Global Correspondent Report



 Helen Bar-Lev

Israel Correspondent

3 August 2006

On 12 June 2006 the Voices Israel English Poetry group gave a workshop in the home of Ruth Kaufman in a small village called Kfar Hogla. (The Village of the Partridge), which is near the town of Hadera. About 18 poets attended. Her garden is lush and enviable; her architect husband designed the house, which seems to always be shaded from the hot summer sun.

The workshop was organized by Johnmichael Simon; 5 poets gave presentations:

Mike Scheideman, who is our President, spoke on the topic RIGHT POEMS; the exercise was to write a poem in our own voices avoiding adjective, adverbs and abstractions as much as possible. Mike himself wrote this poem. You must first know that he tends cows in his kibbutz:

Night Watch On Independence Day

Birds fled in fear, fanned by fire-cracker light,
horses and a bovine herd stampeded in their shed
streaked by the shade of a Jacaranda skeleton
as I turned my back and forgave
Another year of State celebration

Thilde Fox’s topic was INVITING THE MUSE. She spoke about poems we remember from childhood and asked us to look for different or wider meanings in these, to write poems disagreeing with or adding to what that poet has said. Helene Hart was inspired by “Wish You Were Here” by Led Zeppelin:


Heros and ghosts
are both held above
the mortal soul.
Ghosts we know are immortal.
Heros have merely
the potential.

Johnmichael Simon gave a presentation on HUMOROUS POETRY, and after a few suitable quotes from Ogden Nash and others, we were instructed to write a humorous poem. Susan Rosenberg, or wonderful secretary, wrote the following poem:

Hard To Be Funny

With sore throat
or when nose is runny,
if in purse or in coat
there is no money
when the weather, you note
is far from sunny,
if you dine on just goat
but wanted honey
when the items you tote
are too much for your boat
then it’s terribly hard
to be funny

Adrian Boas discussed the poetry of YANNIS RITSOS, the Greek poet. We were invited to write a poem in Ritsos’ spirit. Johnmichael Simon wrote:

Coin Through Water

Once she gleamed
bright from the mint
of sunlight striking melting snow
as it channels into icy streams
that ;surge alive fresh from the heights
down down to the wakening green

Now her broadness spreading
swelling round bellied, placid
relaxing wide amidst the grasses
and the first yellow-white
shoots of spring, she opens like
a purse spilling out round winking
coins, reflections of stones that sing
golden in her heart as she wanders
around a small island, her mother arms
embracing ducks, swans and little
children laughing in the riches of the sun

Dr. Ditza Sara Kourtchy spoke about POLYAESTHETICS – the poly-connections between the arts—poetry, music, dance and song. We were asked to choose an object in the room and write a poem about it. Karen Boxenhorn wrote about an abstract oil painting:

Green Painting

Why must every shift of my hands
muddy the ground at my feet like the tracks
of an inept burglar?
My cupped hands full of chess pieces
that clink dull against one another and remain
as before.
Life shall spring from this, but not through my strategies—
these pieces—I may as well drop them all,
dash them where they shall fall.

Johnmichael went on to create a chapbook with most of the poems written at the workshop, which includes my sketches of the people and photos in b&w. It is called INVITING THE MUSE. If anyone would like to order the book, which is 40 pages in length, it’s cost is US$ 8.-, including postage. Please contact me for payment details:

Johnmichael and I are traveling for nearly two months, 10 August – 5 October, to the NE and NW United States and Canada. We shall be meeting up with poets all over and have been invited to be guest poets by CPA president Donna Allard, at the Chocolate River Poetry Festival, 25-27 August, in Fundy Bay, New Brunswick. In Vancouver, 25-27 September, we will be “poets on tour” at the World Poetry event, organized by Ariadne Sawyer. And meeting with poets almost everywhere we stop. I shall report all this to you when we return.

I could not end this report without mentioning the ongoing war. I shall not do this from a political point of view but from a personal one. Johnmichael and I, less than 48 hours before the war broke out, bought a house in the small town (2,000 inhabitants if that much) of Metulla, which is directly on the Lebanese border, which rarely gets shelled because the rockets carry further on into Kiryat Shmona, and in which town all the news correspondents reporting to you about the war are staying, in the hotel of the father-in-law of our real-estate broker. In times of peace it is tranquil beyond words and the air is pure. The house is our dream house and we have been contemplating moving up North for many years. If there is peace, we shall move up in January.

Kiryat Shmona, where my daughter and two little girls live (3 ½ and nearly 2), is only 9 km. south of Metulla. Yael and her daughters, at the time of this writing, 3 August, is on her way to her father in Los Angeles, at least until the end of the month. Her family was shuttling back and forth between a Druse village on the Golan Heights and her brother near Tel-Aviv, to get away from the danger in Kiryat Shmona. The town has been severely damaged by rocket attacks and almost everyone has fled. Johnmichael and I have long had a personal love affair with the forests above Kiryat Shmona, where wild flowers grow in the winter and spring in wonderful abundance and seclusion. I am attaching a painting I did of that area and a poem I wrote about it in January, and one I wrote in February (this poem I wrote as I was working on the painting). At that time there was only serenity and beauty to be found in that forest. It has now been burnt out by the fires the rockets have started, as have many other forests in the north. What particularly hurts is that we have few forests here, really few trees – these trees were planted 50 years ago and it will take that much time to grow back – and they are not tall trees at all.

On this very sad note I leave you and pray that very very soon TRUE peace will come to this region.

Helen Bar-Lev,
Israel correspondent


In The North

There is a forest in the North,
pine, cypress, blue spruce trees,
benevolent guardians,
stand ever graceful on velvetgreen grass

and on an ordinary, if warm, early January Friday
here stirs magic,
for this forest is full of anemones,
some small, some huge,
petals pointed, petals rounded, smooth, striated,
white, purple, pink, and all their hues
so different from one another, so beautiful,
as though competing in an annual forest beauty contest

here and there, a few usual, taken-for-granted,
plentiful in the rest of the country,
bright red anemones punctuate the landscape,
a focal point, trail markers,
reminding us we are still in Israel,
that this is not yet paradise

scattered amongst these flowers,
snuggled between stones, in cracks of boulders,
peep pure white cyclamens, crimson-lipped
and now and again, some yellow dandelions
all so clean, so new, so fresh,
as though the earth just birthed them

rock quartz shattered and strewn casually
on the grass and on the paths,
glimmers and sparkles like so many stars
in a generous heaven,
dances on the intoxicated eye

one white butterfly somersaults drunk on nectar
while a spider and its shadow pose on a stone
a lone ladybug walks up a stalk
no jays or crows, no coarse notes, only little bird chirps
disturb this hush of nothingness, our breaths of wonder
in this forest at peace with itself

our thoughts divorced
from the nearness of the walk,
just a rock’s throw away,
a katyusha rocket’s lob away,
from the Lebanese border



From This Desk

From the desk
at which I sit
and bring beauty
through these hands,
this brush,
onto the paper
into the world,
the corner of my eye
observes the wind
flipflop a tablecloth

on the other side of my heart,
a friend whose son is dying,
one whose son broke down
during army reserve duty,
another who has just had
an unjust diagnosis,
all poets,
a plague on poets
this past week it seems

in my painting,
the North abloom,
mountains regal
in the background,
pine trees and peace
sky blue with optimism
ground green with eternity

on the radio
a six-year-old Mozart
is wooing my heart

whom do I fool?
a world in pain
paradise so close
to a hostile border
that, if you listen,
you will surely hear
the mortar shells falling

am I permitted the peace
which creativity gives
yet compassion prevents?

I sign the painting
a month in the making
and hurt for the world

12 December, 2006


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