NISHT A’HAIR UN NISHT AHIN (NEITHER HERE NOR THERE), WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE AN ENGLISH-LANGUAGE POET IN ISRAEL, BY MIKE STONE

“Language as the technology of human extension, whose powers of division and separation we know so well . . . ” Marshall McLuhan



 For Mike’s poetry visit him at Uncollected Works. [recommended] / J.D.

What’s it really like to be an English-language poet in Israel? What’s it like to speak, read, and write in more than one language? I was inspired to write this post after reading an excellent article by Dara Barnat, entitled No One’s Mother Tongue: Writing in English in Israel, appearing in the English & French poetry journal “Recours au Poeme”. It is well worth your reading, but don’t be daunted by the French at the beginning of the article if you are monolingual; the original English follows immediately. For those Francophiles struggling along in English, Sabine Huynh translated Dara’s article into French. Sabine is a talented poet in both French and English, and translates six languages at last count.

To answer the first question, I suppose it’s somewhat like being a Hebrew-language poet in America; not because so few people read English in Israel or Hebrew in America, but because so few people read poetry in any country. More people would rather read a blog post on poetry or see a movie about a poet, than read an actual poem. But seriously, Dara makes a valid point that being an English-language writer in Israel makes one “different”, “not normal”, and casts one in the undesirable role of being an outsider, insiders being those who are “normal”, who eat out of the same mess kit as you, who love what you love and hate what you hate. The funny thing about that is that’s the way I felt in America too. Maybe it’s a Jewish thing, except that’s the way I feel in a synagogue too.

Now would be a good time to explain the title of my post, “Nisht a’hair un nisht ahin”. It’s Yiddish for “neither here nor there”. That’s how a true outsider feels.

As for the second question, I speak, read, and write in English and Hebrew. English is my native language, my mama lushin, but I’ve lived in Israel more than half my life, so I don’t have to translate my thoughts from English to Hebrew. I think in both languages. I used to speak Spanish and German too, but unfortunately those tongues have atrophied in my mouth. So a curious monolingual might ask “what’s it like?” We see the world around us through our eyes but we filter what we see through the structures of our language. Actually there are a lot of different filters that raw reality has to pass through before it enters our minds, such as the structures of culture, of religion, and of nationality, but language precedes them. If we experience something for which we have no word or form of word, then we are not likely to remember that thing. We may not even be aware of it. Most languages possess common structures, or else we’d never be able to translate from one language to another, but every language also has its own unique structures. Hebrew speakers see the world through both common and unique language structures, for instance the concurrency of biblical time with modern time, the timelessness of the Holocaust, the synesthesia between our children and our soldiers, our love-hate relationship with religion and politics, our dependence on and mistrust of the outside world, the suspicion of abandoned baggage, to name only a few of our unique language structures. These will never be translatable into English or any other language. So what I am saying is that I see the world through both sets of language structures at the same time. The realities I see are painted from a richer palette. Richer is not necessarily happier. In my case, it’s sadder.

There is so much to love, but there is so much to lose and it can be so lonely when you’re an outsider looking in.

Mike Stone 

Raanana Israel

© 2019, Mike Stone; illustration, a public domain photograph of The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

MIKE STONE (Uncollected Works)was born in Columbus Ohio, USA, in 1947 and was graduated from Ohio State University with a BA in Psychology. He served in both the US Army and the Israeli Defense Forces. He’s been writing poetry since he was a student at OSU and supports his writing habit by working as a computer networking security consultant. He moved to Israel in 1978 and lives in Raanana. He is married and has three sons and seven grandchildren.



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Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”


The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: The Second Annual Interfaith Multi-Lingual Poetry Slam for Eco Sustainability

c The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development‎Interfaith Eco Poetry Slam صدى المناظرة الشعرية بين الاديان האקו-פואטרי סלאם הבין דתי
c The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development‎/Interfaith Eco Poetry Slam صدى المناظرة الشعرية بين الاديان האקו-פואטרי סלאם הבין דתי

The Second Annual Interfaith Eco-Poetry Slam in Jerusalem invites you to an exciting evening of artistic expression and spoken-word poetry! Come witness a diverse lineup of poets from different faiths and cultures as they share their relationship to the Earth and their Religion through spoken-word poetry. This event calls upon you to step out of your comfort zone, meet the “other”, and be inspired by a unique atmosphere of openness and curiosity. This is a refreshing opportunity to share and listen instead of question and try to problem-solve.

All are welcome who come with an open mind and an open heart!

This event seeks to challenge us all to reach beyond our own faith-communities by focusing on the common challenges and goals of global environmental sustainability.

CONTACT INFORMATION

If you are interested in reading, performing, or even just joining in the audience please respond by email or phone to: mbekierz@interfaithsustain.com; call at: 058.769.0291; or fill out this form: http://goo.gl/forms/eRkA38sENtTdJX8B2

WHEN, WHERE and HOW MUCH

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Date: Thursday June 30th
Time: 7:30pm-9:30pm
Location: Tmol Shilshom, Yoel Moshe Solomon 5, Jerusalem
Target Audience: All People, All Faiths, All Cultures, Religious or Not
Price: minimum amount to order is 40 shekel

This event will be held primarily in English, with poems also read in Hebrew, Arabic, and other languages.

Learn more on Facebook and at The Interfaith Center of Sustainable Development.

ARABIC

في هذا المساء ستكون اللغة الإنجليزية هي المتحدث بها ما عدا الأغاني التي سيقرأونها بلغات أخرى
نحن وبكل سرور ندعوكم لهذا المساء الممتع بإيمانيات لفظية وشاعرية محكيّة، تعالوا للإستمتاع تنوع مختلف وواسع من الشعراء من مختلف الديانات والثقافات، حيث انهم يتبادلون المشاعر مع العالم وإيمانهم من خلال شعراء-سلام
هذا الحفل يدعوك للخروج من مكانك المريح للقاء ‘الآخر’، لإستقطاب الإلهام من بيئة فريدة من نوعها من انفتاح وفضول
انها فرصة منعشة ولمرة واحدة للمشاركة واستماع ولإحتواء بدال وضع الشك والمحاولة للوصول الى اجوبة
الى كل القادمين منفتحي العقل ندعوكم بكل سرور هذا المساء الخاص الذي يتطلب منا التحدي للمحاولة وللخروج للحظة من حدود إيماننا الخاصة/المجتمعّية مع التركيز على التحديات والأهداف المشتركة لنا جميعاً بالإستدامة العالمية.
ان كنت راغباً بالقراءة او بالظهور او حتى ان تكون جزئاً من الجمهور – نرجوا ان توافق على المشاركة بالميل mbekierz@interfaithsustain او بالتلفون 0587690291
او بموقع الإنترنت The Interfaith Center Of Sustainable لمتابعة القراءة تفضل بزيارة صفحة الفيسبوك خاصتنا
مركز حوار الأديان للتطوير والتنمية
بيئة الشعر بين الأديان السنوي الثاني
التاريخ: يوم الخميس 30.07.2016
المكان: “اتمول شلشوم” شارع يوئيل موشيه سولومون 5 – القدس
الجمهور: كل انسان من اي دين او ثقافة
التكلفة: 40 شاقل ليس اقل من ذلك

HEBREW

האירוע יתנהל ברובו באנגלית, למעט שירים שיוקראו בעברית ובשפות שונות.
אנו מזמינים אתכם בשמחה רבה לערב מרתק של אמנות ורבאלית ופואטיקה מדוברת!
בואו לחוות מגוון רחב של משוררים משלל הדתות והתרבויות, כאשר הם חולקים את מערכת יחסיהם עם העולם ואת אמונתם באמצעות הפואטרי-סלאם.
האירוע הזה קורא לך לצאת מאיזור הנוחות שלך, לפגוש את ‘האחר’, ולקבל השראה מאווירה ייחודית של פתיחות וסקרנות.
זו הזדמנות מרעננת וחד פעמית לחלוק ,להקשיב ולהכיל ,במקום להטיל ספקות ולנסות להגיע לתשובות.

כל הבאים עם ראש פתוח ולב פתוח מוזמנים בשמחה! הערב המיוחד מבקש לאתגר את כולנו לנסות לצאת לרגע מגבולות אמונותינו הפרטיות\קהילתיות ע”י התמקדות באתגרים והמטרות השותפים לכולנו בקיימות הגלובלית.

אם אתה מעוניין להקריא, להופיע או אפילו רק להיות חלק מהקהל – נא אשר השתתפות באיימיל או בטלפון: mbekierz@interfaithsustain.com או 058-769-0291.

לקריאה נוספת אנא בקר בדף הפייסבוק שלנו The Interfaith Center of Sustainable Development או באתר האינטרנט http://www.interfaithsustain.com

המרכז הבין דתי לפיתוח בר קיימא מציג:
האקו-פואטרי סלאם הבין דתי השנתי השני
תאריך: יום חמישי ה30 ליוני
שעה: 19:30-21:30
מקום: “תמול שלשום”, יואל משה סולומון 5, ירושלים
קהל יעד: כל בני האדם מכל דת או תרבות
מחיר: 40 ₪- כולל אוכל ושתיה עד מחיר זה