karenagBorn in London on the last night of the Blitz, Karen Alkalay-Gut has been living and writing out in the open ever since. She was reared in Rochester, NY where she received her PhD. from the University of Rochester. She has lived and worked in Israel since 1972 where she has a family and a career as a writer both in English and Hebrew, as well as a translator into French, German, Italian, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Polish. Her 31-page  curriculum vitae details a rich and ranging intellectual life and career;  it is clear that it would take more reams of paper than that to contain what her heart knows.

Why I don’t write formal verse

As long as I don’t have to follow any rules I’m okay,
This doesn’t include stopping on red but otherwise
I’ve got too many imperatives in my life to want to put them into poetry

What I want is the writing itself to tell me where I’m at,
What it means, where I’m going, how i can – eventually – make sense
As long as I don’t have to follow any rules I’m okay.

Because you know it really is getting harder to remember
All the codes, passwords, procedures at the bank:
I’ve got too many imperatives in my life to want to put them into poetry

Then there are all those medications I have to take
Before meals, after, before trying to relax.
As long as I don’t have to follow any rules I’m okay,

And the situation: what you do in case of a rocket attack
Biological warheads, dirty bombs, terrorist accidents.
I’ve got too many imperatives in my life to want to put them into poetry.

So I like to keep it easy and loose in verse
let myself rise above the restrictions in the world
As long as I don’t have to follow any rules I’m okay,
I’ve got too many imperatives in my life to want to put them into poetry

Ars Poetica
for Shmuel Shatal

“Where are you from?” the critic asks.
“I was born in London,”

Seeing he wants more, I add.

“Grew up in America,
raised children in Israel.”

“I mean your parents,
where were they born?”

“Lithuania,” I say.
“But where? The city, the city.”

“Lida,” I mutter, just a bit ashamed.

“Lida!” He jumps up,
with all the energy of a young man.

“I knew it! I always knew it!
from your poems I could tell!

You see, we have a connection.
My wet nurse was from Lida!”

Silence.  I wait,
Respecting his years,

The poems, the analysis
Of my work

His simple, profound wisdom.
Slowly, patiently, he goes on

“When I was a child
I had a terrible temper.”

“And when I’d explode,
my mother would shake her head

and mutter, ‘It’s the milk of Lida,
the milk of Lida.’”

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  • WVFC Poetry Friday: Karen Alkalay-Gut « Elizabeth Willse May 29, 2009 at 11:30 am

    […] Read two poems at Womens’ Voices For Change. Published in: […]

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