- On Editing from The Well of Living Waters and Drash: Northwest Mosaic
From the Well of Living Waters, an anthology of Jewish Bay Area poets began like many projects—with a conversation. In the summer of 2010, I met with Rabbi Burt Jacobson, founding rabbi of Kehilla Community Synagogue, for my annual spiritual check-up. At the conclusion of our talk and knowing my interests, Rabbi Burt suggested that I consider editing an anthology of Kehilla poets and friends. It sounded like a grand idea.
I asked Kehilla staff to post a call for submissions in the synagogue's online newsletter, Kol Kehilla. I also reached out to congregants and poets whom I knew from the perimeter of our community.
The response was immediate. Poems flowed to me from all directions. In August [End Page 86] 2010 we held a "Poetry and Music Cabaret" as a fundraiser. Poets read at the synagogue in Piedmont, California, joined by Lior Tsarfaty, a talented Israeli musician who offered Hebrew music and Arabic prayers.
The evening was extraordinary, a gathering of Jewish American poets who embraced shared traditions and ancestors, including the pain of the Holocaust, and deeply felt concerns about the debacle of Palestine and Israel for all people who call this long and narrow place of approximately 290 miles, their home. We listened to the strength of each other's voices assembled in one place. It was a holy experience, similar to one I had the previous year at a benefit event I helped to organize, "Poetry for Gaza," where leading Arab and Jewish writers stood together. United in our hearts and in the healing name of the word, we arrived at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California in Oakland to raise money for the children of Gaza. The audience heard that register and responded generously.
While I frequently attend poetry readings throughout the Bay Area, I hadn't been aware of a missing quality of voice until I had the opportunity to edit From the Well of Living Waters. I believe now it was a need to hear my Jewish contemporaries speak together from one platform. While not all of the poets write explicitly Jewish-identified poetry, all of them, including myself, write and explore poetry from that core. I wanted the anthology to help us understand how that Jewish core has alloyed or broken us apart. As Jews of the 21st century, we inhabit a different world from that of our ancestors. The Holocaust, a horrible defining event for at least one generation of Jews, has been off-set by other challenges. As American Jews, how do we respond to the politics of Israel, born in the pain of the Holocaust? How do we rescue and nurture our values in today's world?
My impetus for founding Drash: Northwest Mosaic, initially, was personal and a lot about my frustration at not getting my often-Jewish-themed short stories into general literary magazines. It seemed that the few Jewish literary magazines available to me were either too feminist/lesbian, too academic, too edgy (as in young and raunchy) or too snobbish (East Coast cliques)—this is going to piss off people, oh well.
Not knowing a thing about publishing, I enlisted some earnest and equally hopelessly naïve poets and writers here at Temple Beth Am, where I am the music director, and we set about making a literary journal to reflect the time and place in which we lived: the slower, softer, definitely more moist, Jewish Northwest. ("C'mon kids, this is gonna be fun!")
Oy, huge learning curve. I have learned how many books to order, how many books not to order, how to write grants, how to set up and run readings (and keep long-winded, full-of-themselves literary types from boring people to death).
We are going into the building stage of Volume V, due out end of May, and I've just finished sending out hundreds of rejection and acceptance notices (and getting both gracious and impossibly snotty responses). In my quest for a respectful selection process, I make a point of sending out...