Editor’s Note: Crisis

The idea for the Crisis issue came about in the spring of 2017 when I was visiting Oxford at the invitation of Adriana X. Jacobs, a translator and scholar of Israeli literature, who suggested a collaboration around the theme of Crisis. There seemed, at the time, plenty reason to focus on this theme, and now we know that the amplification of stress from various social media was often orchestrated to make us feel even more isolated and angry on purpose.

Although The Ilanot Review publishes all genres, including those that have no name yet, we decided to focus on poetry and lyric essay for this issue. There is something urgent about the lyric, in which the speaker is simply an I in the world, that allows for an immediate human reaction to the dangers and harms of the world, with their thresholds and passageways, sometimes their hidden gifts, that transform us. As Gregory Orr notes in his wonderful study, Poetry as Survival: “Simply to be a human self as a body in time is to know a number of significant jeopardies. What has happened to everything that took place in our lives up to this present moment? It has vanished. All that we cherished has disappeared into oblivion.” Lyrical poetry, lyrical essay, is our human way of ordering the chaos, of asserting meaning in the aching void of loss.

The lyric is a universal phenomenon, and, indeed our call for submissions resonated around the world. These pages represent 24 poets, five essayists, and four writers/artists working in Hebrew, Dutch, Greek, Polish, and English, from the Americas, Israel, China, Iran, Guam, Germany, Greece, and other places. The crises they depict stem from racially motivated violence, war, bankruptcy, step-motherhood, teaching. They are set in prisons, in the wake of death, amidst post-colonial corruption, in hospitals, and on the dirt of the good earth.

Poetry (and here I mean the lyric), we know, makes nothing happen in the world, and it is a suspect form of news. But as William Carlos Williams has noted in his long poem “Asphodel, that Greeny Flower,”  “men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” The lyrical poems and essays and graphics contained in this issue are powerful examples of the intellectual, emotional, imaginative, and spiritual sustenance that humanity can’t live without.

We are grateful to Adriana X Jacobs her for guest editing. Her eloquent suggestions and recommendations, her informed critical eye, her wonderful imagination, increased our body of translations immensely, and broadened our journal so much.

We gratefully acknowledge the support for the Crisis issue provided by the John Fell Oxford University Press (OUP) Research Fund.


Marcela Sulak