Contributing Editor ~ Helen Bar-Lev



Interview with Lilian Cohen, IL


Question: In which country were you born?

I was born in Melbourne, Australia.

Question: How long have you lived in Israel?

I have been living in Israel since 1968 with 2 years spent in both London and Boston. Since I retired from teaching in 2003, I have been spending each alternate year in Melbourne.

Question: When did you begin to write poetry and what prompted you to write?

I began writing poetry in 1994 during a visit to Australia. I didn't sit down to write a poem but the first couplet came into my head one night during a family crisis. I see it as a spontaneous form of therapy.

Question: How long have you been a member of Voices?

I think I began coming to meetings about 13 years ago.

Question: Do you belong to any other writing/poetry groups? Please tell us a little about them.

I meet with a writer friend here in Haifa and we workshop each other's crime novels. In Australia I belong to three writing groups. I was asked to join a group of writers who have been meeting since the 1980s, and I also belong to a novel writing group and to a short story group. These two are offshoots of courses I took as part of the Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing.

Question: What are the most important changes you’ve seen in Voices in all this time?

In the beginning, we were very strict about letting the poems speak for themselves and not providing any background details. This has changed
people are interested in what motivates a particular poem.

Question: What inspires your poetry?

Primarily, it is love of nature. I also observe people
their appearance, speech, interaction and any behavioral quirks. Then there are one's own emotional processes which can take metaphors from the world around us. And the duality of my existence nowadays, of course.

Question: Which forms do you prefer? Why?

I write fairly minimalistically with free metered rhythms.

Question: Who is your favorite poet?

I don't have a favorite poet per se, but two of my favorites are Shakespeare and Rupert Brook.

Question: Where have you been published?

I have been published in Israel, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA.

Question: Where do you live? Tell us a little about your family?

In Israel I live with my husband on the French Carmel in Haifa, where I'm fortunate to have a large garden. In Australia I live in a beautiful garden suburb of Melbourne. My children live in Australia, as do our siblings, which is the reason we now live there each alternate year. This dual existence makes one slightly off-kilter, but provides an interesting perspective on both countries.

Question: What is your profession?

I am a retired English teacher. I retired from Leo Baeck Senior High School after teaching there for almost 25 years.



Bones at Gamla


Blasts from snowy slopes
buffet grasses, sear bones
expose and score the basalt blocks
that form a fractured spine
along the camel ridge.

Broken by the Roman army
Gamla’s settlers
hurled themselves from city walls
unburied, scavenged
bones scattered in the wadi
long since disappeared.

Salvaged from extinction
eagles glide and circle
their fledglings nurtured
fed crushed bone
to strengthen bone
to strengthen flock.

Bone returns to bone.



Garage Sale


They hover over remnants of my mother’s life,
eyes that scan for bargains and collectors’ dreams
glance off the toaster, the two old lamps, the fish set never used
and slide to souvenirs, exotic relics of her past.

Their hands lift objects
casually put them back
or cradle them triumphant,
they finger Mother’s Day and birthday gifts
the straws that bound her nest
and strengthened it
year upon year.

The sun is hot
it glares on the clutter
etches chips and cracks,
the stork that graced
the shelf of photos in her house
now grins with broken beak

And I watch
willing a distance.



Vivaldi’s Seasons


Winter dies
in minor tones,
secrets submerged.

a cat
treading new-turned earth
paw delicately raised,
rakes scents
from roots

Sun-crazed Spring



Kinneret –Song of Peace


ancient cities slumber under basalt hills
that loom against the waning moon,
fox-breath rakes the frost on poets’ graves
releasing dreams.

Morning prisms across the lake.
Sifting secrets, grasses rustle
wavelets suck at reeds
where a thousand creatures
steal the sunlight
dart and skim
and walk on water,

the dead smile
inside their tombs.





Stunning in black
from top to toe
she checks in the mirror
her grooved mottled skin
the cap of red curls
unevenly dyed
and now somewhat thin,
she drapes her red scarf
to hide the sin of age
but in her mind’s eye

she slips bold lovers
into each artful fold
struts the tango eternal
and smoulders at time
with a shiver of beads
in the moonlight





Somehow life goes on
outside these walls
despite the brutal heat
of summer

hummingbirds shimmer
dip and sip in the hibiscus
lizards slither jewels
across the path
even the cats stretched
unblinking beneath the bushes
pulsate with greater energy
than I
a body
that with each movement
only sweats and flops

my I
my inner eye
that conjures up the world
and mirrors it transformed
now sealed as if inside a coffin

until the shadows lengthen
and the dusty pines whisper
to the squills
that reach up through the earth
to herald fall.

Then the coffin lid begins to shift
I sense my I stir within
preparing to emerge.


This is Lilian Cohen's first Sketchbook appearance.



Helen Bar-Lev, artist, poet

Senior Editor,Cyclamens and Swords Publishing

Secretary,Voices Israel Group of Poets in English

Contributing editor, SKETCHBOOK, A Journal for Eastern and Western Short Forms

International Senior Poet Laureate, 2009
Amy Kitchener Foundation










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