Jewish Poetry Reading by Washington, D.C. Area Poets Julie ... together D.C. area poets in a group...
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Proceedings of the 50th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries (Washington, D.C. – June 21-24, 2015) 1
Jewish Poetry Reading by Washington, D.C. Area Poets
Julie R. Enszer, Merrill Leffler, Kim Roberts, Myra Sklarew,
and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub
Description: The Washington, D.C. area is home to a vibrant poetry scene, including the Split This Rock
Festival, numerous poetry journals, countless readings, and several Busboys & Poets cafes across the city
and in the suburbs, including U Street, Brookland, Chinatown, Takoma, Arlington, Va., and Hyattsville,
Md., with additional locations in development. By hosting readings and building poetry collections,
libraries and librarians play an important role in the nurturing of poetic culture. This session will bring
together D.C. area poets in a group reading and discussion. Poets will read poems on Jewish themes and
discuss the role of Jewish culture in their work.
Julie R. Enszer, Ph.D., is the author of Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013) and Handmade Love (A Midsummer Night’s
Press, 2010). She is editor of Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2011).
Milk & Honey was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. She has her M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the
University of Maryland. She is the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular
book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.
Merrill Leffler's recent book of poetry is Mark the Music. The publisher of Dryad Press (www.dryadpress.com), he guest
edited The Changing Orders: Poetry from Israel for Poet Lore; Sources of Jewish Poetry: A Thirty-Year Retrospective of
SHIRIM, A Jewish Poetry Journal; and with Moshe Dor, translated and edited The Poetry of Eytan, also for SHIRIM. A
former Professor of English Literature at the U.S. Naval Academy, for more than twenty years, he wrote about Chesapeake
Bay science and policy at the University of Maryland Sea Grant College Program.
Kim Roberts is the author of four books of poems, most recently Fortune’s Favor: Scott in the Antarctic, a connected series
of blank verse sonnets based on the journal of explorer Robert Falcon Scott (Poetry Mutual, 2015). She is editor of the literary
journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly and the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, D.C. (Plan B Press,
2010), and co-edits the web exhibit D.C. Writers’ Homes. Roberts has been featured in 31 anthologies, including The
Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poetry. Her website is http://www.kimroberts.org.
Myra Sklarew is the author of eleven collections of poetry, including From the Backyard of the Diaspora (National Jewish
Book Council Award in Poetry); Lithuania: New & Selected Poems (Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award from the Judah
Magnes Museum); Eating the White Earth (tr. to Hebrew); The Witness Trees (in English and Yiddish); Harmless; and
collections of essays and fiction. A Survivor Named Trauma: Holocaust and Memory is forthcoming from SUNY Press.
Aaron Taub is the Head of the Israel and Judaica Section in the Asian and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of
Congress, the Chairperson of the AJL Awards Committee, and the Co-Chairperson of Yovel/Jubilee: Celebrating 50 years of
AJL! Under the name Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, he is the author of four books of poetry, including most recently Prayers of a
Heretic/Tfiles fun an apikoyres (2013). Tsugreytndik zikh tsu tantsn: naye Yidishe lider/Preparing to Dance: New Yiddish
songs, a CD of nine of his Yiddish poems set to music by Michał Górczyński was released on the Multikulti Project label
(www.multikulti.com) in 2014. Taub was honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage as one of New York’s best emerging
Jewish artists and has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for a Best of the Net award. He completed an
artist’s residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) in 2014. Please visit his web site at www.yataub.net.
http://www.julierenszer.com/ http://www.dryadpress.com/ http://www.kimroberts.org/ http://www.multikulti.com/ http://www.yataub.net/
Proceedings of the 50th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries (Washington, D.C. – June 21-24, 2015) 2
Reading by Julie R. Enszer YOU ARE NOT LIKE THEM mother speaks these words with punishing derision you do not just go to work take care of the dogs mow the lawn you’re filthy lesbians you are not like them but what if we were? what if we were exactly like them? my best friend Michael fears this all the homos living in the suburbs working gardening tending to the neighborhood he visits our home he says he likes it but he tells me urgently defiantly he tells me you are not like them Published in Handmade Love (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2010) © Julie R. Enszer
Proceedings of the 50th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries (Washington, D.C. – June 21-24, 2015) 3
When the regulator valve springs a leak after Thanksgiving,
I turn off the water main
and the hot-water heat.
My wife and I buy gallon jugs of water, a bushel of wood
to bunker down. In the chill of our house, she learns new things about me:
I can wash dishes in a pot
with only a half gallon of water, heated on the stove, and wait until we’re out
in public for restrooms. I, too, learn a thing or two. With small pieces of wood, large logs, newspaper,
a stack of New Mexican pinyon, she can stroke the fire’s flames all day long until I become jealous. For two days, we cook elaborate dinners for the benefit of oven heat. Then, Sunday evening, amid steaming
vegetables, basting meat, rising bread, baking brownies, she looks at me and says, I miss my mother. The household chill reminds her of the world’s warmth
when mother was alive. Now, orphaned at forty-one, she is in alone our frigid house. I was just enjoying
this time, waiting for Monday morning when
Proceedings of the 50th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries (Washington, D.C. – June 21-24, 2015) 4
the plumber will arrive.
He fixes everything. For an entire week, our house
smells: pinyon and grief, the many ways we make love. Published in Handmade Love (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2010) © Julie R. Enszer
Proceedings of the 50th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries (Washington, D.C. – June 21-24, 2015) 5
MOON At forty, my menses settle on twenty-eight days, unmoved by my wife's cycle, unaffected by time with other women. I always bleed on Passover, Sukkot, Purim. My blood, bathed in light. My body, regular, certain, pulled not by my sisters but by the lunar cycle. The moon and I wax and wane synchronously. At menarche, my mother told me about the curse, welcomed me to a tribe of bitterness, unhappiness, lost ambitions. She said I would never get what I wanted. I could feel dreams seeping out between my legs, wiped away with cheap cotton, flushed into a river of despair. She told me one day this curse would be a gift: I would make babies. From feminists, I learned the mystical power of menstrual blood— womantime, wombtime— how nuns and lesbians in land communities menstruated together, sloughing off life unfulfilled. I want to live among the devout. Our periodic blood a sign of piety, communal autonomy. My menses never conjured magic. My body never bore children.
Proceedings of the 50th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries (Washington, D.C. – June 21-24, 2015) 6
The most mystical I become is the moment before Seder, tired from cooking, cleaning, I sit on the lanai, hungry, crampy. I imagine the moon. Sister-witness. Long after I stop bleeding, the moon will rise. This is my burden. This, my joy. Published in Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013) © Julie R. Enszer
Proceedings of the 50th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries (Washington, D.C. – June 21-24, 2015) 7
MY NAME IS ETHYL My father wanted to name his daughters Ethyl, Methyl, and Propyl; I would have been Ethyl, the eldest. Perhaps that explains my affinity for another Ethel—Rosenberg— who I saw again this weekend at the refurbished American Art Museum. First, a photograph of her with Julius in a paddy wagon during their trials— it’s trying to remember the pain of Ethel, so young and so beautiful in that hard-working way of socialist women. Then, a sketch in the portrait gallery: Ethel’s disembodied head—no neck— adapted from a snapshot for a protest poster; the artist captured her jaw set with purpose, her clear eyes so certainly innocent, her frizzy hair, a utilitarian halo around her determined head, oh, yes, Ethel ... bu