Last week I presented a project that seemed unlikely to exist and equally unlikely to succeed, but it managed to do both. It was a live poetry performance called Mirrors. In spite of the simple title, every time I tried to explain to the people I’d enlisted to read, we all got tangled up. Three groups of four pairs, with ten-minute breaks for discussion — too much information! Just dive in!
Which we did.
I chose bits of writing from observant feminist/literary scholar of Torah, Avivah Zornberg, whose verbal pyrotechnics and all-around genre-bending work I’ve long admired. I placed these powerful excerpts of midrash opposite a selection of my poems. Zornberg’s dense text, out of context, next to my dense text … a case of heightening complexity to obtain clarity?
The idea was to put them side by side and let the sparks fly. They’re not one-to-one correspondences, more like juxtapositions, points of departure, spiky soul mates. Zornberg’s probing of the unconscious of a Torah passage, her eliciting of emotion inside discontinuities gaps and white spaces left room for my poetic eruptions about existential condition.
Did they tango? Well, yes. Rumblings, premonitions, regret, amazement, praise – voices were liberated in the room, a choral celebration of the many.
It was a big personal experiment. I brought all my energy, then right afterwards collapsed into a miserable cold. I’ve been out most of the week. The work was ready but it took a lot of energy to be ready. I spent the week recovering from my readiness. I am renewed, ready to be ready again.
Thanks to Alan Flam, Louis Gitlin and the Soulful Shabbat contingent!