Lowercase Jew

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Overview


As dismissal and disdain of Jews speak through the art of some leading twentieth-century poets, so the poetry of Rodger Kamenetz artfully answers, framing in subtle terms the questions that haunt our culture-about the voices through which culture speaks, about the identity of poet and poetry, about the capacity of art to harm and to heal. Whether subjecting the anti-Semitic verses of T. S. Eliot to a literary trial; conjuring the eloquence with which "Allen Ginsberg forgives Ezra Pound on Behalf of the Jews"; or...
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Overview


As dismissal and disdain of Jews speak through the art of some leading twentieth-century poets, so the poetry of Rodger Kamenetz artfully answers, framing in subtle terms the questions that haunt our culture-about the voices through which culture speaks, about the identity of poet and poetry, about the capacity of art to harm and to heal. Whether subjecting the anti-Semitic verses of T. S. Eliot to a literary trial; conjuring the eloquence with which "Allen Ginsberg forgives Ezra Pound on Behalf of the Jews"; or drawing upon personal history, the Torah, and Jewish mysticism to explore the tangled relations of Jewish identity and modern literature, Kamenetz's poems attest to the inexorable power of language.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The Lowercase Jew is a book dense with mourning, comedy routines, food, blue tattoos, tribal history and the wheel of time, despair and prayer. It begins with three amazing poems on T.S. Eliot's anti-Semitism, Allen Ginsberg's forgiveness of Ezra Pound and an imaginary Holocaust Theme Park and ends with an amazing poem on happiness, riffing on the Bible's first psalm." --Alicia Ostriker

"Rodger Kamenetz is on a spiritual pilgrimage that feels both urgent and timeless. After finding the "missing Jew" of his early poetry at the crossroads of Judaism and Tibetan Buddhism, Kamenetz is now taking on the mantle of the warrior. His new work militates powerfully for the splendor of the Jewish tradition, taking on without hesitation the cultural icons whose malign influence is far from spent. Jewish urgency and Jewish wisdom are combined here to stand poetically firm in another uncertain age." --Andrei Codrescu

"These are very exciting and original poems about a world that has been written about so many times. These poems are a secret and almost intimate meeting place of English and Hebrew."
--Yehuda Amichai

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810151529
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Rodger Kamenetz's The Jew in the Lotus (Harper San Francisco, 1995) is the classic account of Jewish Buddhist dialogue; his Stalking Elijah (Harper San Francisco, 1997) won the National Jewish Book Award for 1997. His four previous books of poetry include The Missing Jew: New and Selected Poems (Time Being Books, 1992), which reviewers called "the most significant book of American Jewish poetry" of its year, citing him as " one of the most formidable of Jewish voices of American poetry." His poems won a Prairie Schooner Reader's Choice award and have appeared in scores of publication including The New Republic, Grand Street, and Tikkun, and in a dozen major anthologies including Telling and Remembering, Jewish American Poetry, and The Best Contemporary Jewish Writing. Kamenetz teaches poetry and non-fiction writing in the MFA program at Louisiana State University and directs the Art-Spirit program at Vermont Studio Centers. He also edits Psalm 151, a monthly poetry feature, for the Forward. Kamenetz will be lecturing this fall in various cities about anti-semitism in poetry, the topic of this new book. Kamenetz is a native of Baltimore.
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Table of Contents

Grandfather Clause 5
Poem-in-Law 7
A Dead Jew's Eyes 9
The Lowercase Jew 11
Allen Ginsberg Forgives Ezra Pound on Behalf of the Jews 21
My Holocaust 26
Genesis 1:1 33
Adam, Earthling 34
Adam, Golem 36
Noah's Grapes 38
Naming the Angel 39
The Broken Tablets 40
Reading Gabriel's Palace 41
Proverbs 42
Altneuschul, Prague, Tisha B'Av 45
13 49
Sparrow Land 50
Heads Will Roll 51
Morning Prayers in the House of Mourning 52
Uncle Louis, or Why My Father Moved from Baltimore to Florida 53
Rye 59
The Color of Time 60
Tours of Heaven 61
Turtle Soup at Mandina's 62
For Borscht 63
You Don't Have to be Jewish 65
Psalm 1 67
Notes 71
Acknowledgments 75
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2003

    Jerusalem Post Review

    The Jerusalem Post September 19, 2003, Friday SECTION: BOOKS; Pg. 12B LENGTH: 937 words HEADLINE: The Jew in the poet BYLINE: P. David Hornik BODY: The Lowercase Jew by Roger Kamenetz. Triquarterly Books. 96 pp. $ 12.95 In this book Rodger Kamenetz, the American Jewish poet best known for The Jew in the Lotus - an account of Jewish- Buddhist dialogue - draws on his wide range of Jewish knowledge and feelings to produce a set of poems that are always interesting, of varied quality, and sometimes stunningly powerful. The book is divided into four sections, of which the first two, 'Grandfather Clause' and 'Torah,' are the most compelling. The poems in 'Grandfather Clause' are about the legacy of anti-Semitism, a sensitive but also much-trodden subject that Kamenetz handles with tact and originality. The deeply serious My Holocaust, a five-pages-long meditation about having a vicarious, hence inherently problematic relation to the catastrophe, is strikingly honest and convincing. In a lighter vein is The Lowercase Jew, in which T. S. Eliot stands trial for the nasty anti- Semitism that mars his verse. Eliot's main accuser is his own anti-Semitic creation Bleistein, whom Kamenetz colorfully and comically projects as a gruff, earthy Chicagoan Jew who assures Eliot that It's punishment for you, but also me. I have to read these farkakta lines you wrote about the Jews. Later Bleistein grouses: London and Jerusalem, you called them unreal cities. Maybe what made those cities unreal was you never saw the people in them. The lines maintain the standup-comic tone while making a serious point about the coldness of this patrician poet. Nothing in The Lowercase Jew is meant to detract from Eliot's greatness, but Bleistein's indignant ramblings cleverly capture his shortcomings. The second section, 'Torah,' offers poems that are intensive, midrashic interactions with biblical texts. Adam, Earthling and Adam, Golem are abstruse, straining too hard to make connections between a disjunct modern consciousness and the archetypal First Man. Genesis 1: 1 well evokes, in 16 lines, the impenetrable mystery of that verse; The Broken Tablets poignantly imagines the fate of Moses' first pair of tablets, their shards carried in the Ark all the way to the Promised Land. But the highlights of the section are Noah's Grapes, a bitterly powerful statement on aging and sexual decline; and the extraordinary Naming the Angel, which memorably interprets Jacob's night-long wrestle with the angel in terms of solitude and alienation. After his protracted, frustrating encounter with the mysterious being, Jacob wonders in anguish: Maybe nothing moves down the ladder but what we ask for, if in greed, then greed, if in anger, then horned anger gores our nights. Nothing walks down the ladder but what we dream on the hard rock. These lines well exemplify Kamenetz's genius for rendering voices and mental states, his psychological insight and constant search for meaning. Kamenetz is also a laudably courageous poet, not shrinking from themes like the Holocaust and quintessential biblical texts, and the poem Proverbs (also in the 'Torah' section) is actually a set of 34 original proverbs, none of them longer than one line, that are endlessly rich and provocative. My own favorites are 'Hope burns the hopeless' and 'It was dark, so he closed his eyes,' but this is a prismatic group of maxims that send up different parts of myself every time I stare at them. The third section, 'In the House of Mourning,' starts with two poems about a lost love, 13 and Sparrow Land, that are not quite realized, seeming to shy away from the painful subject matter without quite conveying the point. The central issue of this section is Uncle Louis, or Why My Father Moved from Baltimore to Florida, a three-pages-long confrontation with personal pain that at its best achieves heights of vivid language and intensity, but a

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