with Yosef Gotlieb, IL
which country were you born?
I was born in the Clinica Biblica, a hospital in San Josť,
Costa Rica in 1955. My parents had been raised in that
central American republic, having emigrated from Poland with
their families prior to the Holocaust. I was brought as a
child to the US, where we lived first on the south side of
Chicago and later in southern Florida . I attended
university in Massachusetts where I completed my
undergraduate work, my master's degree and my doctorate.
Question: Where do you live? Tell us a little about your
I have made my home in Israel since 1984. I lived for
several years in Rehovot, a historic rural center and
university town. For the past sixteen years, my family and I
have lived in Mevasseret Tzion, a town north and west of
Jerusalem. My wife is a biochemist who is VP for research
and development in a biotech firm. We have two children, a
daughter who is preparing for her university studies and a
son who is completing his obligatory military service.
Question: What is your profession?
I have several fields of professional activity. I am a
geographer with specialization in international development
and global change. In the past I have written widely on
international affairs. I also direct a program in Text and
Publishing Studies at David Yellin College of Education in
Jerusalem. Recently, I have been developing an independent
publishing framework called 'Atida Press for my own works
and possibly that of other authors.
I consider myself an author, first and foremost. I have been
writing for many years. Writing for me is a passion, mission
Question: When did you begin to write poetry and what
prompted you to write?
While I began writing poetry as a youngster, it was not been
a form I focused on until some five years ago. I began
writing short stories in my teens and I authored a play in
the tradition of theatre of the absurd and protest theatre
in high school. I began writing longer works of fiction in
my early twenties. A deeper appreciation for poetry came to
me in 2007, when I was recovering from a serious illness.
I write as a means of expression and as a way of
contributing to understanding, my own and, hopefully, that
of other people. I write fiction because it is something
that demands itself of me.
Question: You have just joined Voices Israel. How did you
hear of us?
I heard of Voices while participating in the 100 Thousand
Poets for Peace event held in Haifa, Israel last September.
I was invited to attend the event by Dr. Ada Aharoni, a
distinguished poet, author, scholar and activist who is the
founder and president of the International Forum for the
Literature and Culture of Peace.
Wendy Blumfield, president of Voices, also participated in
the Haifa event. She graciously invited me to become a
Question: Do you belong to any other writing/poetry
groups? Please tell us a little about them.
In the course of my professional activities and as director
and a lecturer in Text and Publishing Studies program I am
in contact with many groups and resources dealing with
writing, editing and publishing. This is essential in order
to keep abreast of ongoing developments. I have also
participated in a year-long workshop group mentored by Judy
Labensohn, a highly regarded teacher of fiction and creative
nonfiction. Voices has become a support group for the
literary me. In general, when I am writing, I tend to
complete works without outside input. When I have a cogent
draft, I seek out individual peers for feedback.
Question: What inspires your poetry?
The absolute wonder of life and the attempt to articulate
meaning and purpose.
Question: Which forms do you prefer? Why?
The literary form that is the most expressive for me is the
large canvas of a novel. I welcome the possibilities for
character and plot development that can be drawn out in an
expansive work, and the flexibility of the temporal aspect;
in the novel, experiences and relations become the measure
of time. The novel provides for the full expression of theme
and context, including social, economic, cultural and
The poem remains for me the hearth where one can temper a
thought, experience or feeling into its most exquisite form.
When well done, a poem need not relate to any other concrete
aspect of corporeal existence, though it inevitably
resonates with transcendent meaning.
Question: Who is your favorite poet?
Dylan Thomas. I also find myself often recalling John
Donne's work, as I did when I fashioned a poem following the
recent death of a friend. The Bible has always inspired me;
Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, has anchored me since grade school.
I will also take this opportunity to admit that there is
poetry that I greatly appreciate in the lyrics of
contemporary music, including folk, blues and rock.
Question: Where have you been published?
My nonfiction work has been published in a variety of
periodicals. My first book, Self-Determination in the
Middle East was published by Praeger in 1982.
Another work dealing with society-nature relations,
Development, Environment and Global Dysfunction was
presented by St Lucie press in 1996. I have had opinion
pieces in The New York Times and Los
Angeles Times. I have also published in academic
journals, mainly in the discipline of geography. I blog
occasionally in Green Prophet, the Mideast environmental
Question: Please tell us about RISE, your novel, which
has been such a success.
Rise, A Novel of Contemporary Israel is a work
that has been long in the making. It's a political thriller,
a form that I felt offers the best vehicle for accomplishing
the work's mission: providing insight into social currents
that threaten my beloved nation from within. It's about
people taking responsibility for themselves and their
society and seeking to restore their country on the
foundations that it was originally established, that is,
social justice. It is an appeal for greater tolerance and
for coexistence between Israel and our neighbors, and for
more neighborly relations between Jews and Arabs.
The story revolves around Lilah, an
internationally-acclaimed photographer, who returns home to
her native land after thirty years of self-exile following a
family tragedy. She returns to Israel and finds herself
caught in a cauldron of events that forces herself to
overcome her past. By participating in the struggle to
redeem the nation she finds herself finally "home," and
though the personal price of her homecoming is high, she
finds renewal and enhanced meaning in her life.
Rise is presented to readers by Atida Press,
the publishing framework that I established to avail myself
of the benefits of independent publishing. Achieving
publishing independence is liberatory for authors in many
respects, though the responsibilities are many. Rise
now appears both in print and eBook formats internationally
on all major Internet platforms and eReaders. Two chapters
are always found on my website
one of them is rotated each month.
Question: Is there anything else you would care to
In my poem, Bialik Hall, Writers House I attempt to
communicate the importance of literary and cultural
endeavor. In a global age characterized by bewildering
change, and given the shortcomings of politicians and other
authorities in terms of leadership today, I believe that it
is up to poets, writers and cultural proponents of all kinds
to provide a moral compass, vision and stewardship. It is up
to us to carry the light and keep it burning. We must
strengthen each other, across borders and boundaries of all
Yosef Gotlieb, IL
Tides of Time
half-shell bowl of Caesarea,
Curvaceous walls of encrusted stone,
(but are fated to sand by the sea-blown whisper)
Once, perhaps, it had been
The cupped hand of some heathen Titan,
who had fallen from the
eels protruding from his
his mouth choked, his
with the seaweed of
conceit and lust, and
the trifles of
its wages: Ancient Greece
its wisdom contrite,
consigned to books,
On that beach, after the corpse had been drawn into deep
Came the fleet
Dispatched by Rome
To claim Phoenicia,
And March to All Corners.
Upon this spot,
inimitable, in the hues of the setting sun
The Commander swaggered down the plank,
His sword thrust high, he proclaimed
“Hail Caesar, Hail Caesar,
“Here we erect
“A monument [for follies],
“Hail Caesar, Hail Caesar,
To which his legions, following in tow, roared
They pounded their lances upon the ground
Eager for the spoils, they had been promised.
The emperor had decreed
A port was to be built here, and
and horse breeders,
for the races.
Coins fell onto the sand
from money bags that dangled
and left a trail to
games played here.
The games were played, delights were known,
Though Rome forgot, or had not been told,
The timeless whisper:
The Tides of Time,
The Sea is strong.
Three hundred paces by the legions’ boots,
Across the grasses where the Titan's hand had rested
There was to be raised a place for sporting dances
Stone cutters of Rome toiled,
Slaves built the walls, and the
Arēna, a place of sand, atop the sand, was
Step-lipped benches upon which sat,
Nobles awaiting a show
In the dripping air and the candescent heat
The whispering sea upon their faces,
How they craved
The show, the show!
The viewers' gaze locked on the archways
Through which would prance,
The spectators' pleasure,
Their nipples pressed, firm buttocks creased
Against their gowns,
Dancing, twirling, feet hither, feet thro,
The phallus of Rome
Stalwart as sentinels beneath their skirts,
They with their darlings provided mirth
To those who howled gaily,
The show, the show!
No one heard.
the timeless whisper:
The Tides of Time,
The Sea is strong.
The heart of Caesarea was empty,
The pillars and alters would be toppled,
Broken statues would fall, the gods of Rome broken,
Buried, in the sand
Along with the coins that had been gambled
Nothing, now, could they buy.
And now an echo, only an echo,
Conquistadors, pay heed, those of mine, aye, pay heed:
the timeless whisper
The Tides of Time,
The Sea is strong.
so many pastels,
so trim and fit.
Where is the passion
of your old stones?
Clapping hooves on your pavements,
horses march, pulling wagons,
a sigh of spirit? ‘tis a tenuous claim,
The carts ply tourists
so they might see
what has been lost.
So many shades of pale
grays to beige
the tolling of bells
A small rumble on your cobblestoned ways
chimes clang distant
the cold, brooding canopy above,
submits you to
order pursues order,
on and on.
Where is your soul?
Your buildings huddle
shoulder to shoulder
a spirit? a specter?
I spy your statuary
Trident’s fork and Ulysses’ sword,
They poke for naught from the deepest depths of forest
The Elysian fields that feed your soul
are now beneath it,
all thistle and stone, and
the clapping of hooves as life passes, above, beyond
Your horses’ sweet dung
seems the most alive of you…
The fabled heroes
are no more.
And so, now, Wien,
What is your meaning?
You spring alive,
Suddenly I see you
a whiteness unsealed
I, wanting to see, peer at you,
You are a
In a forest,
in a thicket,
snorting, you phew
“Release me, Release me
so that I
propelling across the vast whiteness
my hooves cleave to it
I sweep ahead
forward I race
the fire in me burns,
run, alive, alive
I am a creature, sinew and fury
Across the woodscape I do spring
to the moon
the white orb,
In the thunderous dark night
I would seize the moon
In a bite, my jaws tight on it,
I would pull to clench it clean of the
filament, its shroud,
until it would bleed,
a track of injury
upon the snows,
so I, the Stag
might flee again
its touch, desire, to
“be me, be me”
You forest Stag,
You slumber, beneath a mantle of
forest moss, thick and deep,
It is the comfort it offers that
makes you free
write your great works, and
could have never known.
Dec. 9, 2011:
Vienna’s passions are sublimated into great music, art
and theory. Klimt, Schiele, Freud, Mozart, Beethoven,
Freud’s theory seems correct as social representation of
petit-bourgeois Vienna of the time. The question is: Are
these patters universally projectable.
I found myself quite affected after only a few hours of
walking in central Vienna on the weekend of Dec. 9-11,
2011. The sentiments I felt find expression in this
poem, which I began while standing between the old
Jewish section of the city and the Scottish quarter.
After arriving after dusk on the avenue near the
Stephenplatz, I composed the second part of the piece.
Hall, Writers House
egg-crate ceiling of Bialik Hall
Has stucco dripping
Like tears stuck in time.
To the side of the podium a granite bust presides,
A literary seer of Zion, unknown to my eyes
His gargantuan face thrusts severely
With the gaze of a ship captain in lost waters
Who peers hard through the nocturnal fog
His eyes scouring the shoreline.
Though trapped in forgotten stone
The sage in low murmur
Recounts deeds and loves and heartaches
And where safe harbor might be found.
In my imaginings he has told a tale
Of gentle, graceful arbors
With moss-laden branches
From which emerge
Gray-bearded men and women with furrowed faces
They walk, eyes open, groping forward in the
Clutching lanterns bearing a small light.
As the journeyers trod forward
They utter words to be captured,
Inscribed, then recited to all who will listen.
In Bialik Hall
The Gibraltar presence
A fierce head atop a granite bust,
His countenance heaved forward,
His gaze upon the sojourners,
He commands with quiet thunder,
“You, poets, scribes, find the way!”
Michal, Death Be Not Proud
Death assumed her acquiescence
As it dallied but loomed near
In the dimming light of her confinement
It wagered on silent surrender
An outrage, she would not concede.
As the waters of her being
Seeped into the timeless sand
She clutched the final drops
And forestalled the parting
With the iron of her soul.
Between the blows against the anvil
Amidst the bellowing gales of darkness
She sang out through the vicissitudes
“My body you may vanquish,
But you will never take my spirit.”
Conjugality of Hydrogen and Oxygen
Wherein we reside
On planet GJ1214b,
(newly discovered and 2.7 times the size of Earth)
There is much more water than stone.
The aqueousness of that random rock
Sets me to ponder
The immensely improbable conjugality
Of two common elements
Wherever they meet
All that lives.
That these two spouses,
Produce an offspring,
So vitally potent,
So ubiquitous to all that
Breathes and gasps and sighs,
Requires of me,
A respiring mortal,
Is this happenstance or design?
If on Earth and Venus and GJ1214b,
Perhaps also on orbs across the sky,
This richly unlikely communion is found, then
A cosmic presence so
Its union so wholly incalculable,
Seems to utter sublimely,
A subtle but unmistakable call,
I am, endowing,
Frothing Wave of Raindance
frothing wave of your tresses
piled atop your pearl-drop face,
All porcelain and amber,
eyes of glistening raindance.
Light, ‘o light, you warm me so.
A conch shell bellows,
when we are apart,
The ground roars open,
and I peer at my trembling feet,
I fear I might fall into the blackness,
a life devoid of us.
Light, ‘o light,
I yearn to hold forever
The frothing wave, the raindance in your eyes,
in my palms
Set upon my breast,
you warm me so.