Ask those who survived before us. During the year I produced “Community through Covid,” I spent a lot of time exploring outdoor schooling and architectural encouragement for air-circulation current 100 years ago. Seeking new perspective on current, hyper-local grief, I settled into study of a mid-20th Century work by a Chicago Hebrew poet.
…I’ve written before about how much I was moved by reading about Lake Michigan in Hebrew. And I have enjoyed getting to know the — very different — work of the two poets featured in Women’s Hebrew Poetry on American Shores: Poems by Anne Kleiman and Annabelle Farmelant (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2016). I’ve also been quite fortunate to have brief, very helpful correspondence with both translators — Adriana X. Jacobs and Yosefa Raz. Dr. Raz also put me in touch with Anne Kleiman’s daughter, Adina….
Last week, as I struggled with a number of deeply sad local issues, I realized that the looming J6 anniversary — which means something quite different for neighbors of the site — was bringing up more deep feelings, some of which I’d half forgotten I still carried and had no idea how to resolve. In the process, I found myself drawn into this stanza from Anne Kleiman:
Now, just as last year,— untitled stanza, translated by Yosefa Raz
same season, same melody,
and the day still shrouded in fog
and the hand still groping…
I looked more closely at the eight untitled stanzas that follow a poem called “To the Musician,” and found myself more and more engaged with the journey the poet describes of loss and grief, through change and compassion, toward acceptance, maybe hope.
To explore the Hebrew, I used a Biblical Concordance instead of a dictionary. I was led to verses I know well and verses that were new to me. Along the way, I developed more of an appreciation for how and why Anne Kleiman expressed herself in Hebrew. And I returned again and again to the words that spoke so powerfully to me on the anniversary of J6 — “Now, just as last year, same season…” — each time with the words resonating with more and more biblical background.
While I don’t know when the poem was actually written, I also poked around in a variety of sources to refresh my memory of events and circumstances that would have been current for a Chicago resident around 1947. A few minutes with history can be a reminder that we’re not the first generation to face crises with no easy fix and pressures from many directions. And reading the words of those who struggled under burdens of the past, and still managed to share a few thoughts, can be lightening.
Eventually, I created a page to share sections of Kleiman’s poetry, with Raz’s translations and notes, along with my own annotations. Check out “Hebrew Humpty Dumpty Vision.”
I love the work of Anne Kleiman and the quite different work of Annabelle Farmelant and regularly find myself grateful to them and to their translators. I’m also grateful to Wayne State University Press for making available this and many other important titles. The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself, e.g.
Few More Days to Save on Books, BTW
As it happens, there are, as of this writing, a few days left in the annual WSU Press 45% off promotion; academic books are still pricey, but it’s a substantial discount….until Jan 14.