I’ve fallen behind on blogging this week because I’ve been immersed in planning for JWA’s first National Summer Institute for Jewish educators, which begins on Sunday. It’s been fun reading all the different kinds of texts – historical, artistic, literary, pedagogic – that the presenters are teaching. One that I thought I’d share is a poem by Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), whose writing grapples with radical politics, feminism, and Jewish identity. I read this poem long ago and was delighted to rediscover it.
Long afterward, Oedipus, old and blinded, walked the
roads. He smelled a familiar smell. It was
the Sphinx. Oedipus said, “I want to ask one question.
Why didn’t I recognize my mother?” “You gave the
wrong answer,” said the Sphinx. “But that was what
made everything possible,” said Oedipus. “No,” she said.
“When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning,
two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered
Man. You didn’t say anything about woman.”
“When you say Man,” said Oedipus, “you include women
too. Everyone knows that.” She said, “That’s what
Rukeyser’s poem reminds me of another poem that I love (which happens to be written by my mother-in-law, Carol Rose).
WHEN WOMEN STUDY THE BIBLE
he asks, “just what it is that you
want to do to the bible, anyway?
do you think that you can
change it to suit your own whim,
your mood, your particular view
of reality? it’s just amazing how
people try to bend history to
meet their own needs.”
“isn’t it, though?” i reply.
I admire how these two poems so sharply and succinctly capture that history has traditionally and unapologetically excluded women’s perspectives (among others) and made invisible its own political agenda. Both fire me up for the work that I do at JWA to integrate Jewish women’s voices and experiences into our historical record.
And I love sharing poems, so please post about your own favorites in the comments thread.