Thursday, November 30, 2006

There'll Be Some Changes Made

Hello, everyone! As you'll see over to the right--if that's where it stays as I juggle the template--one of my favorite Jewish poets and scholars, Norman Finkelstein, has taken up my offer to join this blog as a contributor. More new voices may follow, either officially or through cross-posting, etc. I'd like to keep this blog afloat even as my own bark founders here in Chicago. (Well, that puts it too strongly--but I am swamped, more or less, by projects that are only tangential to this. Busy, busy!)

Now that my grades are in for the quarter, I hope to return to blogging, here and elsewhere. Norman will join in as soon as he can.

Finally, a note to A, who asked about my politics.

I hate to say this, but your email--a kind one, not at all angry or blustering--shut me down here for weeks. I may post more explicitly political material here in the future; in fact, I'm fairly sure of it. I don't want to start debates, Lord knows. (If you want to read something really depressing, take a gander at what passes for "debate" after an article in Ha'aretz or on Jewschool.) But I feel the need to say a few things, and if they bear on Jewish poetry, identity, or my so-called Jewish life, this does seem the place to say them.

Until tomorrow, then!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Rachel Zucker Blogging

I'm so swamped, so slow to write and read these days that I seem to have missed Rachel Zucker guest blogging at the Poetry Foundation. Go and read; she's a wonderful poet, and (it turns out) a moving, smart blogger as well.

Maybe I should make this a jointly written blog? Get some other folks too busy to sustain one of their own and work out a schedule for contributions? It works for Jewschool, which I read more or less religiously every morning.

Let me know!

Monday, November 13, 2006

News Worth Knowing

This from YNET, via the Poetry Foundation:
Poetry as a common language

Syrian poet recites Arabic translation of Hebrew poem at Spanish poetry festival

Itamar Eichner

Published: 11.13.06, 12:50

Had it been up to the poets, perhaps peace between Syria and Israel would have been established long ago. This was the obvious conclusion reached several days ago at the poetry festival held in Lleida, Spain. It was where Israeli poets Ronny Somek, the celebrated Syrian Lebanese poet Adonis and the Syrian poetess Maram al-Misri found a common language.

Ali Ahmad Said Asbar, also known by the pseudonym Adonis or Adunis, is a Syrian-born poet and essayist who has made his career largely in Lebanon and France. He has written more than twenty books in his native Arabic.

At the age of 24 he fled to Lebanon after being arrested for nationalist political activity. In Lebanon he abandoned his nationalist ideas and in 1974 immigrated to Paris.

Adonis is considered to be one of the greatest Arab poets of all times and was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature. He is a friend of the Israeli poet Natan Zach and the two have published a joint work together. Adonis' work was published in Hebrew in Israel in 1989, and Ronny Somek wrote a poem entitled "Shalom, to Adonis the King," which was added to the preface.

Immediate chemistry

Somek, who came to Barcelona for the publication of his book "Pirate Love," arrived at the festival in Lleida and met Adonis for the first time. The two hit it off right away. "We spoke in Arabic, and it seemed as though the world was free of war," Somek said Sunday.

With regards to the Syrian poetess, Somek said Maram al-Misri told him that it had been difficult for her to write a poem following the recent war in Lebanon." Somek is now looking for an opportunity to invite Adonis to visit Israel.

The next day the two poets appeared in a panel discussing the status of poets' worldwide. The presenter asked each of them to recite one of their poems. Somek recited a poem, but beforehand he handed Adonis and al-Misri a translation into Arabic of his poem "Algiers."

When Adonis' turn came, the audience was amazed when he told them that instead of reciting his own poem he would recite the translation of Somek's poem. The audiences applauded loudly in appreciation of the gesture.

"It was one of the most moving moments of my career," said Somek "I shivered all over, the Spanish press made a big thing of it the next day," he added.

Keep up the good work, the three of you. The eyes of Texas may not be upon you, but the eyes of the blogosphere are.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Stop Reading. Go Vote.

Found this this morning, on Jewschool:
As I contemplate tomorrow’s elections, I keep thinking about a piece of text at the end of the third chapter of Masechet Sukkah, the tractate of Talmud that deals with the holiday of Sukkot. The chapter closes with a listing of bad omens for the Jewish community and an enumeration of the human actions that the rabbis believed caused these negative portents. Part of the text reads:

ובשביל ד’ דברים נכסי בעלי בתים נמסרין למלכות
ועל שהיה ספק בידם למחות ולא מיח

And because of four things the wealth of the laypeople (literally “the home owners”) will pass into the hands of the government….
[Reason #3 is:] Because of those who have the ability to protest and don’t.”

Rashi interprets reason #3 as a rabbinic statement on social activism. He explains that the phrase “ba’al habatim” (which I’ve translated here as “laypeople,” but which can also mean “those who work for a living” or any number of similar things) refers to those who are wealthy. Because of their affluence, says Rashi, wealthy individuals have the ability to protest against those who commit moral and legal transgressions in society. Others, he continues, will listen to what these people have to say because of their social position. Should the ba’al habatim fail to protest, their wealth will pass into the hands of the government– clearly an ominous outcome in the eyes of the rabbis.

These days, democratic elections are one of the most powerful methods we have to protest against what we view as social transgressions. And is there anyone among us who isn’t wealthy in some way, whether in terms of friends, freedoms, good fortune, money, or the ability to influence at least an immediate circle of family and friends? As Jews who may be wealthy in either conventional or unconventional ways, we need to vote. The Talmud reminds us that if we don’t– if we fail to protest injustice when we hold that power in our hands— our wealth (our freedoms, our dignity) will pass into the hands of others who have the power to oppress us.

Makes sense to me. If it doesn't to you, consider this, from Martin Espada:
Sheep Haiku
--Achill Island, Ireland

A lone sheep cries out:
There are more of us than them!
The flock keeps grazing.
Go Vote.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Hot Fun in the Summer Time

Welcome to November, everyone! And if it's November, that means it's time for the NEH to announce their upcoming round of Summer Seminars and Institutes. Some of these are for college faculty; you can find that full list here, y si usted habla espanol, let me draw your attention to this:

Jewish Buenos Aires
(In Spanish)
July 9-July 27, 2007 (3 weeks)
David William Foster
Department of Languages and Literatures
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-0202
(Seminar Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina)

For my purposes, the crucial list is here: the seminars and institutes for K-12 Teachers. Each runs from two to six weeks; for each you get paid a stipend of $1,800 (2 weeks), $2,400 (3 weeks), $3,000 (4 weeks), $3,600 (5 weeks), or $4,200 (6 weeks) to cover transportation, living expenses, and so on.

This year, the NEH will sponsor two, yes two seminars for teachers of poetry! The first will be at Harvard, taught by Helen Vendler:

Poetry as a Form of Life, Life as a Form of Poetry
July 2-July 20, 2007 (3 weeks)
Helen Vendler
Harvard University
Information: William Holinger
Harvard Summer School
51 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

The second (drum roll please) will be right here at DePaul, taught once again by yours truly:

Say Something Wonderful: Teaching the Pleasures of Poetry
June 25-July 27, 2007 (5 weeks)
Eric Murphy Selinger
Department of English
DePaul University
802 West Belden Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614

And yes, that's a real email address, not just a placeholder!

Keep in mind that you can only apply to one (1) of these two seminars; the NEH has a firm rule about that, and I have seen good teachers barred from participation for a year because they broke it. So write to both addresses for information, decide which city, which length of program, and which content better suits you, and then get busy with your application!