Tag Archives: poetry

Agi Mishol

Translator’s Note on Agi Mishol’s Work:

The poetry of Agi Mishol is evocative, accessible, grounded in the present yet steeped both in Mishol’s personal past and in the public past of Israel. The challenge is to translate the words without removing them from their larger cultural context and also to preserve the gentle lyrical quality that Mishol’s poetry possesses in the original Hebrew. Cynthia Ozick wrote that “a translation can serve as a lens into the underground life of another culture,” and my wish in translating Agi Mishol’s poetry is to create this lens for readers of English.

 

Agi MisholAgi Mishol is an established Israeli poet who has won an array of prizes, including the Yehuda Amichai Prize, the Prime Minister’s Prize and the coveted Dolitzky Prize.  The daughter of Hungarian Holocaust survivors, Agi Mishol was born in Transylvania, Romania in 1946, emigrating to Israel at an early age. Her work has been translated into a number of languages and she has published more than a dozen books of poetry in Hebrew. Look There was published in English by Graywolf Press. Her latest Hebrew poetry collection is entitled Working Order. Agi Mishol directs the Helicon School of Poetry in Tel Aviv.

 

Joanna ChenJoanna Chen (translator) is a British-born journalist and poet. She has published extensively in Newsweek, The Daily Beast, BBC World Service and Radio 4. She has also published world reports on women’s issues in Marie Claire that have been syndicated in the USA, Europe and Australia. Joanna Chen’s poetry has appeared in a number of literary journals both in Israel and abroad, most recently in Poet Lore.  www.joannachen.com

 

 

She-Dog

1.

When she sees me in the morning
coming out of the house toward the fields
she leaps around me leaving
on the path
one long, precise sentence
on happiness.        

2.

Proud of her name
she charges into the crows
just to prove she’s guarding
the yard.

3.

She returns with a chicken in her mouth.
It must have escaped the neighbor’s coop.
She won’t eat it but neither will she let it go,
just stands there steaming with the bird between her teeth
and a shy wag of her tail –
half she-dog, half she-wolf
lost on the border.

4.

She has no money
no clothes
and doesn’t hold a grudge.

When she’s hungry – she eats.
When she’s thirsty – she drinks.
When she’s tired she stretches out
and falls asleep under a bush.

5.

Always by my side
she goes where I want to
before I even get up. 

Howard Schwartz

Howard ScwartzHoward Schwartz is the author of five books of poems, VesselsGathering the Sparks, Sleepwalking Beneath the StarsBreathing in the Dark, and The Library of Dreams. He is also the co-editor (with Anthony Rudolf) of Voices Within the Ark: The Modern Jewish Poets. His other books include Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, which won the National Jewish Book Award and Leaves from the Garden of Eden: One Hundred Classic Jewish Tales. 

The Angel of Ripeness  

While she waits for the sun to bestow
its blessing,
she rocks the cradle
back and forth,
tending the seed
the way a cloud and river
nurture the rain.

Every grain in the field,
every grape on the vine,
even the moon
listens
to the song she hums
under her breath.

Patty Seyburn

Patty SeyburnPatty Seyburn has published three books of poems: Hilarity (New Issues Press, 2009), Mechanical Cluster (Ohio State University Press, 2002), and Diasporadic (Helicon Nine Editions, 1998). Her poems have recently been published in Minnesota Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Zocalo Public Square. She is an Associate Professor at California State University, Long Beach, and co-editor of POOL: A Journal of Poetry (www.poolpoetry.com).

Lightning, 1882-1890

As witness, the amateur
hazards the first
photograph of this
phenomena, perhaps
the first phenomena –
what other tool would
the Great Cleaver wield
to separate firmament
from earth? The man
reveals the supposed
serrate closer to a straight
line or curve: ribbon
or random pattern
instead of jag, famed
zigzag, switchback –
the art of electricity
scissoring the dark –
the eye, ever-deceived.
Grievous the world
broken in two: fabric
of matter rent and
stitched by the Holy
Tailor with thread of
ether, needle of storm,
so seamlessly the seam
denies its existence:
you must have imagined me.
 

Judith Skillman

Judith SkillmanJudith Skillman’s forthcoming book is Broken Lines—The Art & Craft of Poetry, (Lummox Press). Her poems and collaborative translations have appeared in Poetry, Cimarron Review, FIELD, Ezra, Seneca Review, The Iowa Review, and numerous other journals and anthologies. Recipient of an award from the Academy of American Poets for Storm (Blue Begonia Press); two of her collections have been finalists for the Washington State Book Award. For more information visit www.judithskillman.com, or see her blog on techno-bling: abricabrac.com

 

If Miranda

The magician exists, of course,
if only in her imagination.
She’s the one who created him—
a daughter always makes her father
see with one eye. The other?
It’s gone white as dawn
in an overcast version of Paradise.
The white of an egg
pulled down beneath the lid.
Blindness frightens her, she tries
to make him see
it’s only wiles and guile,
a kind of feminine virtue
known and ignored.
He struts the sand like a bird
too sturdy despite the green toes.
He talks history, of the days
before this day.
Toward evening his apology
grows long as a shawl
of prayers, a foam rope.
She’s the one who must
reach farther in, find
the play within the play.
Without her probing
who would know the vagaries
of his latest illness?
Who plays the scamp,
the scalawag, that rapscallion
bound to haunt the waterfront?

Steven Sher

Steven SherSteven Sher is the author of fourteen books including, most recently, Grazing on Stars: Selected Poems (Presa Press, 2012) and the forthcoming The House of Washing Hands (Pecan Grove Press). He moved from New York City to Jerusalem one year ago with his wife. Find more information about his writing at stevensher.net.

 

 

A Lesson in Extending Compliments

for Rabbi Yehoshua Safrin
I told him he looked well today and he responded
that the surface of a man can be deceptive
and one’s health is in the hands of Hashem .
So then I added that his looking fine on the outside
was because the inside was so pure
and what was good came shining through.
Here he didn’t dispute what I had said
but nodded as if I had handed him a gift
that he couldn’t possibly accept,
yet he let it stand as he tugged on his coat
and turned up the collar, then swung the scarf
around his neck, fixing it like a mask over his mouth
up to the bridge of his nose—perhaps to trap
the warmth each deep breath garnered
as much as to keep the cold from his weakened lungs.
When next he pulled his black fur hat
down around his ears, as much to guard against the wind
that would slap his face once he stepped outside
as to strengthen himself against the doubts
that test a man before the door where he dons his gloves,
his mind was wrestling with new questions—
heavenly messengers, unseen by me,
now sent to lift him by his arms if they should drop
and raise the ground to meet his step.

William Shumway’s Painting Of A Rose

*(this poem is only available in our first print anthology)

 

Robert Stout

Robert Joe StoutRobert Joe Stout is a freelance journalist who lives in a small town in Oaxaca, México, amid bougainvillea and huge sunflowers. At night deer come to drink at the spring above the town. His most recent book is the novel Running Out the Hurt from Black Rose Writing.

 

 

Cactus in the Rocked-Off Grove
in Front of the Tourist Motel 

spined the gravel driveway
with shadows shaped like men
marching off to work. My son
dropped the leash to let our
dog race plastic bags blown
across boulders strewn every
which way against fossiled hills.
For a moment he stood
facing the horizon, fingers
of one small hand picking
at the brim of his baseball cap.
The dog, trotting back, stopped
and together they turned,
eyes drawn upwards
by the scratchy white
of rag-tag clouds revealing
some momentary message,
some indecipherable command
passed through the moonscape
growth to bind living things
to stones hunched
beneath that vacant dome
of fading blue. A wild bird
screeched, the dog spun back
to run again as my son wiped
his eyes and waved in wonderment:
Did you see it Dad?
It was beautiful.

Matthew Lippman

Matthew LippmanMatthew Lippman is the author of three poetry collections, American Chew, winner of The Burnside Review of Books Poetry Prize, Monkey Bars (Typecast Publishing) and The New Year of Yellow (Sarabande Books), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize. He is the recipient of the 2010 Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from The American Poetry Review. 

 

 **Recipient of Best of the Net 2013 Finalist**

 

In the Basement of the Holy House

I sat in the synagogue
and decided not to be a Jew. 
Just for a second. 
I wanted to see how it felt. 
It felt like the yellow traffic signal
on the corner of South and Center. 
Why don’t you want to be a Jew? my daughter said. 
How did you know? 
I can read your mind. 
No way, I said.  She smiled. 
Try me. 
I closed my eyes. 
You are thinking about how stupid mid twenties hipsters are
when they fall into their Existential free-fall,
four to six years after university, then wind up doing what most people do in America–
head out and make some money. 
Someone close to us said the word Adonai[1]
How did you guess?  I said.
I told you, she said. 
You are only seven, I said. 
Seven goes a long way in this world
and that is no joke. 
When I came back to being a Jew
The Torah had been put away and Kiddush[2] was happening
in the basement of the holy house
I was all alone in the sanctuary except for God,
I swear to it, who didn’t even yell or scream
or sink a blazing fireball into the middle of my chest
for not believing, even for just a second. 
Thanks, I said.  Not a problem, God said,
and it was like we had just shared a tuna fish sandwich
and there was nothing left, not even one little crumb.

 


[1] In Hebrew, this means God.

[2] In some Synagogues, this is done at end of service on Friday nights. There is a prayer recited and a type of bread called Challah is broken and sampled as well as a sip of wine from a silver cup

 

Benjamin Norris

Benjamin NorrisBenjamin Norris is a poet from Bristol, UK, whose work primarily deals with blending the mythic and the mundane, exposing the two to be little more than opposite sides of the same coin. Between writing projects, he lectures on Indian cultural history, and works as an academic linguist. He is currently putting together his debut poetry collection and developing a second novel.

 

For The Days 

We grow inside houses, and remember each spring
how it seeped through the flooring–
                                          bringing such thoughts, a cracking of dust–
the air will change, even now, as we lie
all bound in to our notional seasons,
fading grasses, and reasons to leave.

 
Clamber at the windows, catch sight of
woodsmoke, the tricks of trees, language held
in breathing bowls. Hammering, and
a child’s laughter cuts through old years.
These clocks, they do things you wouldn’t believe–
                                        bringing such thoughts, a cracking of dust–
in places, the snows have already come
falling with the precision of needles.

 

Joy Ladin

Joy LadinJoy Ladin is a Gottesman Professor of English at Yeshiva University, and author of six books of poetry: The Definition of Joy, Coming to Life, Transmigration, Alternatives to History, The Book of Anna, and Psalms. Her memoir, Through the Door of Life:  A Jewish Journey Between Genders, was a finalist for a 2012 National Jewish Book Award, and a Forward Fives winner. She is also the author of a book-length study of American poetry, Soldering the Abyss: Emily Dickinson and Modern American Poetry (VDM). Her work has appeared in periodicals, including American Poetry Review, Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, Southwest Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and North American Review. Ladin’s work has been recognized with a Fulbright Scholarship.

 

Letter to Jonah

It must be cozy there, in the belly of the whale.
The whale knows you aren’t the end of his world,
his enormous heart pumps unbroken in the dark.
God reverberates quietly inside you,
a psalm you sing as you dissolve
in his gastric juices.
Dissolving is safer for all concerned
than growing into who you are.
And aren’t you really closer to God,
there in the cozy belly of the whale,
dissolving into gratitude and krill
and a story sailors tell 
about a man who slept through a man-killing storm
and when they woke him up to pray
said “Throw me overboard.”

Premiere Issue

Issue 1.1: Summer 2012

Click on the author’s name to read their work(s) and bio. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page and on Twitter using #BlueLyra.

“Photosynthesis” Photo by Gin Conn

 

“Gray with Warm Lights”
Photo by Robin Grotke