“Toward a Poem”, by Miri Ben-Simhon, from “Interested, not Interested” (Tel Aviv: HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 1983), pp. 7-9.
Translated by Mati Shemoelof
I want to write now
But am too anxious to write now,
And that’s all that occurs to me right now.
Meanwhile, in addition to my anxiety is a shameful sense of non-creativity,
That is thus well aware of the banality of what’s written above.
Which brings me immediately to an improvised thought
About my feeling of pity last night
And the beautiful body of my first companion, and the other things
That seem good to me at the moment to dwell upon
And which well serve my desires to escape authentic feeling
That refuse for now to be captured in the clasp of my thought,
Preferring to wallow freely in my gall bladder,
But my gall bladder – an expression taken from my grandmother’s jargon,
Who if she were to see me now would certainly say in a thick Moroccan accent,
‘Miriam, you are in a black humor’, with a penultimate, rhythmic emphasis, in a knowing tone,
Although according to life’s experiences that repeat themselves, and
The total schematic of human feelings of joy, sadness, insult and ‘black
Rather than from a deep understanding of the complex of associative flutterings Emerging from one another, that rise up against one another,
That jerk about and split apart
Upon the gates of a cultural institution whose residents control their facial expressions
Whose self-control is locked iron doors
I try to clarify within myself
Other images for my situation
That will be colorless and tasteless like the bile
That will fit internal criteria aspiring to exclusiveness
That will filter out such sooty emotional elements
And will truly place my inner torment
In a place of honor, above my grandmother’s good pots
That emit the smell of couscous
And hot vapor and periodic worry for the regularity of the family’s bowels.
That will set me above the pauses of honor that my grandmother treats like horses
I would give an example of these pauses in time if I could put them into my poem,
Why not, pauses for taking time of the sort that set the world straight about your
Pauses that work well on the curiosity of the listener who stands
Unoccupied with other wishes for the things yet to come,
The sort that give greater than expected significance to your words
And turn them into a kind of precious commodity for which people stand in line
With a tin container
To receive for free.
My grandmother, she has a natural sense, free of modern psychological jargon, for others
And the bubble of air within her sensory water level
The laws of physics along with children’s giggling, floating soap bubbles of my childhood
Free of threatening numbers
And somewhat complimentary to the sensory capacity to determine milimetric precision
With only the naked eye.
But I am too anxious to write now
I want onions and garlic now,
Weaving flowers on my grandmother’s walking stick
What does she have in the parlor
What do I have in the dream.
I chose to etch out an interpretive step that would epitomize the new poetical modes, on the one hand and the engagement in identity and social existence questions, on the other hand, present in the poetry of Miry Ben-Simchon. The poem to which the proposed reading will be applied is “Towards a poem” (“Likr’at Shir), published in her first book, “Interested Not Interested” (Me’unyenet L’o Meunye’net) (Ben Simchon, 1983). I will endeavor to pause for a while over the text, and consider the symbolic struggle between two speakers that it contains. Paraphrasing Frederic Jameson, I will contend that the associative structure I put forth in my reading, strives towards providing insights of resolving the complex relationship between text ad contexts. Jameson determines that this relationship is not one of mirror images, but intricate and complex: “The text creates its context, marks it and produces it, and at the same time shrinks from it as soon as it proposes a change, as a solution to the contradictions in the context in which the text is made” (Jameson, 2004).
The fusing of the different elements in the reasoning and creative writing of her poetry, along with the utilization of the epistolary mode of free association insinuate a symbolic demolition of the representations of culture and language as “high”. This is partially an echo of the revolutions of the 1960’s, and the decision to break down cultural hierarchies and to bring the questions of identity “back” into cultural history. The associative poetical structure challenges the hegemonic “metaphysical” wording, detached from specific time and place – a wording in which poetics in Israel was fixated since the 1960’s – and in a composite move, it brings questions of ethnicity and feminism back into poetry.