Ode to the world

Confederation House hosts World Poetry Week.

(photo credit: RICKY RACHMAN)
How much poetry features in our everyday lives is somewhat of a moot point.
While many of us may not pick up a book of poetry all that often, we tend to catch the odd pop or rock song in English or Hebrew, with the textual content gleaned from some work of rhyme.
There will be plenty of musically and non-musically based ware on offer at Confederation House in Jerusalem at the four-day World Poetry Week event, which kicks off on Sunday. Festival director Noa Shakargy, co-founder of the School of Poetry in Jerusalem’s German Colony, appears to have covered a lot of intriguing thematic bases with a program that takes in the work of early 20th-century Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa; eight Nobel Prize winners from around the world; leading lights of the Russian poetry community; the Arabic Desk slot, which features creations from Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Persia; and poems recently translated and published in Hebrew.
While the readings and talks will be presented in Hebrew, there are a couple of items that should be of particular interest to Anglos or anyone with a penchant for the oeuvre of some of the big names in American and British poetry over the past century or so.
Each evening will feature two shows. The April 24, 9 p.m., slot is called I Hear America (and England) Singing. The program includes readings and talks about a wide range of poets, such as 19th-century English poet laureate Alfred Tennyson; 20th-century American poet, author, painter and playwright E.E. Cummings; English Romantic poet and painter William Blake; 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson; and contemporary compatriot Walt Whitman, who straddled transcendentalism and realism and is known as “the father of free verse.”
The first show on April 23 (all told, there will be eight sessions spread over the four days, with shows at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. daily) goes by the title Twisted Flesh. It covers works by American luminaries such as Pulitzer Prizewinning poet and short story writer Elizabeth Bishop; Anne Sexton who, inter alia, became known as the purveyor of social more-challenging lines; and Mary Oliver. Shakargy will moderate the Twisted Flesh show, with the reader-speakers including some of our own leading poets, such as Yael Globerman and Dorit Weisman.
“The interesting element in women’s poetry and the work of the poets I selected is Confessional Poetry [aka Confessionalism],” explains Shakargy. “That began in the United States in the 1960s.” It was, the artistic director notes, part of a wider-reaching shift in the arts of the day. “It is very interesting that TV talk shows started at the same time.”
So it seems that getting your feelings and thoughts out there, unfiltered and with little or no regard for political correctness, is not a latter-day faceless Internet Age development.
“Confessional Poetry engages in a very wide range of topics and, first and foremost, is a style,” says Shakargy. “It is a style which says we will talk directly about painful things, and there is beauty in this biographical pain. It is not about confessing just for confession’s sake. For example, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton were a very important pair, and there is [Pulitzer Prize-winning poet] Sharon Olds who, in a way, is Anne Sexton’s greatgranddaughter.”
Confessional Poetry has been described as poetry of the personal or “I,” focusing on heightened individual experience, the psyche and personal trauma.
That takes in various areas of life that were, or are, considered to be beyond the socially acceptable pale, such as mental illness, sexuality and suicide.
If the above doesn’t sound particularly enticing, or entertaining, fear not. The subject matter will be presented in a userfriendly manner by leading experts in the field, as well as practitioners of the discipline. The Dorit Weisman spot, on Mary Oliver, should also help to lighten things up a bit.
“Mary Oliver lives in seclusion in forests, writes about the nature around her and is very far from the suffering and self-exposure that characterize the other [Confessionalism] poets,” says Shakargy about the 82-year-old award-winning writer.
Shakargy hopes that this firsttime event will lead to more of its ilk and open our eyes and ears to poetic works, past and present, to which we may not have ready access.
“How much do we know about Arabic poetry, for example?” she muses. “There is so much to discover.”
There will be plenty in the way of musical entertainment over the four days as well, with leading indie music artists Hila Ruach, Shira Z. Carmel and Net Weiner in the sonic lineup.
The four-day World Poetry Week event begins April 23 at Confederation House in Jerusalem. Entrance to all shows (7 p.m. & 9 p.m.) is free, but prior registration is required. For more information: (02) 624-5206, ext. 4 and http://www.confederationhouse.org/en/