'Tis April, and therefore 'tis Poetry Month. Twenty years ago, the Academy of American Poets began celebrating National Poetry Month in April. This has spread to at least one other country, our friends in Canada, but I will extend my interest to poetry and poets around the world who are Jewish. At least for this essay.

Many people consider King David to be the foremost pioneering Jewish poet, because of Tehillim, the psalms that he wrote and others that he brought together that were penned and sung by others. The Psalms are a great starting point for poetry and for Jewish poetry in particular, for many have vivid images and stirring word-play. Some are quite lengthy, but I always think that the final one, Number 150, has especially wonderful references to music and to spirit.

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And King Solomon had a poetic touch with some of his writing as well. Ecclesiastes 3, Kohelet, is one of the most famous, frank lyrics the world has ever known. Cue up the folk and folk-rock versions of "Turn, Turn, Turn" among others.


There have been many Jewish poets through the ages. Americans are still moved by certain lines penned by Emma Lazarus and Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan and Gertrude Stein, Adrienne Rich and Robert Pinsky, and so many others. How much their Judaism influenced their poetry, or is evidenced by their output, certainly does vary. An obvious example is Ginsberg's "Kaddish," sparked by the life and death of his mother. And prized lines from Lazarus's poem "The New Colossus" are forever linked with the Statue of Liberty, the outsize and outside New York City landmark that greeted many Jews who migrated to the United States, and still thrills millions of visitors each year.

I'm only offering a brief intro to Jews and poetry here because my goal in this essay is not to serve up a major analysis or even a survey, but more of a suggestion: hello people, it is April, it is Poetry Month, go read some poetry, wrangle with some poetry, and why don't you also read some poems by Jewish poets? Nudge nudge. Yes, that is my agenda here. Oh, and feel free to write some poetry as well!

My own relationship with poetry is a mixed bag. While I do enjoy reading individual Davidic psalms for their literary feel, and I do enjoy individual poems penned by several Hebraic poets and lyricists, I have to admit that my favorite poets are not Jewish. My favorite poets are the African-American writer Langston Hughes and the British poet, publisher and artist William Blake. And when it does come to poetry, I can be quite picky. Many times I have glanced at a poem, started to read it, and then cast it aside because I just did not like it. And while I have written poems of my own, for the most part they aren't pieces that I would share with the rest of the world, except for my many haiku. In fact, I'm pretty sure that my only widely published poems are two New York City-themed haiku that were published by the New York Times, as part of a contest they conducted in the late 1990s. (Yes, this is true."Haiku Populi" from October 12, 1997.) And if you are so inclined, I'd like you to check out my "Haiku of New York" on my Instagram feed, some of which are Jewish themed. ("The_World_Of_EL")

Read, write, critique poetry this month and throughout the year. B'shalom.

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