In the June 10 Haaritz, Linda Zisquit writes: "Had Yona Wallachsurvived the breast cancer that she chose not to treat – and that ultimately killed her in 1985 – she would have been 70 years old on June 10. Wallach, a controversial diva of Hebrew poetry, attracted censure, admirers and lovers for her eroticism, blasphemy and experimental Hebrew. She is best known for provocative works with fluid gender boundaries like “Jonathan,” from her first book, “Things” (1966); and “Tefillin,” from “Wild Light” (1983), in which a female speaker imagines donning phylacteries in a violent sexual context." (Zisquit translated Wild Light, a selection of Wallach's poems for Sheep Meadow Press published in 1997.) (Tefillin are used in Jewish prayer: two small leather cases containing portions of the Torah , which are wrapped with straps on the forehead and the left arm.)
For the Boston AWP in the Spring of 2013 (the only time I have attended the gathering), I presented an adaption of “Recantorium: A Bachelor Machine after Duchamp after Kafka,” the orignal of which was collected in Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essay and Inventions. David Caplan asked Adam Kirsch to join him in speak on “How Do We Know How Much is Too Much, Not Enough, or Too Little?”. We filled a hotel ballroom for the panel and there was a lively conversation after that delineated what I called the theological differences between Kirsch’s view on poetry and mine. AWP had contacted me in advance to get permission to record the event and, although a recording was made that day, AWP informed me a few months ago that the recording will not be made availalbe because they lost it. Here is the text of my AWP adaption of “Recantorium.”
Translated by Jacquelyn Deal and Patrick Greaney German text follows the English
At the beginning of temporality and historicity, at the beginning of history, Cain is asked where his brother Abel is. He responds with a question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Mythology reveals a substitution at the beginning of time and history: the Cainian language convention. A category of good conduct, being someone’s keeper, is used to conceal an action; in his denial, Cain clings to an ethical category and deploys it for something completely different.