Wednesday, March 4, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by Shoshana Razel Gordon Guedalia

Shoshana Razel Gordon Guedalia


A Hike

Two Israeli soldiers were killed during a hike through the Judean Mountains south of Hebron this morning, while on vacation.

“Hikers,” then.

Say: “hikers,” then. No uniforms. Civilian clothes—jeans in fact—standard M-16s slung over their shoulders, resting on their backs, for protection—a concession to safe hiking protocol.

Say: Two Israeli hikers were killed during a hike through the Judean Mountains south of Hebron this morning—one aged twenty, the other, nineteen. They were shot by sniper fire from the window of a car, speeding down the stretch of road—

In the Spotlight: Shoshana Razel Gordon-Guedalia

“I believe that my writing, be it scholarly, fiction, narrative non-fiction, or poetry, comes from a deep need to make a difference, to offer a lens that is not being appreciated.” Here, Shoshana Razel Gordon-Guedalia discusses her explorations through writing. You can read her experimental story, “A Hike,” in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review.

First of all, what got you into writing?

Well, if I think back, I suppose I can trace this to several things. For one thing, my home was one of storytelling. My grandparents were partisans in the woods of Belarus during the Holocaust, and I grew up on their war stories as well as their pre-war stories, told to me again and again in their melodious Yiddish, which was my first language. I also have strong memories of falling asleep to the sound of my father typing his doctoral thesis in Jewish philosophy on his old typewriter. I guess you could say that writing was like a lullaby to me in that way. Also, my parents both loved poetry. They both wrote poetry, and I remember reading poetry of many different kinds with them.

I wrote my first poem when I was ten. We had just moved to Israel from New York, and I felt torn between homes. So I wrote about it. I should say that while I wrote informally over the years, it was Paul Harding who first taught me how to write fiction.

Could you discuss how Paul Harding influenced you as a writer?

One summer, I think it was 2007, here in Newton, Massachusetts, where I've lived for years now, I decided to try my hand at a fiction writing course at Harvard Summer School. To my delight, my professor Paul really loved my writing and helped mold me as a writer. Paul embraced my style of writing, which can be rather associative. (By associative, I mean non-linear.) He helped me to stay in touch with my writerly instincts and let my writing flow with the characters’ voices leading the way. He also taught me the value of close attention to descriptive detail. He would often caution me that a good writer writes simply and precisely and that from such vivid description of what is, the deeper ideas emerge. Paul also assuaged my fear of allowing religion and political strife to enter my writing. He encouraged me to write from empathy no matter what I write about—which I like to think I do anyway—in which case, everything is allowed as long as it comes from empathy and human truth. I love that I am Orthodox Jewish and that I call him Rebbe. He us very much my rabbi.

A year or two later, John Canaday helped mold me as a poet. His award-winning book of poetry, The Invisible World, written based on his time living in Jordan and teaching the children of the king and queen, taught me a lot about empathy and the imbibing of a new culture. John also taught me a lot about different poetic styles with which he urged me to experiment. I credit him with teaching me that form need not hamper creative expression but can, in fact, deepen its effect.

The greatly political poet Pablo Neruda once said, "Poetry is an act of peace." What is your response to this? Considering your genre-bending piece in TWR and your other writings, do you consider yourself a political poet? What do you believe poetry's role in politics is?