Naomi Eisenberg’s spoken word poem Can I Ask You a Question? speaks for itself. Created in honor of her mother’s 25 years in the rabbinate, Naomi tackles questions of gender and equality in Judaism—and in our society at large.
An Un-Love Song is written as a psalm to Shavuot, which is associated with one of the most beautiful, celebratory poems in history, the Song of Songs. However, it’s written in the style of a Lamentation, as a response to heartbreaking acts of aggression towards women and children in the misappropriated name of religion. The poem addresses current events against a backdrop of Biblical recounting, including the Mount Sinai experience, the sin of worshipping the golden calf, the subsequent breaking of the original Tablets, and the story of Ruth and Naomi. It is a decidedly feminist poem.
What better way to end our chapter on poetry than with a poem by Ellen Steinbaum. Ellen's poem, "Adele at 100", is inspired by writer and teacher Adele Margolis. This particular poem is from her new book, Brightness Falls, which will be out in September.
Each poem I write is about a person or relationship and the feelings and sensations I associate with him/her/them/it. Some explore connections with friends or family, while others dissect my relationship with God or with myself. I usually write in moments of clarity—not as a means of working through an idea or problem. Rather the poem is a record of a conclusion or discovery I have made, or perhaps poses a question for which I have decided to seek an answer.
I reach for poetry that draws out my breath when it is caught in my lungs; poetry that surprises my heart into movement, expansiveness when it is heavy and turns in upon itself; poetry that feeds the pit of empty in my stomach so that it rumbles again for fire and food.
A few years after my grandfather passed away, my mother mentioned that for years he had refused to eat Spanish olives. I asked her why, and she said that he could trace his family history back to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and that this was his form of protest.