Zackary Sholem Berger


Poems of Heresy and Transformation

By Zackary Sholem Berger

Poems of Heresy and Transformation
If poetry requires disclosure, I’ll start with one: I am a friend of Yermiyahu Ahron Taub’s, and a fellow Yiddish poet. He sent me his book with a kind dedication, and an additional inscription in his neat hand: bet-samekh-daled. That is, the author of this book entitled “Prayers of a Heretic” noted that his signature to me was written “besiyata-dishmaya,” with the aid of Heaven.Read More


Q&A: Poet Elinor Nauen on Writing Ottava Rima for Derek Jeter

By Zackary Sholem Berger

Q&A: Poet Elinor Nauen on Writing Ottava Rima for Derek Jeter
Elinor Nauen is Manhattan’s unofficial poet laureate of cars and baseball. Her newest book, “So Late Into the Night,” is a rollicking road trip on the model of Byron’s “Don Juan,” with over 600 stanzas of ottava rima about Derek Jeter (her non-Platonic obsession), road trips, her husband, morning minyan and herself. Nauen chatted with The Arty Semite about moving to New York from South Dakota, writing about shul, and whether Derek Jeter will ever read her poems.Read More


Torah Poems That Bring Comfort, Not Questions

By Zackary Sholem Berger

Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Zackary Sholem Berger reviews “70 Faces” by Rachel Barenblat. Read More


Cut the Challah, but Slice It Slant: A Response to the ZEEK Poetry Manifesto

By Zackary Sholem Berger

Cut the Challah, but Slice It Slant: A Response to the ZEEK Poetry Manifesto
The editors at ZEEK recently came out with a poetry manifesto. Since the journal devotes significant space to poetry, and there are precious few publications which consider Jewish poetry in a serious way, I looked forward to their treatment of the subject. I glanced at the last paragraph and saw that the authors wanted to “blast open the possibility of what Jewish poetry can be” — certainly an ambitious goal. I hoped that the manifesto would tell us how.Read More


The Poetry of Language

By Zackary Sholem Berger

The Poetry of Language
There are many bilingual Jewish books in which the two languages are dependent on each other. The Gemara is a mostly Aramaic reworking of the Hebrew-language Mishnah. The stories of Reb Nachman of Breslov were told in Yiddish, but their first written versions were in Hebrew. The majority of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s work is now best known not in the original Yiddish, but in the English into which Singer reworked his stories.Read More



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