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Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer

An atypically eventful week for my writing practice!

1. Yesterday, my latest article—an arts piece for JTA—went live.

Screenshot of article headline, “Ben Kingsley’s 5 most memorable Jewish roles, from Moses to Anne Frank’s dad.”

2. While I was working on that article, I received the initial report from the poet I’d hired to consult on my manuscript.

Confession: I haven’t yet opened the document that contains all of that feedback. (First, I was busy with the article; then I had a minor medical situation come up [don’t worry!]; then I somehow found more reasons not to read it. But I promise that before I post next week’s midweek notes I will have read it! What can I say? Despite the warm and encouraging email message that accompanied the document, I’m nervous!)

3. Before that, Jewish Journal published a new poem of mine!

There’s a lot to say about this poem, which is titled “This Woman’s Prayer.”

First: The poem originated in a springtime session of the Jewish-text-based-study-and-writing group that I’ve mentioned here before. In that session, our facilitator had brought in materials connected with the traditional morning blessing in which Jewish males praise God “who has not made [them] a woman.”

Included in these materials was a set of prompts. One prompt suggested that we write a poem, blessing, prayer, or prose piece thanking God for making us (or our characters) women. Another prompt recommended that we might reflect on, or begin a piece with a line from, a translated excerpt we’d read in the session, from Esther Raab’s “Shirat Ishah” (“A woman’s song,”) which begins, “Blessed be the One who made me a woman—”.

I combined those prompts and drafted a poem with these lines: “Blessed be the One/who made me me.”

And then I set the draft aside.

I returned to it this summer, when, in an adult-education class on Israeli poetry and prayer, my instructor tackled a similar theme and provided us with her own full-text translation of that Esther Raab poem. (In that class, I also learned more about Raab [1894-1981]; you can find out more about this literary foremother on the site of the Jewish Women’s Archive.)

Yes, I took this as some sort of “divine intervention” and returned to my poem, revising and polishing it.

Then, I sent it to an editor who I thought might like it.

And here it is.

The responses that I’ve received so far have been exceptionally enthusiastic. I hope that if you’re discovering the poem here, you will like it, too!

And as always, I welcome updates from your writing practices, in comments!

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10 Responses »

  1. Hi Erika,

    As a long time film critic/reviewer here in Kansas City, I read your Ben Kingsley article with great enjoyment. Even should he “phone in” a part, there would still be value in it.

  2. Hi Erika,
    Loved hearing the story behind how this poem got published. I also enjoyed the poem. Congrats!!

  3. What I love about this poem is the modesty expressed, the gratitude for what appear to be routine things but are so precious to our lives.

  4. Thanks so much for the kind comments, everyone!

  5. Hi Erika,
    Wonderful poem!

  6. I like the simplicity and flow of this poem, especially the idea of simply being grateful for “being me”–removing the gender note. I’m curious if, during your study of this traditional morning blessing, you encountered the various interpretations and explanations that offer a less sexist or derogatory meaning.

    • I would have to review all the notes–we did certainly review a number of interpretations. And thanks for the kind words about the poem.

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