Poetry made of charms
In order to write, I fill my room with charms. These magical objects transform my simple wooden desk into a space crafted from unknown magic, with no beginning or end. The east opens, and I can see a new world – reaching all the way to the dark edges of town.
I start collecting my charms: a vintage photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron entitled “I Wait”; An old photo of me standing next to Nadav Cohavi RIP, from the time we had a band in LA; A gray plastic elephant my girlfriend Ayala got me, a magical cat standing at the gates of the ancient world of eternity, which I bought during a visit to the Pyramids many years ago; a Palestinian postcard from old Jaffa to complete them all.
I look at them surrounding me, and start hearing an old but new melody of prayer.
A spirit of Love and social change.
Mati Shemoelof, Tel Aviv/Israel
In the U.S., there is a wonderful tradition. Each year, the administration chooses a poet laureate, whose main job is to bring poetry closer to the hearts of the American people. He or she receives a salary and even an office in the Library of Congress.
The Israeli Poets’ Association was established in 2011, and seeks to bring Hebrew poetry to the broader public. In 2012, the association began collecting signatures on a petition to make Hebrew poetry a central subject of study during the coming school year. This step could lead to an understanding of the central role poetry and culture play in our society. We must not abandon culture to market forces. Rather, we must be proactive in promoting it, as do our counterparts in the West.
As part of the call by poets to declare this the Year of Israeli Poetry, they wrote: “Poetry is a valuable and essential cultural treasure … by way of this initiative, it will be possible to deepen and diversify the exposure of youth and students in the State of Israel to their national poetry, including educational activities that are not necessarily the standard classroom fare.”
The call for a Year of Israeli Poetry is intended to restore this forgotten art form to the center of our public life. It will help give us access to new voices in the culture. Poetry was the spearhead of Israel’s multicultural pioneer society a century ago, and rose again during the social protests of 2011. Those who had their finger on the pulse of newly formed poetry groups, nascent journals and evenings of song and poetry on the outskirts of cities, had an inkling of what was to come. Poetry is the wellspring of imagination in Israeli society.
The Israeli education system’s teaching of poetry is anachronistic and abbreviated. Students are required to memorize poems by old-time national poets, but are rarely exposed to young, subversive and lively practitioners of the art. As a writing workshop instructor, I know how to teach poetry and turn it into a real tool for social change. The initiative to spotlight poetry will require that the Education Ministry bring poets into all schools, to read their poems in new ways in light of students’ experiences.
In the family of nations, Israel is judged through its culture. Each year we wait to see if any Israeli films have been nominated for the Oscars. Poets themselves must stop being so arcane and reclaim their place as primary constructors of culture. The Poets‘ Association proposal for a Year of Israeli Poetry will supplement the few existing tools that currently expose Israelis to poetry, such as the Sapir Prize for Poetry, the recently passed Poetry Law, annual subsidies for poets and the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry.
Today, poetry in Israel is at a nadir. Publishers almost never take on poetry manuscripts, due to their almost negligible commercial value. But the understanding and knowledge to be gained from poetry are immense, and many artists continue to publish their works independently, via the Internet, using new platforms such as Indibook and social networks.
Let us revive this country’s commitment to culture, citizenship and our spiritual patrimony. The Education Ministry must seriously address the new initiative by the Poets’ Association, as part of a variety of actions that will resuscitate poetry in Israeli society.
Large balloons filled with 50,000 poems, submitted by poets from all over the world placed up above the whole length of Arasta / Ledra street. And inside one of the ballons was my poem “Why don’t i write israeli love poems” from my third poetry book (2010).
Why don’t I write Israeli Love Songs
To Amiri Baraka
First bring me back my history
And then my textbooks
And don’t tell me my poem is a political manifesto
When you haven’t got a clue ‘bout your wrongs. So here is a lead:
I want compensation from the National Bank of Israel
For the Palestinians, the Mizrachim, the Women, the Gays and the Lesbians
For every comment, transit-camp, closed military zone
I want you to open the poetry safe
And give back the land to those you took from
And compensate for a horrible occupation
I will wait by the national bank of Israel,
Outside the window of the National Insurance Institute,
Under the cars of the treasury Department
Until you aptly compensate for all the distilled racism
And only then, when the children of children of the compensated ones
Will study in university, in an equal society
Only then will I be willing to write Israeli love songs.
Mati Shemoelof is famous for his social and cultural activity around Israel-Palestine. He his studying for his Second Degree in the Haifa-University and lives in Tel-Aviv. He is also an artist, painter, poet, and is editing an Anthology of Prose and Articles for Am-Oved Publishers. The anthology deals with the writings of the third generation of the Mizrahi intellectuals and authors. His poetry has been published in many of the most prominent poetry journals in Israel.
On the book:
- Eli Eshed, “Notes”, 03.03.2006 – Most of the young poets today avoid declaring a clear and vivid political point of view, like Mati’s.
- Arye Aharoni (On the back of the book) – Mati is trying to create a dialogue with grandmother, grandfather, father, mother, sister and brother, in order to create himself a memory like all humans.
- Iris Mizrahi, “Kedma”, 11.03.2006 , – Great poetry book, Great protest, and great remembrance.
- To Order the book please contact Stimazaki Internet book store.
You can read some of the poems on LyrikLine