Andrew Sofer Reads from Wave

good evening I’d like to welcome you all to this celebration of Andrew so first poetry I’m maxing schreier and I’m very happy to be here I’m very happy to be andrews colleague both in English and in Jewish Studies and this event is co-sponsored by our small but stall where Jewish Studies program and our English department in fact both co-directors of Jewish Studies jon fishman to a converter here and I think Suzanne Madsen the chair of English would have very much like to have been here I think and a many of you of course no Andrew as our dear colleague and friend but for the benefit of those who may be here for the first time let me just mention a few things about him he wears two principal hats on this campus one is that of a theater critic and historian and teacher of theater and in that capacity andrew is an acclaimed theatre critic probably best known for his book the stage life of props as well as many essays and articles on theatre and he received the inaugural Oscar rocket essay prize from the American Society for theatre research and Rousseau fur is also a poet and a teacher of creative creative writing on this campus and has been serving in those two capacities for many years and in fact it’s the latter capacity that was celebrate today some of us many of us in fact trips most of us recently lived through the annual cycle of the Jewish High Holidays and were rien scribed into the book of life and I think Andrew will give us a chance to be inscribed into his new book of poetry the wave but and what a wave it has been I should tell you that the critics are mad about his book I just want to quote what Rachel haters wrote in times literary supplement Andrew sulfur’s w collection wave makes nonsense of the stale but durable dichotomy that would consign formal skill and strength of feeling to opposite sides of an imaginary barricade one of the many pleasures of reading and rereading wave is the discovery of how one poem answers the questions posed explicitly or implicitly by others as you read Andrews collection you see you here reflected in his verse and refracted through it voices of many of Andrews imaginary Jewish interlocked our interlocutors such as Kafka or boots ensign voices of Andrews own parents and family members of Jews dysphoric and non diasporic and I hope Andrew will permit me the liberty of quoting just one of his poems i know i will not do with this english of mine a job nearly as perfect as Andrew but there’s a reason I want to read this it’s a short poem from the earlier part of the book and it’s called family recipe grandmother vows over the dow dough flipping salt and grease she bakes once every summer to fatten you up brings gifts from the holy land a paperweight shtetl in globed in snow Hanukkah gelt wrapped in gold but scares me when she whispers this is the way we remember skinny pinching my wrist I try not to breathe in the raw butter as we roll yellowing letters for the departed bless it be they till our offerings burst from the oven the first a searing my cursed mouth I don’t know about about you but when I read this poem I here so my lady whispering in Andrews ear and I also hear Malamud perhaps winking at him from the happy abode where he might be presently why do I mention a Jewish poets as writers of pros well in a way because some of the greatest Jewish American poets have been writers of prose but i think it’s changing its gene it’s already changed with resnikoff and with anthony Hecht and i think andruw’s book testifies to the extent to which Jewish American poetry is changing and becoming only part of the mainstream

but becoming so vastly intelligent and so formally perfect and ender I want to thank you for that as I also want to say that I’ve never said this to you but for years Andrew I’ve admired how patiently you’ve been waiting for the right publisher to snatch up this manuscript some of your contemporaries have already published two or three collections and you only coming out with your first but you know like Asian why and this is only a sign of maturity and I think some of these contemporaries already passed their peak or as you are only reaching your peak for Andrew and I want to welcome Andrew sulfur to the podium and please help me welcome him and after his reading you’ll take your questions there will be a reception and also Andrew kindly agreed to sign copies of his book which has already become a best-seller Andrew so far focus so much okay can everybody hear me yes thank you very very much for coming out on a Tuesday evening it’s lovely to see so many familiar faces and so many unfamiliar faces here I’d like to thank Maxine for that really gracious and generous introduction as well as the Jewish Studies program in the English department for inviting me to be here this evening along with Maxime join carpenter Don Fishman Suzanne Matson the chair of the English department I’d like to thank front row for generously of sponsoring the taping of this reading I’d like to thank the BC bookstore for stocking my book and some of my book as well i’d like to thank bc magazine Ben Birnbaum and ann marie murphy for their support over the years and lost i just like to thank my family and thank you all for being here tonight so i’m going to read from this book for a bit and talk about the poems as i read and then I’ll wind down and be very happy to answer questions about the book or about individual poems or anything that you’d like to talk about so the first thing I would say about this book is that it’s a narrative it’s a story it’s a sequence that’s divided into three sections and the first section has to do with the experience of being a child growing up in England and feeling both English and not English as Maxime intimated neither of my parents was English I didn’t have any relatives growing up in England I didn’t have any ancestors in England so I had a sort of strange sense of being in England but not of England and when my parents spoke it was very clear that unlike me they really didn’t sound English at all so it’s an interesting experience growing up growing up that way and so the poems in the first section of the book I suppose are largely to do with a child trying to find his is place in a landscape and I’m going to start with the very very first poem in the book which a poem called Waterbury ring it’s an elegy for my father Cyril Soffer who is the joint dedica T of the book along with my older brother on pulsipher both so furs both writers both brilliant men who died too young and I didn’t know when I started this poem that it was going to end up being analogy it was actually a commission that was given to me by a composer friend of mine who wanted to set some words of mine to music that had to do with childhood that was already told me he wanted some words on about childhood for a piece of music for string quartet and soprano that would go last about 15 minutes or so those were my instructions that was my commission so I started thinking about childhood in places that were important to me when I was a child and I hit upon Waterbury ring which is the site of an Iron Age hill fort in Cambridgeshire very near where I grew up and it’s a kind of magical place you can walk around it it’s a big big ring you walk around the remains of this Iron Age hill fort you can sense the Romans you can sense the the people who were displaced by the Romans you have a wonderful view of Cambridge share the Gog and Magog the two hills which are by legend sleeping

monsters that will awaken on the day of judgment and so this was a very sort of haunting landscape for me in childhood and as I started to write this poem and explore this poem it sort of became a love poem to my father and it ended up being written in rind iambic pentameter and again it just came out that way I didn’t set out to write it in that particular form but perhaps the fact that it decided to write itself in these heroic couplets might have been my unconscious telling me that this was heading towards an allergy so one Wilbury ring October and amidst drifts from the I’m 8 years old and standing on the downs of gog magog hill with my family it’s Sunday and my brother and I rose early to pack a lunch and load the stuttering car now we race jagged kites into the air wrestling a wind that tugs our fingers numb our father shows us how to make them climb and twirl like German bombers in the war he falls over plays dead then swallows air to chase our screaming round and round the hill we make him keep on bombing us until we flopped down and gazed northward toward the wash I imagine stilt legged fen folk crossing Marsh 200 years before when farms were drowned now skylarks p wits girl / lowland gog and magog sleeping giants stretch away below us are the woods of wandl berry we wander into a thick blade of beach then tread our muddy circle round the ditch that ancient britons dog to build their fort father tells how Romans tore it apart burning bricks from soft East Anglian clay to mount their rounded arches toward the sky and pave the via de vanna toward have a hill down the scarf and into the ditch we tumble tramping like soldiers through the fallen leaves that crunch beneath our feet the barrow graves where Romans piled their dead lie further north but here we roll ourselves in rich black earth then clamber up the bank smelling of leaf mould wood smoke dirt and ash it’s a relief to shiver and find ourselves on sunlit lon leaving behind the glade and read Hawthorne for the cobbled drive we cross the slippery bridge and peer together over its mossy edge at hungry ducks the sunken cricket pitches forget-me-not behind me lies the ditch where today it is my father’s shade I see kicking dead leaves aside to unbury me so the next poem that I’m going to read is the second poem in the book as a slighter slightly lighter tone to it perhaps it’s called a Latin lesson and this is a tribute to my old Latin teachers from when I was in elementary school now I went to King’s College Choir School in Cambridge which was founded in the 1530s so about 30 years before Shakespeare was born and I think most of the staff had been there since the founding of the school actually some of my teachers are still teaching their 40 years later they’re teaching the teaching the children of my classmates who have the same name because of course you go by your last name Charlie think would be very confusing for the teacher you know which van someren am i teaching right now so there we were forced to learn Latin at the age of 10 or 11 and so this um this poem has a little bit of schoolboy Latin in it which I should perhaps explain just a couple of the tags so the phrase kv which is a which is a I don’t know what to say distortion of the word karve which means be where you know carve a column B where the dog kv is what the century who’s at the door shouts when the master is coming and you have to behave yourself so you put away your spit balls and you scurry back to your chair so you’re ready to stand up when the master comes into the room you

probably had when you were kids to write a hundred lines as a punishment for some minor infraction you know I will not take notes in class that’s sort of will not you know pass notes in class let’s see is there anything else um yes there’s a Latin tag here tempus fugit that’s time flies and the last tag is a little hard to translate I’m sick biscuit us disintegrate it loosely translates into colloquial English as something like that’s the way the cookie crumbles a Latin lesson they storm in like century ins my teachers pausing to gird their loins or tie their shoes then stomping into class as if to war babbage prefect on watch shouts a kv so we assume our most respectful features pretending we can’t smell Headmaster’s booze and jump to stand when Sir comes through the door sundown boys turn to page 33 and Caesars battle with the goal obediently we turn to the dead rose of words like corpses littered on a stage so far you first translates where we left off my stomach’s in perfect tense the Roman walls accusative or ablative who knows might I ask boy if you’re on the right page sirs nicotine fingers hide a rasping cough the Roman ditches I furtively consult my shorter Latin tremor valen since inked over as shortbread eating could it be the beach what in hell with Caesar doing sir Oh kimes someone else can rescue goal perhaps tumult erupts meesa meesa Caesar recovers as tongue-tied tongue-tied scholars suddenly find speech sova kindly right out 100 lines tempus I shan’t waste to waste time sir smirks his victims thrown to the Lions and class drags on till afternoon libations one nil Rome triumphs barbarian is a hopeless case and sentenced for the crime of being modern but Empire declines once boys learn more exciting conjugations sick biscay to disintegrate sir rome crumbled I’m going to read a couple more poems from the from the earlier section i think i will read this poem home from school which isn’t upon that i believe that i’ve read in a poetry reading before so i’ll read it it’s a it’s a villanelle so it’s a repeating form on to rhymes in which the first line and the third right the first line and the third line come back at preordained are times in the poem and this one’s called home from school the basement hugs its darkness to itself I crouch one floor above it’s muffled hum what did my father hide behind the shelf I hold my breath a minute and a half until at last I hear the front door slam the basement hugs its darkness to itself and I am 7 shrewd as any elf as if its jaws might tear me limb from limb what did my father hide behind the show Oh thief who stole the kingdom blind yourself I lose my footing stumble bite my thumb hugging the basements darkness to myself I traced the wall that ends in a sheer Gulf of pitch-black air I tighten like a drum whatever father hid behind the shelf he hoards the totems magic for himself I reach into the gloom my fingers numb the basement hugs its darkness to itself what did my father hide the shell this poem is called boomerang I threw the boomerang in such a way that it would sail beyond our tidy lon then double back into my waiting palm instead I watched my new toy slice the air and

catch my mother just above the eye as if it meant to cut her down to size I couldn’t make her understand the chance sometimes takes matter into its own hands that aimlessness as well as rage can blind this poem is from my older brother it’s another poem that’s set in Cambridgeshire Cambridgeshire of course is a Fenland very very flat very very boggy hence my reference to the stilt legged fen folk in the first poem when the fence flood you go on stilts through it and it’s a very strange marshy surreal environment not quite liquid not quite solid and quite um quite fascinating so this one’s called Cambridgeshire windmills and it’s football and there’s a term here widdershins which some of you will know which means to walk account walk in a circle counterclockwise which is associated with the Black Arts it’s the same idea of sinister sinister meaning to go leftward so to walk counter clockwise as 20 quid oh and it’s us on it the year we go windmill mad my brother and I we climb up endless rickety stairs that yield under foot through rotten Hulk’s that score the sky and smell of straw and rats flats Cambridge fields checkerboards of mustard yellow and green stretch out toward Norfolk and the river ooze far burn piles of leaves they dredge up beans beets and from rich black wormy soil potatoes here land is an illusion when fans drown you have to pump so black sailed windmills came three hundred years ago I hear them grown to life as the oak wheels creek then thrum not dark satanic Mills at all but gins for solemn faced boys to march round widdershins that’s Cambridgeshire windows okay I’ll leave another light one um this is a poem called conquerors now I’m not sure if we have conquerors growing up in the States but do you know what conquerors are there the chestnuts that you bake you stick them on a string and you play a game where you hold one end of the string and you try and bash your conquer into someone else’s and you earn points by smashing other people’s so it’s a sort of schoolboys schoolyard game and you can you can achieve points by taking the points that belong to the chest not that you’re that you are exploding and there are various ways to cheat a to cheat as well so I wrote this poem for my poetry mentor a great mentor a great teacher john hollander and i wrote it in an invented form which is a cross between a shape poem so you see the chestnut here sort of chats not chestnut ish shape of the poem and it’s also an Elizabethan sonnet so it’s a cross between an Elizabethan sonnet and a shape home shaped home which guillaume apollinaire called a kallah gram that’s the French word for shape home so since it’s a sonnet in a kallah gram I’m calling it a sonogram okay those of you who enjoy Sylvia Plath will will enjoy a little echoed at the end here okay so chestnuts chestnuts of course were were famously written about in the ancient world Homer Pindar virgin Virgil plenty marshal Galen and so I’m doing my best to sort of keep the chest not alive in poetry in western poetry so conquers conquers fell from chestnut trees in prickle ebers plump as forbidden fruit we peeled away their husk laying bare the fleshy warriors then left them baking in the Sun all day at break the boys took turns to let them dangle from strings of twine awaiting the first attack you take your time nod sagely gauge the angle then flick your wizened warrior with a crack that blasted there’s two bits but by some infernal luck sometimes the raw seed worked its magic and weird bow before the god inside the colonel sing muse an

antique tale epic not tragic brash chestnut brazen even in defeat o golden child the world will roast and eat ah maybe I’ll read one more poem from the first section and since Maxine was kind enough to mention Kafka I have a Kafka poem here which I will read it’s called Kafka’s farewell now when Kafka was was dying of tuberculosis he went to a ski resort oddly which is where he wrote the castles are lesions ski resort called um spindle ruler and um I thought this was interesting and I read some of Kafka’s Diaries and I have some have a quote from Kafka in italics here but I don’t know how to speak in italics so maybe I’ll just make a little maybe I’ll slant lightly so that you’ll know when I’m quoting Kafka but this poem is called Kafka’s farewell Kafka’s farewell scratching out the castle plagued by hemorrhoids boils and the TB uncoiling in his chest like a viper how he envied those warm bodies at spindle mullah whizzing past his window or schnapps and good cheer did he lie at the bottom of the slope black limbs twitching air target of catcalls and apple cores my situation in this world would seem to be a dreadful one alone here on a forsaken road did he dream of hurtling down the trail bowler hat stiff collar and scarecrow ears then relax into the shoe civet snowplow to stem christie stem christie to parallel turn as he swoops into the sky shedding jacket coat and hat look a child cries a flying June I’m going to move on to the palms of the middle section the middle section is largely a sonnet sequence that is about life in Israel between 1983 and 1987 when I was an undergraduate I moved to Israel in january nineteen eighty-three that was about seven months after the first lebanon war began the invasion of southern lebanon by israel to expel the PLO and then i left in july 1987 which was about six months before the very first intifada the first palestinian up writing uprising against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories so the middle section is informed by an adopted country and adopted culture again a sense of being in a place interested in being other place trying to figure out what it meant to be in this extremely colorful pressured intense romanticized and violent environment and I think that’s all I’m going to say I think I should probably let the ponds speak so I’ll begin with a poem called an karam now in karam is a village just to the west of Jerusalem where I lived when I first moved to Israel and according to tradition this is the village where Mary and her cousin Elizabeth who was John the Baptist’s mother met when both were pregnant it was a joyous occasion and both of these pregnancies were foretold by Gabriel the angel Gabriel who struck Elizabeth husband Elizabeth’s husband Zachariah dumb in the temple when he doubted the prophecy so that story is told in Luke but I think my relationship to the village will become clearer as I read the poem and it’s a sonnet and Karen which means well at the vineyard a lemon tree stands in my yard it’s fruit by rights is mine except the old stone house I love which smells of sandalwood and mice was Arab so each does the children lieut witnessed the game when I see them I shout when they hear me they run and in a trice vanish like sunlight in the olive trees leaving their curse behind it’s not about lemons at all of

course but who owes what to whom once near this village an angel spoke struck mute the doubting priest whose son was born whose language must we speak to pay the debt I raised the children’s Crooked Stick and shake lemon after lemon from silent thorne this poem is called a mayor share rim it’s another poem for my father mayor sharing as many of you know is the ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem and it literally means 100 gates or doors which becomes a germane to the pun Mei assuring lost in the city late this foggy night I stumble past the black-cloaked Hasse dean who dark like shadows through an humble light they keep the doorways of Jerusalem and I’m a visitor destined to try 100 gates not one of which leads home 3,000 miles away I’m haunted by your absence like the coder to a poem missing some key phrase just out of reach a surge of blood your foot upon the pedal that graceful swerve into the local church were in a life of jokes your final riddle bereft of clues I stand completely still tell me which daughter open and I will this poem is called a old city this poem was the last poem to be written in the collection and it came very quickly it came in about an hour which is very unusual for me because often I labor over poems for for way too long and the occasion of this poem was a bet that I took from a teacher to write a Rondo renewed lay in 60 minutes and a Rondo ready bleh is a particular form of poem that is built on four line stanzas quatrains and you only have two rhymes through the whole poem and the first second third and fourth line have to come back in their entirety as the poem unfolds and then the very very last line of the poem is a half line that repeats the opening of the poem so it has a kind of circular motion this particular poem which is useful for a poem about circling around and getting lost and becoming disoriented and discombobulated so it’s set in the Old City of Jerusalem which as you know is divided into Jewish Arab Christian and Armenian quarters all pressed up close in close proximity to each other so it becomes a kind of microcosm of a larger the larger our topography of the area and the old city is a mysterious fascinating exotic fragrant it has a kind of hallucinatory quality to it it’s easy to get lost and find yourself in the same spot again so perhaps some of that informs this poem right so this poem closes the middle section of the book and it was the most recent poem to be ready old city in dreams I walk your streets past every dawn the mosin calls the blind and lame to prayer I have forgotten what I came here for I look behind me but there’s no one there Damascus Gate soldiers are everywhere one hips a beggar’s cup onto the floor my coffees cold some children’s stop and stare in dreams I walk your streets past every door three mangy cats circle outside a store I squint against the quarters sudden glare is this the place have I been here before the Moors incalls the lame and blind to prayer a shutter clangs it isn’t my affair the waiter seems to smile but i’m not sure i pay the bill the cats aren’t anywhere I’ve forgotten what I came here for the children follow me beyond the door I sweat pick up the pace the children stare my footsteps echo like a slamming

drawer I look behind me but there’s no one there I turned the corner where a winding stair leads to a blind alley with no door the beggar shuts his eyes and chants a prayer whose words scatter like coins upon the floor in dreams I warm so the the third section of the book turns to life in New England and sort of another attempt to to to orient oneself in a new landscape a new phase of life new challenges new environments and I’m going to begin with a love poem called Cathedral which is set in Washington DC and the Cathedral that’s referred to in the poem is the National Cathedral of Washington DC and when we lived in Washington DC we could hear the Lions from the you roaring as well coming from the coming from the Washington zoo ah and this pans for Bonnie Cathedral I discover the Cathedral through bare trees that only a few weeks ago will fall but shared a mottled canopy of leaves sitting at your oak desk I feel the pull of these new days spent leaning into you testing the weight of silence against words a narrow window offers me a view of quiet air and a crow’s nest where birds settle between two branches like a why the faint throb of a jet arcs overhead and vapor cloud furrows a field of sky with white the thickens in a hazy spread behind each constellation of ourselves by others I look around our cottage space and wonder if by emptying the shelves of all we’ve gathered here we could erase the sky these trees this window or this love the Cathedral starts to meld with violet light seeping through late afternoon miss above stone towers Martin’s dart and wheel in flight then blur lost in a climbing purple stain perhaps a haven is what love requires as when ducking into a marble nave past rain we hear a steeple bell through hollow spires I’m going to read a poem about Ludwig Wittgenstein again inspired by by Mac seems lovely introduction the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein went to Cambridge England to study logic with the great Bertrand Russell and he decided that as a young man and he got a bit fed up with Russell and he decided he was going to go and move to Norway and solve all the problems of philosophy and all the problems of logic by himself in a hut in the middle of nowhere annoy not in the middle of no excuse me in a village in a village in knowing and Bertrand Russell said Vic in Stein you must not go to Norway you will go mad and Vic and Stein famously replied better amad in Norway than sane in Cambridge having grown up in Cambridge I sort of know what he means so this poem incorporates some phrases from Vic and steins notes and journals from this period in his life 1913 and the poem is a pantoum it’s one of those repeating performs that I like to use and in this particular form every line comes back every line recurs by tues so that every stanza repeats two lines from the previous stanza introduces two new lines that are then carried over to the next stanza and so on so on as long as you want to carry it on until the poem slides shut like a like a little box where the first and the third lines which haven’t been repeated come back in inverted order at the very last stanza so it’s got a very sort of satisfying

closure to it if you can if you can make it work not sure I have but here goes anyway so they can Stein in Norway skilled in 1913 I fled my past to wrestle face to face the demon logic conjured in my brain the world was everything packed in my case I scored the Cambridge of the merely saying the demon logic conjured in my brain I wrote a is the same letter as a scouring the Cambridge of the merely sane would only could be shown I strove to say i wrote a is the same letter as a the logic of my trip escaped my friends what only could be shown I strove to say dirtying a flower with muddy hands the logic of my trip escaped my friends to solve the problems of philosophy dirtying a flower with muddy hands reducing reason to tautology to solve the problems of philosophy I kicked away the ladder of the mind reducing reason to tautology the locals wondered what I came to find I kicked away the ladder of the mind my empty notebooks filled a single shelf the locals wondered what I came to find the mirror language turned upon itself my empty notebooks filled a single shelf the world is everything that is the case the mirror language turned upon itself I fled my past to wrestle face to face I think I’ll read maybe a couple more how’s the energy in the room you use everyone everyone awake okay I’ll read it I’ll read a couple more than I think I’ll read a poem that again I don’t usually read so this is an opportunity to do so and and this is a strange poem I’m not quite sure where it came from actually it’s a poem called after the storm and it’s inspired by by shakespeare’s the tempest and it’s a dialogue in verse between Miranda and Taliban now in Shakespeare’s play we know these two characters have some kind of backstory Prospero tells us that Caliban he had brought Caliban up in his household Miranda had taught him to speak he had he had demonstrated his brutish nature by trying to rape Myranda she had been then he had been enslaved but it’s never really clear exactly what transpired and I’ve always been sort of fascinated by well what is the backstory between these two characters on anyway so I wrote this poem as a dialogue between Miranda and Caliban and it came out in in in sort of little little sonnets but instead of three quatrains and a couple at its two quatrains and a couplet again i’m not sure why that’s just how it came out so it is a Caliban who speaks first and followed by followed by Miranda I think it will be clear when I’m switching after the storm and the epigraph from this is Caliban speaking to Prospero and Miranda saying you taught me language and my profit on it is I know how to curse now they have sailed away and left me here to share my barren language with the water lacking a magic wand or spell to come to back the old magician and his daughter I spend my days watching the tide go out or memorizing flight patterns of birds sometimes I move blanched chess pieces about the rotting board and contemplate the words king queen in Naples bride of Ferdinand how many goodly creatures did you find did salt wings wind sting your last glimpse of our island with tears at finally finally reaching your own kind the brave new world you hoped would soon be yours perhaps you pray for me the snarling wretch who found a naked savage on all fours scrabbling for any beetle he could catch you claimed no print of goodness clung to me and yet I offered everything I knew when you took hungry refuge from the sea inside the cave that soon belong to you I feared you even when we played together you used to tease and laughing pull my hair my skin was pale doors dark I wondered whether you had been spawned under a wicked star or if all men were

like you except father rough and unkind smelling of sweat and see sometimes I could pretend you were my brother and pity you’re not being loved like me when we played hide-and-seek each time we fought I shuddered as I let myself be caught one day I found you weeping on the shore grinding your streaming face into the sand I ran to look I’d not seen blood before I touched it to my lips you grabbed my hand and suck my finger so we shared our blood for the first time it became our private right each time we bled until the sudden flood burst from inside ashamed I hid that night though I could hear you calling out my name that was the end of our most secret game I fetched and carried while you SAT and learned your father’s droning lessons at his table you drums soft fingers slyly as you yawned I frame my tongue to every syllable you taught me language yes so I might curse my own reflection when I crouch to look down at a brackish weed stricken narcissus we found his picture once in prosperous book you blushed and wondered at his nakedness then left like flame from my rough tenderness and told what I had done I’d only meant to coil the secret dampness of your hair around my stubby finger to name it sent the streak of salt and waterfall hidden there since love was more than a mirror in the pool you know I never came that close again a breathless Triton reaching for the pole offering itself to me you screamed and then your father banished me beneath the rock where no light Sean and where no pictures folk perhaps I was wrong to pity I was young we came from different blood when I drank yours I taste delicious poison on my tongue I drink richwine’s now Ferdinand ignores that trace of bitterness left in my mouth and seeks out sweeter pleasures in the port I could not bear the blowflies of the south so traveled north to my poor father’s court he has grown old and tired we sit and pray in silence for the thing we dare not saying winter creeps by me now upon cold sand my sounds and sweet airs vanished in a wind that how to hear the cracking of his wand as he turned his back leaving dead wood behind my every third thought shall be my grave for his last words you wondered what he meant the closest thing to love he have again I think on him his dark acknowledgment and picture an old man after the storm trailing a thin dry stick under his arm I’m going to read a couple of poems from a sequence called kenning kenning is a compound metaphor that is common in Old Norse poetry so the railroad would be the ocean for example so I’ll uh I’ll read I read one or two of these little little poems the first poem is called renting a tux which I’ve done precisely once in my life and but I imagine what would it be like to be constantly renting tuxes if one was going to wedding after wedding after wedding you know always the groom and never the sorry always the groomsmen and never the groom is that the phrase I’m looking for so I imagine somebody going through this process and this is what I this is what I wrote renting a tux off the cuff I wonder how many men players grooming for the major part I’ve squeezed their frames to fit the shape I’m in buttonholed by boars year after year we parcel out our lives in comma buns surely it pays to purchase what we rent and yet how comforting to follow suit to wear our hearts on someone else’s sleeve and made to measure dance in borrowed time one more of these um this poem is called riddle and it’s a poem about a new father who’s trying to solve the Zen koans show me your face before you were born and ends up encountering Blanche from a streetcar

named desire this poem is a guzzle which is a persian form which is a two-line stanzas that are that end with a rhyme word and then a refrain that’s repeated at the end of couplet and it’s customary to sign off a guzzle with a pseudonym it’s a sort of pseudonymous pseudonymous conceit and perhaps in that spirit it’s worth mentioning that my surname Soffer means scribe or author in Hebrew and my father’s first name was Cyril riddle show me your face before you were born what left its trace before you were born singularity blossomed its needles point of time into space before you were born a mirror hung in the balance and shattered we threw salt just in case before you were born you lodged in the reeds Pharaoh’s daughter knelt an embrace before you we are born heartbeats a car whose capriole galloped to pace before you were born sometimes there’s God so quickly said Blanche ineffable grace before you were born child in sleep you climb ladders of air dreams held in place before you were born I ascribe right in my father’s cyrillic his was my face before you were born I think that I will close with the last poem in the book which is called my father as a schoolboy my father grew up in Cape Town South Africa under the shadow and wonderful shadow of Table Mountain which which overlooks which overlooks Cape Town and there’s a reference in this poem to Chavo which is a game reserve in in Kenya my father as a schoolboy lions at the nearby zoo raw me to sleep they echo the roars we once heard at tsavo we’re at dusk elephants can you to lick salt from the pools by our cabin dung beetles crunched under my feet like cobblestone in my dream I climb Table Mountain under dazzling Sun I reach the plateau far below a schoolboy on a class outing you carve your name in Rock dream of diving into the cool bay tonight you will copy your oldest brother’s essay in Afrikaans my day on the mountain you will be the fifth brother to hand it in it will not be your children’s language you are the last brother on the mountain I want to reach down to you restless boy who will seek your fortune in a rainy land tell you to seize the Cape of Good Hope an ocean glimpsed through a cloth of cloud that spills into air like a breaking way thank thank you very very much so I’m happy to take a question or two before we break for book signing and receptions anyone has any questions or comments or cabals yes yes well I hope that it’s all of the above I this part this book went through many many titles each more awful than the last you know at a certain point I was even thinking about now I’m not even going to tell you what some of the titles were later at the reception

possibly what I like about wave is that it can be a noun it can be a verb it can be an imperative it of course has to do with waves of water there are many waves in the book there are radio waves there are literal waves one of the poems is about omelette which I didn’t read is about being hit by a wave and almost drowning and being rescued by my father there are waves of turmoil ways of grief waves of value ditch valediction and waves of salutation so I hope that the experience of and of course as you just heard wave is the very last word of the book so um I guess what i hoped is that wave would would have all of those connotations as people would sort of read through the book and sort of surf the waves as they came cool yeah oh yes yeah go ahead yes yeah I mean it’s a bit like working with clay what you have is a big sodden mess of words and they’re just spilling out and I’ll play with a poem for a while maybe two or three drafts and then things lead us feel like it needs to stay in free verse or else it’ll stop just sort of i might be saying maybe this might work as a sonnet or maybe this might work as this is dino maybe this might work as a villanelle and i might try the same poem in different forms until i find one that’s congenial on or i might abandon it I have sonnets that are just sort of dead in the water as sonnets and I have to de sana ties them in order to have them in order to have them come to life there are also poems that I’ve struggled with in free verse that have wanted that that tension and restriction of a form so I do go back and forth and I also set myself forms as exercises just to kind of familiarize myself with them just so that I have them in the back of my mind in case a poem will come along in that form so usually I have to write sort of two or three failed versions of any given for more or you know any given exercise till I feel like I have at least a bit of facility with it I’m just really playing with it and then it goes into my my bank my memory bank on my subconscious and it’s there and sometimes it will just it will just pop out so I can spend months working on on an exercise that really never goes anywhere and then finally I’ll have a poem and we’ll just come out in that form yes Oh what did my father hide behind the shelf nothing that’s a made-up home poetic license never happened but then my most truthful poems are always the poems that never really happened they’re always about things that didn’t literally happen yes please hmm hmm hmm sure absolutely well the third the third section of the book is is is to some extent sort of all over the map I’ve got a poem about Glenn Gould as well as a as well as my victim Stein poem in here as well as the the Caliban and Miranda are poems but I think what does unite the third section probably more than geographical location although I didn’t read poems that are said in Brooklyn and Martha’s Vineyard and I have more New England comes in there per se is the ways in which we find out so much about our parents by parenting you know you sort of discover in some weird way you can discover who your parents are or who you think your parents are by parenting and you can sort of surprise yourself in

in sort of incarnated those those ghosts in some ways for good and Furillo I think so perhaps that’s really more what the third section is about and a lot of the puns in the first section are paired with poems in the third sections sort of hopefully subliminally so that as one’s reading through the book later poems talk back to the earlier poems and you hear you hear echoes so for example some of the childhood fears of the child in the first in the first section are addressed in the third section when the parent is trying to comfort the child he’s frightened by the dark but maybe it doesn’t hang to get a little Sydney 9 yes true yes hopefully they were one of the one of the group sure well one John’s alluding to and the fact that Bonnie and I and julian went to Zambia the summer for two weeks on safari there there’s a reference in here to Tsavo which is a gamers game reserve in kenya where I went with both my parents when I was six and that trip had a very powerful effect on me and it was something that I really wanted to share with my family as well so that the three of us were able to go and have that experience which is a very moving trip that didn’t just involve being on safari but also involved spending spending time with with Zambians in their village and so on so I’m certainly hoping that that will bubble forth in some future incarnation I’m not sure whether that will take the shape of poems or prose or or how it will come and sometimes I have to sit with material for a long time before I can sort of figure out what what form to express it in so it you know stay tuned stay tuned for volume to any more questions about particular poems or well I guess um I’m not sure I can say anything intelligent about that except to say that I’m fascinated by palimpsests I’m fascinated by by layering in which you’re layering zuv writing in which previous writings sort of peek through so I think there are many unbalanced astok presences in my poems the Old City of Jerusalem would be 11 Wilbury ring is another and the repeating forms that I use are themselves palam sestak both in the sense that the literal words come back but also I’m hoping that people will hear echoes of previous poems that I’m that I’m alluding to in those in a lot of those poems because there are many of course allusions to earlier poems that are that are layered in many of these poems are written in response to earlier poems there’s a particular form called a kirtle sonnet that was invented by Gerard Manley Hopkins I have a kurkle sonnet in here that sort of speaks back to those and I guess words themselves are palimpsest yes I mean words or time machines like nations they carry histories with them and you know I don’t think you can use the English language as a poet without being aware of these etymological histories that double histories of conquest and expulsion and erasure and thinking about weathers words came from and how is it that they’re there that they’re available to the poet right now so and thank you for for thinking about that link and for linking sort of personal history and national history as well I think the way that I get to that is probably mostly through landscape through landscape and also through the etymology

words themselves you know what is it what’s your association with each other yeah it’s interesting the boomerang a friend of mine reminds me that when i was 13 i used to write puns and mail them to myself I would put them in the mail with my own a dress on and I would mail them back to myself I completely forgotten doing this and she had asked me why do you do that and I said well it helps me be more objective you know I can fix them I can make them better if I pretending there by someone else so there is that kind of recursive you know those are pounds of boomerangs to in some way aren’t they interesting yeah the boomerang was interesting thank you thank you for that so unless there’s another question maybe we should yes go ahead you you know that’s a really interesting really interesting question and I just don’t know I can’t I can’t predict how that journey is going to is going to go but I I think that I agree that I think that so many writers Jewish writers but non Jewish writers to are impelled by some very powerful senses of deer a summation and that language becomes a way to sort of rasa Nate put down roots in some way that one tries to put down roots in language I’m sure Maxine has things to to add on this on this note as someone who’s who’s working both in in a native language and in an adoptive language might might I don’t have any languages other than English that I’m confident enough in or skilful or nothing 22 right in but other languages do find their way into this into this book so I actually can’t predict what the journey is going to be for myself as a writer and I think I kind of like it that way because if I start to think about an idea of myself as I’m as sort of this sort of writer or that sort of writer or diasporic writer or non diceberg writer I might start writing things to fit my idea of what sort of writer I am and I sort of wanted want to keep things a bit as a surprise and to see where it takes me um and hope that the projects that I do sort of have some kind of you know pull together in some way have some kind of some kind of integrity to them I suppose okay thank you so much thank you very very much