One’s religion, one’s Judaism, becomes so much part of the fabric of living that I find it hard to distinguish my Jewishness from my character or temperament, things that are notoriously difficult to identify and describe in one’s self.
Daniel Mark Epstein
In this thirty-year retrospective of poetry from Shirim, Merrill Leffler has brought together poems on “sources” that Jewish poets draw on naturally: whether raised Orthodox or Conservative, Reformed or Reconstructionist, Secular or Atheistic, Jews grow up with a body of inherited traditions, values, and attitudes. While the extent of those influences differ from one poet to another, they include a basic knowledge of Biblical stories from Genesis and Exodus, rituals, whether practiced or not, liturgies, folklore, and for many a sense of the spiritual that derives from the Kabbalah and other mystical texts. Ever since Gershom Scholem’s groundbreaking research on the Kabbalah, , many of its text have become available in English translation – and poets like Jerome Rothenberg and David Meltzer have drawn on them in uniquely distinctive ways. They are two of the nearly fifty poets represented here.
Marc Steven Dworkin is the Founding Editor of SHIRIM, A Jewish Poetry Journal. For the past thirty years, he has sought poetry from around the globe that reflects the tensions, contradictions and marvels of Jewish experiences. “This search has always been guided,” he writes, “by the understanding that these poems are windows into Jewish culture and thought.” The late Stanley Chyet, a founding advisor, described SHIRIM as “poetry of Jewish reference.” No attempt was made to create a single or dominant point of view – the poems that have appeared in its pages are the thoughts and reflections of the creative mind looking at the Jewish experience. Towards these ends, SHIRIM has published poetry from Israel, England, Canada, France, Romania, Poland and many other countries -- from Yehuda Amichai, Haim Gouri and Shirley Kaufman to Grace Schulman, Carl Rakosi, Stanley Moss, Irving Layton. Sources of Jewish Poetry gives a glimpse into Marc’s achievement with SHIRIM over these thirty years
Many libraries carry SHIRIM, among them, university libraries, for example, Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Iowa, Wisconsin and Texas, public libraries in New York, Cincinnati and Los Angeles, and the libraries of Hebrew Union College, Jewish Theological Seminary and American Jewish University.
I am a Jewish writer because that is the path I was born to and because the imagery and the stories both feed me and are my body. Even when I try to cut myself off, I find that Judaism is the knife I use. Deena Metzger
Sources of Jewish Poetry
A Thirty-Year Shirim
Edited by Merrill Leffler
84 pp., 5-1/2 x 8-1/2
Published by Shirim:
A Jewish Poetry Journal
in association with Dryad Press
Selected back issues of Shirim are available – of special note is the Fifteenth Anniversary that focuses on the American Jewish experience through poems and personal reflections.
Back issues of SHIRIM, A Jewish Poetry Journal
Poets & American Jews: A Collection of Poetry & Personal Reflections, Fifteenth Anniversary Issue
The focus is on American Jewish poets and includes personal reflections by Grace Schulman, Carl Rakosi, Stanley Moss, Daniel Mark Epstein, Robert Mezey, Deena Metzger, Myra Sklarew, and Jerome Rothenberg. $10
An Homage To Yehuda Amichai
Published after Yehuda Amichai’s death, this double issue includes translations by S.F. Chyet and Warren Bargad from all of Amichai’s books as well as a radio play, The Day Martin Buber was Buried, translated for the first time by Yaffa Weisman. $9
Israeli Love Poetry
Edited by Moshe Dor and Barbara Goldberg, this issue contains established and younger poets wrestling with love in Israel. $9
Israeli Women Poetry
Edited by Miriyam Glazer, this issue includes poems by Lea Goldberg, Dahlia Ravikovitch, Yona Wallach, Nava Semel, and many others. $9
The Poetry of Eytan Eytan
Translated and translated by Merrill Leffler and Moshe Dor, this issue is a wonderful collection by Eytan Eytan who died from cancer in 1991. $7
Psalms of the Jewish Liturgy
Miriyam Glazer’s creative translations give us new insight in the poetry of the Psalms. $7
70th Anniversary of Kristallnacht
In 2008, Charles Fishman edited an issue of poems on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht that includes Louis Daniel Brodsky, Denise Levertov, Marilyn Kallet and others. $7
British Jewish Poetry
Peter Lawson edited this wide-ranging issue that includes poems by seventeen poets, among them, Daniel Abse, Elaine Feinstein, Jon Silkin, Michael Rosen, and Daniel Weissbort. $9
Jewish Canadian Poetry
Seymour Mayne edited this issue that includes work by twenty of Canada’s finest poets, including Leonard Cohen, Elizbeth Brewster, and Susan Glickman. $9