Sitting down with Israeli poet Admiel Kosman and his translator Lisa Katz (who is a poet in her own right) in the Forward’s podcast studio felt less like a formal interview than a conversation in a dimly lit cafe, extending for hours into the night. And it likely would have extended — if the producer didn’t start waving frantically after the allotted half-hour was up. Indeed, Kosman’s new book, “Addressing You In English,” is so layered and multidimensional that it is prone to a vast number of discussions — not merely about poetry, but about language, love, Jewishness, prayer and more.
Spiritual seekers and philosophers who have grown up in a religious environment but who have chosen to transcend it are forever in a league of their own. While rituals peel away with time, what remains is a sense of addiction to meaning and purpose. And so Kosman, who grew up in a traditional Jewish environment, continues his intense spiritual and intellectual search, an internal debate characterized by his wonderful power of observation. As he explains in the interview, poetry as such is never his goal. Rather, it is something that erupts out of his contemplations — and thus is more organic, conflicted and emotionally rich.
Kosman now lives in Berlin where he is a professor of Religious and Jewish Studies at Potsdam University and the academic director of the Abraham Geiger rabbinical seminary. His poems and columns appear regularly in the Friday literary supplement of Israel’s leading newspaper, Haaretz.
Listen to an interview with Admiel Kosman, and read the six poems that he discusses: