Lilian Cohen, IL
Question: In which country were you
I was born in Melbourne, Australia.
Question: How long have you lived
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
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
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
I write fairly minimalistically with free metered
Question: Who is your favorite
I don't have a favorite poet per se, but two of my favorites
are Shakespeare and Rupert Brook.
Question: Where have you been
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.
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
hurled themselves from city walls
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.
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
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.
in minor tones,
treading new-turned earth
paw delicately raised,
–Song of Peace
ancient cities slumber under basalt hills
that loom against the waning moon,
fox-breath rakes the frost on poets’ graves
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
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
dip and sip in the hibiscus
lizards slither jewels
across the path
even the cats stretched
unblinking beneath the bushes
pulsate with greater energy
that with each movement
only sweats and flops
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.
Lilian Cohen's first Sketchbook appearance.
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