Poetry may not be a definitively stadium-packing area of cultural pursuit, but devotees of the discipline continue to flock to the annual Poetry Festival at Metulla – which takes place each year on Shavuot.
This year’s lyrical bash, which is entitled I Have A Stage in My Head, will take place at the country’s northernmost extremity from June 3-5.
Artistic director Uri Hollander has lined up a program designed to keep the festival faithful, on the move and riveted.
The lineup features discussion panels – naturally featuring some of our top men and women of letters, such as Miron Isaacson, Agi Mishol, Ronny Someck and Hollander himself – intriguing poetic tete-a-tetes with the likes of Yakir Ben Moshe and Anat Sharon-Blais, and slots that investigate a surprisingly wide range of subject matter.
There is, for instance, the three session Midrashir spot that takes in an eclectic swath of themes, such as the image of the poet in the Book of Job, which will be presented by New York-born writer and lecturer in bible studies Prof. Ed Greenstein.
One of the more interesting aspects of the festival lineup is the diversity of angles on poetry Hollander proffers us over the two-and-a-half days.
The second Midrashir session will focus on the work of late Iranian poet and film director Forugh Farrokhzad.
The discussion will be overseen by Sivan Balslev who has translated a number of works by Persian poets into Hebrew, and is currently working on a doctoral thesis entitled the Formation of Iranian Modern Masculinities and its Interrelations with issues of Class, Nationalism and Modernity in Iran between the 1870s and the 1940s.
The last of the Midrashir spots, “MCed” by poet Dory Manor will take a bare-knuckled look at how poets create, at a session called “Getting Rid of the Muse: The Myth of Inspiration as the Enemy of Poetry.”
The festival opens with the When Will We Stop ‘Discovering’ Vogel panel discussion, which considers the work of early 20th century Russian-born Hebrew poet, novelist and diarist David Vogel, and whether his oeuvre pertains to the traditions of Hebrew literature, or whether he was a free-floating and controversial spirit.
Considering Vogel’s biography, there is evidence to suggest the latter is the case. He was born in Satanov in the Podolia region of the Russian Pale of Settlement. His family spoke Yiddish and he attended yeshiva in Vilnius between the ages of 18 and 19. He later worked as the caretaker of a synagogue and studied Hebrew. He subsequently lived in Vienna, Paris, Palestine, Poland, Berlin and, during World War II, in southern France, until he was caught by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz where he perished in 1944.
In fact, Vogel only published one of book of poetry during his lifetime, and several more Yiddish works were released posthumously, in Hebrew.
But Israeli-born American critic Yael Feldman cites Vogel as a prime example of how bilingualism impacted on modern Hebrew poetry.
The Vogel meet will be followed by the traditional Shavuot parade through the main street of Metulla, and the first day’s proceedings will close with a show by veteran rock and pop vocalist Nurit Galron.
The other front-line musical spot in the festival is by 64-year-old flutist, pianist and singer Shem Tov Levy, together with his five-piece band, which will take place at Beit Harishonim at 8:30 p.m. on June 4.
The Galron and Levy concerts are the only events in the festival program that cost money. All other items are free.
There will also be some classical music entertainment laid on in Metullah, with the Musical Morning show at 9 a.m. on June 4 featuring students from the Israeli Conservatory of Music, including Levy’s pianist daughter Ronnie, who will also be on duty to provide musical interludes, together with fellow pianist Ron Trachtman, at the 10 a.m. session that will examine the work of poet-novelist Pinchas Saddeh.
The interdisciplinary take of the festival also appears in the eponymous I Have A Stage in My Head show that will address the connection between poetry and theater.
Someck and Hollander will examine the work of some of our leading cross-disciplinary writers, such as Hanoch Levin, Nissim Aloni and Yoram Levy Porat, while wild and wooly rock group Rony Voodoo will be on hand to push the energy ante up a notch or two.
There will be some more cerebrally- inclined vibes on offer at the The Theater of the Soul event, at 5 p.m. on June 4, when clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Dana Amir joins forces with Jungian psychotherapist Guy Pearl in a discussion about the twilight zone in which fragments of dreams turn into poetry.
Each year the festival marks the oeuvre of a venerated person of letters.
Last year Haim Gouri was the hero of the hour, four months before his 90th birthday, and this year, 90-year-old Tuvia Rubner will be honored in the closing slot of the festival, called “What Poetry Means.”
The gathering features poet Isaacson, novelist and documentarist Yiftach Aloni, poet-journalist Gilit Homski and Ronny Someck, with musical entertainment by Rubner’s wife classical pianist Galila Rubner, as well as the aforementioned Israeli Conservatory of Music students.
The Rubner tribute will be overseen by Hollander who places the nonagenarian up there with the best there is. “For me Tuvia Rubner is possibly the greatest Hebrew poet of the 20th century, declares the artistic director. He graduated from ‘the high school of the sciences of madness.’ He went through all the horrors of the 20th century.”
The latter included personal tragedies, including the death of his first wife in a traffic accident, which Rubner himself was not expected to survive, and the death of a son who went missing in South America over 30 years ago.
Rubner was born to a German-speaking family in Bratislava, then the capital of Czechoslovakia, and came to ‘Palestine’ in 1941, at the age of 17.
His entire family perished in Auschwitz.
He continued to write in German for the first 12 years after making aliya. His eventual switch to Hebrew was prompted by German-born Jewish writers Werner Kraft and Ludwig Strauss, who told the young poet he should write in the language he speaks in day-to-day life, and also by the fact that Galila did not know German.
His first book of Hebrew poetry came out in 1957, four years after he remarried.
“There is a very interesting element in Tuvia’s poetry which I call ‘the identity sentence,’” continues Hollander. “His poetry contains contradictions, opposite extremes, that somehow cohabit side by side. He walks a narrow tightrope, with chasms on either side, but he somehow manages to walk the tightrope and keep his balance. For me, that is the greatness of his work.”
Rubner received the Israel Prize for poetry in 2008.
For tickets and more information about the Poetry Festival: visit www.barak-tickets.co.il and www.confederationhouse.org