By Riva Rubin
Companion Volume to the Hebrew Translation.
Keshev Publishing House, Tel Aviv. 2012. 32 pages.
The 25 short poems composing this book are among the most readable comparisons to that of haiku and tanka forms for their clarity and power.
The world the details of these poems reflect seems primarily domestic. The realities of things focused on in the poems - clothes, flowers, cats, stairways and children - take on significances beyond their daily ones by becoming metaphors for beauty, affection, ascendance and the future.
These metaphors, it must be emphasized, are never grandiose, are always kept part of the understanding and appreciation of daily life in its many complexities - the same daily life we all live, experience, and sometimes pass over too quickly as insignificant.
This double level of description of our world is part of what makes the power and accessibility of these poems so attractive. Add to this the poet’s ability to condense such everyday items into brief and suggestive statements, and we have poems that often explode into the realm of the spiritual or metaphysical sense of our lives.
The poems that begin and end Bialik’s Bird are good examples of the triple-threat awareness for which Rubin’s apparently quiet poems are known.
NOW I MOVE (p.8)
Now I move into the great forgetfulness
of myself where eros and thanatos are
equally mysterious, irrelevant
to the tears shed for loss,
is the sum.
Given the short span of this review, I shall not list the two paragraphs of queries this poem calls up, the answering or the attempt at answering of which helps readers unpack the realities the poem holds together so delicately and so powerfully. Instead I shall suggest the three aspects to consider the relationships of when enjoying the poem.
First, ‘the great forgetfulness’ the poem begins with and the ‘loss/is the sum’ it ends with, together belong to the normal experiences of death. Second, ‘eros and thanatos’ suggest a Freudian view of the human passions which generate life and the death-wish limiting or directing them.. Both are considered as ‘equally mysterious’ and ‘irrelevant’ to our response to losing everything, our emotions, our tears. And third - the real poetic mystery, what is driving the speaker to ‘move’ ‘now’ into that ‘forgetfulness’ which is perhaps the loss of losses, of oneself.
In part, and I insist only in part, the final poem of the book provides, if not answers, at least a context for a partial clarification of some of the first poem’s movements and the mysteries involved. I say ‘only in part’ for the other 23 short poems sketch out in great depth and detail the overall context which Rubin wants us to consider her version of poetic life in Israel, Bialik’s bird stripped of much nationalistic rhetoric.
MY GROWTH (p. 32)
I said no to it
but my fingertips fluttered
and I called my child to walk with me
till I could fill myself
with myself again.
The book began with death and loss, with reality experiences more relevant for their tears than abstract theories of 'eros and thanatos'. So how does the book end? Apparently positive, about growth and development of the self. And yet…
Again I revert to the triple-threat approach to careless reading or ignorance of life’s complexities. Here the poem begins with rejecting growth and ends with the apparently positive goal of ‘filling myself/ with myself again’ – the opposite of losing oneself, which the first poem began with. In between, the fluttering fingertips – nerves trembling, fear, unease at the terms of growth - combine with calling her child ‘to walk with me’. Not to be alone, not to have to walk alone till she can come to terms with this ‘growth’. And finally, the paradox of the paradox, the title: 'MY GROWTH'. Given the rejection, the fear, the need for the help of another being one has grown, the educational aspect of ‘my growth’ reduces to the medical- a tumor, and the threatened ‘loss is the sum’ reality of losing one’s life, of which losing one’s sense of self is a major part of the suffering, the tears.
Normally one tries to distance oneself from growths of this kind by talking in the third person - “the growth”. But however the speaker came to it, here it’s already taken into one’s life, personalized, to some degree accepted as ‘my’ growth. And this returns us ironically and in a way positively, to the tame original meaning of ‘my growth’ as my development, into a kind of wisdom.
So loss is not the sum. The wisdom of these short poems and of this brief book far better summarize the human capacity for understanding and creating beauty one can share with one’s fellow beings in this travel through human existence.
If you want to see more of how Rubin draws art out of life or life into art, I leave with two further poems from this volume. And if this brand of elegance and wisdom appeals to you at all, or fills a need at all for getting through your own experiences, I recommend your reading Bialik’s Bird in its original English or in its brilliantly translated Hebrew companion volume.
TIME (1) (p.21)
With perfect authority the marigold
upright in the glass
throughout the unmoving afternoon
droops its neck at last
recognizing the ultimate second.
BIALIK’S BIRD AT MY WINDOW (p.24)
Little birdie at my window
teases me in Hebrew
he calls me small fry – I
don’t write about him in Hebrew
like Bialik, but I
did make the journey.
To order: email@example.com or 03 685 0290.
Post a Comment
- life's journey – exploring relationships, resolving conflicts. a review
- schneider children's medical center not just any hospital
- children without shadows
- stop driving before it is too late
- encountering israel
- the strawberry woman
- for the love of god and virgins - a review
- fighting cancer with hyperthermia
- ex-volunteers-kibbutz movement wants to hear from you
- watt lights my light