Writing and Teaching English

Ostriker: National Poetry Month 2015, Day 2try

I had the honor of meeting Alicia Ostriker at Ashland University a couple summers ago. Beforehand, I read her book The Volcano Sequence. It was assigned to me while I was putting together my first collection of poetry, and I could see exactly why. It is so perfectly put together that I am struggling to choose a couple lines. They all link to each other with a motif of blood and the theme of Jews in exile.

Finally, I chose a poem resembling another of my favorite poems, “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, a poem about the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Ostriker’s poem reminded me of New York just as yesterday’s Frost poem did.

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It’s called “The Shekhinah As Exile,” and here are the lines that brought our trip to mind.

“you folded wings patched coats
dragged mattresses pans in peasant carts, lived your life
laboring praying giving birth, you also
swam across the hard Atlantic
landed in the golden land
[. . .]
and you learned new languages
now you speak everything
lady, but part of you is earth
part of you is wounds
part of you is words
and part is smoke
[. . .]
open your wings, instruct us
say what we are
do not confuse us
[. . .]
come into our thought
our mouth. Speak to us
voice of the beloved

help us
say what we are
say what we are to do”

Ostriker, Alicia Suskin. The Volcano Sequence. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2002. 25-6. Print.

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