Contributing Editor ~ Helen Bar-Lev, IL




Interview With Zvi A. Sesling, US

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

Response: My parents were both European. My father left Russia for Israel in 1912, helped found Kibbutz Ein Harod, came to America in the 1930s and worked his whole life for Israel. My mother was born in Prussia in Konigsberg and studied art with Kathe Kollwitz. She left around the time the Nazis came to power and met and married my father in Israel.

Question: What is your profession?

Response: I have been in public relations since the 1960s, now retired.

Question: In which country were you born?

Response: I was born in the U.S. Brooklyn, NY to be exact, but have lived in or visited many places, Brazil, Israel, Uruguay, Greece, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and England. In the U.S. I have lived in Youngstown, Ohio, St. Louis, Boston, New York City, Memphis, Tennessee, Philadelphia and visited most parts of the country.

Question: You are the first poet in this series of interviews who does not live in Israel. Can you tell us what your connection to poetry in Israel is?

Response: There are many connections. First, I mentioned my parents. My sister and her children and grandchildren live in Israel. My sister, her husband and my niece live on Kibbutz Ein Harod Meuchad. My nephew, his wife and children live on Kibbutz Geva. I have cousins on Ein Harod and in the Tel Aviv area as well as in other parts of Israel. I have visited there many times and have a genuine love for the country. Years ago I joined Voices Israel, a group of poets who write in English and most of whom live in Israel.

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

Response: I probably began gradually in the 1980s, but wrote seriously since the 1990s. I feel more at home writing poetry than short stories or novels. Poetry is a perfect outlet for my creative efforts and talents and I am inspired by so many other poets.

Question: How long have you been a member of Voices?
I am not sure. Perhaps a decade or so.

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

Response: Here in the U.S. I am a member of a group called the Bagel Bards that meets every Saturday in Somerville, MA just outside of Boston. There are poets, novelists and other writers of varying ages, both male and female. We mostly talk about whatever comes to mind; there is no set agenda, no requirements and anyone who attends even once is a member for life. I think those who attend do so for the love of mingling with other writers and some excellent friendships have developed. Thanks to this group I met Doug Holder, a poet, co-founder of the group and publisher of the Ibbetson Street Press and that led to the publication of my first book of poetry, King of the Jungle in 2010. I also met Gloria Mindock, another terrific poet and publisher of Cervena Barva Press. Earlier this year she published my poetry chapbook Across Stones of Bad Dreams and is scheduled to publish my next full volume Fire Tongue. There are some terrific poets, writers and artists in this group and it has been a fabulous experience for me.

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

Response: I think the quality of the Anthology and perhaps the change in officers. I always thought the others were fine, but change is always good for an organization to grow, prosper and develop new ideas. Moving the Newsletter to online is positive, accepting poems for the Newsletter from people outside of Israel is a definite improvement, and, of course, the Reuben Rose Competition has improved because the judges change each year, which makes for greater diversity. And certainly the website which is very much improved.

Question: What inspires your poetry?

Response: Life! I am an observer of things such as nature, art, people. Then I write poems about it. Other poets use a word or a line that often inspire me to write, and while it may not appear related to what they wrote, they are still inspirational. Israel has inspired many poems I have written. So has, unfortunately, war. Often a single word pops into my head and a poem flowers from that seed. I have written a number of poems on Jewish subjects because being Jewish is inspirational in and of itself!

Question: Which forms do you prefer? Why?

Response: I am a free verse writer. I find it more realistic and easier to write. In the magazine I publish, Muddy River Poetry Review I accept only free verse poems because simply, I enjoy free verse more than other types of poetic forms.

Question: Who is your favorite poet?

Response: Oh, that is hard because there are so many. Certainly Yehuda Amichai. There is also Wislawa Szymborska the Polish Nobel Laureate. Charles Simic is another. Billy Collins. Nelly Sachs had so much to say as did Bertold Brecht. Allen Ginsberg. Philip Levine, the newest U.S. Poet Laureate. In the Boston area there are Sam Cornish, Boston’s first Poet Laureate, Doug Holder and Gloria Mindock, both of whom I mentioned earlier and Irene Koronas. I think you and Johnmichael Simon are wonderful poets and Susan Rosenberg in Israel as well. Notice how I have selected mostly modern poets and I could easily include Paul Celan, George Oppen, Charles Reznikoff and Carl Rakosi. Add Marge Piercy, and another Israeli, Anat Zscharya, whose poem “A Woman of Valor“ is absolutely incredible.

Question: Where have you been published?

Response: I am fortunate to have had my poetry accepted in more than 100 journals both print and online. I always love being in the Voices Israel Anthology and Sketchbook. I have been in the New Delta Review, Asphodel, Ibbetson Street, Istanbul Literary Review, Midstream, Poetica, Deronda Review, New Vilna Review, Haz Mat Review, Chiron Review to name just a few. I hold all my credits with equal pride because when someone else likes it enough to put it in their publication for others to read and hopefully enjoy and maybe even be inspired, then I have accomplished something extraordinarily worthwhile.

Question: Anything else you care to tell us?

Response: Well, perhaps, that no poet should stop writing or get discouraged by rejection. One editor’s dislike is often another’s like. Sometimes a little introspection or advice from other poets will help improve one’s work. A good editor is important to progress. Keep writing, keep sending out, keep trying to improve. That is what keeps me writing.




Free Verse


Area Code


Somewhere inside eleven hundred
pages of non-acid free white pages
black ink shouting names, numbers
addresses – how many I do not know
is your name in one of many permutations:
maiden name, married name – the first
second or third or maybe you have
made up a new name, perhaps hidden
like a wind blown thistle in a bush
maybe with a fourth married name
that I can Google or Dog Pile or use
some other internet search engine
to reveal your current personal information
like a face in a crowd of protestors avoiding
the past





The sky is cold dark and gray
like your heart, the eerie scratching
of rats in dumpsters is your song
You have the fangs of the bat
the thud of elephants on my heart

Yesterday you left with someone
or for someone, it makes no difference
Your escape is my freedom, rows of birds
on wires sing their song is for me as the
the ice melts in my veins and brain

Once when I was young four boys ganged
up on me and my blood was red-black when
they finished and also when I avenged each
of them one-on-one until red is my blood’s
color again for my revenge over poured blood



 Hometown Blues


They have all moved away
my friends who lived within
a few blocks and went to
the state university then stayed
there and bought homes, while
others went to California, Texas,
Florida or are dead like the stores
now boarded and decaying, the
houses with peeling paint, missing
shingles, overgrown grass, cars
rusting in driveways, are homes for
kiddie drug dealers and teen prostitutes,
schools have holes in windows and
police wish they drove armored vehicles
and I hit the gas pedal, wave farewell
to the city of my youth, my idyllic past





Evil from the past creeps up the
spine like cold soup, a chill,
a shiver, a sliver of memory
squeezing under the closet door

There was a time in the teenage years
we all thought we were invincible
fast cars, drag races, jumping off bridges
we were a clown in the circus

Then one died in a car crash
another jumped into the water of paralysis
so we grew apart, forgot our past
the way we forget a cup of coffee

The mind is like a recording machine
that replays when you do not
expect it – usually at night
when alone, when we do not need it



Old Friends


What has happened to my old friends
Some have vaporized in saunas

Others have become autographs in
Someone’s yearbook or on loose pages

There are those dead and desiccated
In the jungles or rotted in deserts

Some became statistics on highways
While others counted dollars as if

They were pebbles on a distant beach
The rest I look up to at night

Bid them farewell, make a wish
and join the waiting pillow



Secret Signal


The acne faced moon stares down
each night until its last smile
insults many with a blackface
imitation then returns to the full
face of the intelligent to the
reflection of our own misgiving

We used to lie in cool grass
dew forming on our foreheads
as we stared up and you said
the moon is a she and stars her
children while I argued it was
Earth’s war shield

The other night I looked up and
studied that pimpled face as it
winked and reminded me of all
those who have shared the grass
bed, whose dew had been a
secret signal









to the top



Copyright 2006-2012 Sketchbook and  All rights reserved