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Poems for Young and Older - Review 2

This is the second year that I have been given the privilege of reviewing the Voices Israel Anthology of Poetry for ESRA Magazine. As before, the Anthology contains over 100 original English language poems from writers around the world dealing with a wealth of topics, many related to Israel and Judaism and some less parochial.

To my delight, this year's anthology also included a small monograph with a detailed history celebrating 50 years of Voices Israel, the not-for-profit, which annually produces the yearly collection. This process involves reading, assessing and ranking hundreds of submissions. In 1971, in response to an ad in The Jerusalem Post, four individuals met and committed themselves to creating a focal group for the creation and exchange of original poems in English. Today there are groups all around Israel with 150 active members in Israel and on four continents. Most recently, for obvious reasons, Zoom sessions have been incorporated into their scheduled poetry readings and meetings.

As in previous years, the present anthology includes the winning poems of the Reuben Rose Competition for the best poems of several hundred submitted and the Bar Sagi Prize for the best poems written by 12- to 19-year-olds. The winning entries in both competitions are included in the Anthology.

The poems themselves in the Anthology represent sensitive voices dealing with: our shared humanity, health, family bonds, loss, nature, beauty, beliefs and most interesting some of the poets present their ruminations about poetry itself.

In one striking moment on Page 82, Ruth Fogelman of Israel writes touchingly of Fear. "… fear of the inability to wash or dress myself … of losing the wonder of dewdrops on a petal ... losing a sense of G-d's presence, living in vain." How touching and depressing.

On the opposite page 83, a paean written by Judith Fineberg, also currently living in Israel, To Skip Stones. "… recalling a long-forgotten ache, that ache for the perfect throw … it begins with caressing fingers reading the beauty in stone's surface then, a flowing thrust of arm-body unity, ..."Those two poems, in such close juxtaposition brought me to tears; the fear of aging and the aching memories of youth. Well worth the price of the Anthology.

Corona is also a subject. Julie Mendelsohn of Israel, in her poem Cave People, describes our emerging after a year of an "... escape from communal life …" and coming out of Corona to "renew our human urge to reach the heavens and reach our arms toward one another, for deep inside this cave there is no light." This imagery, as opposed to Lillian Cohen's submission from Australia, A Tale of Two Species, in which our emergence from Corona lockdown is likened to "… untouched, unseen, the chrysalis emerges transformed …".

The ultimate pleasure in this treasury of expression are four consecutive poems about poetry on pages 40 to 44. The opening lines of the four: She dipped her pen in time; … Today is not the day I'll write a poem; …. Unable to finish my latest poem; …. The poem within the Poem has its own agenda. These teaser opening lines are presented to entice you to explore the anthology for yourselves. They dangle promise and temptation, read on from the Anthology to see if the promise is fulfilled.

If you'd like to become a member of Voices Israel, go to the website www.voicesisrael.com. You will see how to become a member and / or how to order the latest anthology. It is a worthwhile gift for young and older. Annual membership subscription of NIS 120 entitles one to the Anthology, a monthly newsletter, and poetry meetings and workshops throughout the year.

Editor-In-Chief: Dina Yehuda 

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Monday, 03 October 2022

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