Poetry by the meter

The narrow streets of Nahlaot were the backdrop for one of Jerusalem's more original festivals.

Jerusalem it seems is the perfect place to create new traditions or renew ancient ones. One new trend is the Square Meter poetry festival, organized by Dr. Gilad Meiri and his partners at A Place for Poetry at the Lev Ha'ir community center last weekend. Meiri, Shay Dotan, Dorit Waissman, Lior Sternberg and Ariel Zinder, members of the Ktovet poetry group succeeded where so many others have given up, creating and maintaining a small but high-quality poetry festival. During the three days of the festival, well-known Israeli poets shared the same plastic chairs set up in the courtyard of the Lev Ha'ir community center, listened to poetry readings and music, watched video art in the narrow alleys close to Mahaneh Yehuda and became reacquainted with one of the most typical aspects of this city: poetry. The title of the festival is a pun on police regulations that require any outdoor event to allocate at least one square meter for each participant, the space considered by the police as the minimum required to ensure the public's security. The Lev Ha'ir center and the narrow streets of Nahlaot, the neighborhood surrounding the Mahaneh Yehuda market where the festival took place, offer barely that, so "one square meter" became a code name to express poetry in very local terms and conditions. Or, as Meiri says, "It suits us to have such an intimate poetry festival here." And Meiri was right: Lovers of poetry and lovers of Jerusalem young and old, intellectuals and merchants, Jerusalemites and guests from Tel Aviv enjoyed some fresh air, the flavor of the shuk - and the exotic sound of non-Tel Avivi poetry. The opening evening hosted some of the big names of contemporary Israeli poetry: Ori Bernstein, Zeli Gurevitch, Agi Michol and Rivka Myriam. They were followed by lesser-known poets given a chance to touch the public with their words. In all, more than 80 poets, in 17 various programs, presented poetry, video art, exhibitions at the Barbur gallery and lots of music composed for poems to an enchanted and quite captive audience. The public listened to the poets in the courtyard of the Lev Ha'ir community center, then at the coffee terraces of Mizrahi inside the shuk, at Avram's cafe on the corner of Jaffa and Kiah streets. Thousands of people filled the streets of Mahaneh Yehuda and Nahlaot, apparently not even bothered by the awful roadwork on Jaffa. One of the highlights of the festival was the encounters with residents of the neighborhood, who opened their homes for poetry readings, creating the best framework possible: lovers of poetry together, without any barriers of class, origins, age, social or political differences - just words and the love of words. The three-day festival ended with a concert by Shlomo Bar and the Natural Choice Ensemble before a large and enthusiastic audience, with a program that included some of the best poets' work set to music . This second Square Meter poetry festival gave birth to the magazine of the group Ktovet which will come out twice a year. Ktovet will also run more poetry workshops, including in English, and will continue its activity for people with special needs, residents of the periphery and small neighborhoods. The poetry festival of the Lev Ha'ir community center is supported by the Jerusalem Foundation, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Bracha Foundation, the Ministry of Culture and Sports and Mifal Hapais. IN ANOTHER poetry event last week, The Confederation House opened its July program with a performance by the Tafilalt Trio, a group that focuses on traditional Jewish music from different ethnic communities, presented through modern and contemporary tunes and instruments. The program consisted of 16 pieces, prayers and poets, from ancient Jewish traditions to modern Israeli poetry, presented with superb singing and musical accompaniment. The special feature of the trio is their mixture of traditional and modern sound, avoiding the trap of the sometimes too popular sound of some of the trendy "Jewish" music. The encounter between the high-level professionalism of the performers and the beautiful texts and traditional tunes was close to perfection. The small hall of the Confederation House was packed with the ever-growing lovers of Jewish music, as well as some of the masters of this kind of art. One of the highlights of the program was the song "Moses" performed by the Tafilalt Trio - Yair Harel, Nori Jacoby and Yonatan Niv, accompanied by Eytan Kirsh and Yarden Erez and the beautiful voice of Meirav Ben-David. "Moses," a moving poem set to the most ancient Jewish music available - by Ovadia the proselyte in the 12th century and found in the Cairo Genizah - left the audience speechless. The evening was the official launching of the first album released by the Tafilalt Trio on the prestigious Tzadik label from New York, created by John Zorn.