Salaam of Birds (Tebot Bach Press, 2019).
Salaam of Birds (Tebot Bach Press, 2019)
Winner of the 2018 Patricia Bibby First Book Award
“I know the storm is coming when the hills are bathed,” writes Rachel Neve-Midbar. What is this knowledge? What does the poet have to tell us about the world that is around us? She learns by asking, by questioning this very need to ask: “Wherever / you are,” she says, “tell us why we need answers, / tell us what any light will reveal.” She learns by watching, by noticing, by making the world come alive on the page. Attentiveness, the great poet Paul Celan taught us, is the natural prayer of the soul. This prayer is everywhere in these pages. But what we see isn’t overtly romantic, isn’t falsely exalted, it is the reality of the world, seen with clear, passionate eye: “Soldiers at the check point stand death-/chill, wax statues, watch us go by with lifeless eyes./A dog stands at attention next to the road,/his black ears point at the sky.” What we see is the land torn by conflict, and bodies nurtured by tenderness, that despite any crisis, is here to still console us. It is a beautiful, kind, book, one filled with longing of last rites, with elegiac tonalities, and yet with fortitude of memory, which sometimes is as touchable as bits of earth that we hide in our pockets, to remember. — Ilya Kaminsky, author of The Deaf Republic
Salaam of Birds, Rachel Neve-Midbar’s deeply moving and powerful new collection of poems, reminds us that poets in the 21st Century are still forced to ask—over and over—how can poetry’s witnessing help us to reckon with the erasure of empathy and mercy in our time? How might our voices help to halt the celebration of hatred and terror? Salaam of Birds is an intimate yet public book of psalms of sorrowing and songs of praise, a testament to individual courage and endurance in the face of daily tragedy. Indeed, Salaam of Birds is a truly remarkable and essential volume of poems. — David St. John, author of The Last Troubadour
Rachel Neve-Midbar’s courageous debut, Salaam of Birds, greets the stranger at every turn, surrendering. These memorial lyric poems call upon the body as a vehicle for devotion to “carry each other across,” and heal divided lands. This volume pivots towards unexpected sensual encounters, moments blessed between sirens, set against a landscape of senseless violence, plucking from it, a cry for peace, ushered in with a child’s outstretched hand. In the lyric tradition of Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde, Neve-Midbar’s poetics of tender precision is at once a politics of love. —Susan McCabe, author of Descartes’ Nightmare
With Salaam of Birds, Rachel Neve-Midbar takes her place in the front rank of those in our generation who are telling the Jewish and Israeli story. She carries the pain of this land, but also its beauty and comfort. These are poems to be read and read again, first as literature, finally as prayer —Yossi Klein Halevi, author of Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor