. (Some wear a white robe called a kittel, in which they will someday be buried.) Today we abstain from food and drink; the dead need neither. And today we say the vidui, the confessional prayers, as we will say on our deathbeds. As Rabbi Shef Gold has written, “For the whole day of Yom Kippur, we act as if it is our last day, our only day to face the Truth, forgive ourselves and each other, remember who we are and why we were born.”
Today is our chance to release all the karmic baggage we haven’t managed to let go in the last year. To set ourselves, and everyone we know, free. Not so that we can die at peace — but so that we can live at peace, with ourselves and with one another.
A three-way conversation with the newly ordained Velveteen Rabbi, Rachel Barenblat, and Beth Adams, publisher of Rachel’s 70 Faces: Torah Poems. Rachel reads five poems from her new book plus a brand new Torah poem, and we talk about Biblical interpretation, Middle East politics, literary micropublishing, and more. (Although today is Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees, I stupidly forget to bring that up. But you can read and listen to Rachel’s poem for the day on her blog.)
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.
Miscarriage: such an odd and innocuous word for such a potentially traumatic experience. As a single man in a male-dominated society, I’ve had the luxury of ignoring the reality of that experience for most of my life, aided by the fact that, for whatever reason, we don’t seem to have a way of really talking about it. Neither “pro-life” nor “pro-choice” rhetoric seems adequate for addressing the pain and loss that accompany a spontaneous, unwanted abortion. And what might it mean for a religious woman in particular? Job’s dilemma might come to seem all too familiar, I’m thinking.
I don’t know; obviously I’m way out of my depth here. But I had my eyes opened a little bit when my friend Rachel Barenblat — the Velveteen Rabbi — asked me to read the manuscript of a small collection of poems she’d put together, Through, which arose from her own experience with miscarriage in January. A month or so later I received a beautiful, handmade chapbook (y’all know how much I love chapbooks), and I asked Rachel how other people could get a copy, because it seemed important to start filling the language void about this virtually taboo subject. Here’s her answer. Rachel has generously made it available in three forms: as a free download, an at-cost print-on-demand bound copy, or a free audio edition. Please help spread the word.
This can’t have been an easy experience to write anything about at all, let alone to distill into ten brief, searing, and luminous poems. As with Rachel’s earlier chaplainbook, these are accessible poems with several different layers of meaning, so I think almost anyone who’s ever gone through a miscarriage will get something out of it. Which is not to say the audience should end there: miscarriage is a subject every bit as relevant and revealing of the human condition as warfare, for example. So why doesn’t it get more attention from writers and artists? As Rachel says in “Wordless Melody,”