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December 20, 2002 - Image 69

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-12-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

`Tombeau I for Sarah Kofman'

By Chris Tysh

to inherit the vanished
you hear the shofiir's sorrow

IN A LYRIC MODE from page 67

between Judaism and poetry.
"There's something in the Jewish soul that responds to
language. After all, we are the people of the book," she said.
Supowit came from a religious background.
"For a large part of my life I turned away from
Orthodox Judaism and now I found my way back," she
said. "I think it's true that in every Jewish heart, there is
a connection to our people that never goes away. I start-
ed listening to that voice again that said, 'Be Jewish —
be Jewish.'
Her love of language
includes Hebrew as well as
"The Hebrew language
is so beautiful. It's so full of
incredible imagery," she
said. "For instance, in
English, what we call 'men-
tal illness,' which sounds so
harsh, is called in Hebrew
choleh neje' sh. It's literally a
'sickness of the soul.'
"And, in Hebrew, the
word for 'song' and
'poem' are the same. It
implies a sensitivity to the
music of language that
makes poetry different
from prose."
Sandy Supowit
Supowit said a teacher
inspired her love for poetry.
"I went to MacCulloch School in the Dexter-Davison
area. We were one of the last Jewish families in the neigh-
borhood," she said. "My teacher made me believe that I
could write. She also encouraged me to read poetry."
When she was younger, Supowit read poets like Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Frost and Emily
"Today, I really admire poets like Mary Oliver, Marge
Piercy and Billy Collins, the poet laureate of the United
States," she said. "Their poetry is accessible and readable
and yet the language is just pure music. I think the best
poetry is about ordinary things and ordinary experiences,
but wrapped up in a magical language that makes you
look at those common things with new eyes. That's what
makes good art, period."
Supowit is working on another book, tentatively titled

Inhaling Michelangelo.
"The title poem is about the fact that the dust, the air
we breathe in, is literally full of microscopic bits of every-
one who's ever lived," she said. "We literally are connected
to everyone else in the world who has come before us."
It's not easy being a poet today, Supowit said.
"You can't get around the fact that most prestigious liter-
ary journals are sponsored by universities. If you are an
academic and have academic connections, it's easier to find
your way into those publications," she said. "That's not to
say your average suburban housewife can't get published.
It's just harder."
Supowit defines an artist as someone who is always
willing to learn new techniques, read new poets and
expand one's experience of poetry.
"A poet has to be a good listener, emotionally engaged
in every aspect of life and has to write, write, write. You
have to get through the bad stuff to get to the good
stuff," she said. ❑


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`on One Foot'

By Sandy Supowit

Hillel understood poetry,
metaphor, the path
to the heart of the matter
that is always true and succinct.
He taught the whole Torah
to a man who stood on one foot
the way I try to tell you
what being a Jew means
to me: an umbilicus
history that nourishes me
with pride and with place
and a way to love God by loving
each other, by living
a virtuous life. So go now,
all you uniped nations,
and learn it. The rest
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