The Schmooze

Among the Trees of Exile: Poetry by Ivan Klein

Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Jake Marmer introduces three pieces by Ivan Klein.

Reading Ivan Klein’s work I imagine a man, sitting alone in an empty room, and talking. Not to anyone specific; probably to himself. In the emptiness his words echo off the walls, and in the echoes is the musicality, response, sub-text. Ivan’s work is mystical; both cerebral and physically frank. Kabbalistic imagery and Kafka’s fingerprints keep appearing, as does Melville and the streets of Greenwich Village. Jewishness is among the poet’s primary concerns — the mystery and misery of it, exile and redemption. The writer easily slides between poetry and prose, references and tonalities. As he states: “There is no such thing as poetry, / Just let yourself be.”

Aside from his book of collected works, “Alternatives to Silence,” Klein has also recently published a chapbook “Some Paintings by Koho & a Flower of My Own.” This sampling of Ivan’s work features a timely Tu B’shvat piece, “Amaryllis,” where the strangeness of celebrating the “Jewish Arbor Day” in the middle of January comes as a lingering metaphor for the absurdity and incongruence of exilic living. The poem “Primo Levi Departing Auschwitz” pays tribute to the great thinker and writer and the moment of his liberation — the freedom that is fraught with the inescapable confinement of memory. Finally, “Poem to David” is the author’s tangled and cryptically mighty advice to his son.

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Among the Trees of Exile: Poetry by Ivan Klein

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