KlezKanada Poetry Retreat

Three Millennia of Poetic Subversion


Artwork by Adeena Karasick and Blaine Speigel

Explore the hidden secrets of the letters
Tap into the power of ancestral culture
Hone your interlingual dexterity
Prepare to be amazed

Internationally acclaimed poets and performers, Adeena Karasick and Jake Marmer host 4 days of lectures, discussions, master classes on writing and performance.

In 2014, the Poetry Retreat echoed KlezKanada’s theme of the the “Yene Velt”, presenting our own set of entrances into and encounters with the “other side”. If Kabbalists claimed that the greatest light is concealed in the deepest darkness, it is our assertion that poetry, too, finds its beginnings and motion in just such paradoxes and reversals.

Throughout the week, we discussed the role of ghosts, golems, dybbuks and specters in and through writing: with topics ranging from golem creation through language as outlined in the Sefer Yetzirah to Humour Noir; Revelation and Nihilism, Révenance and the Poetics of Hauntology.

While we finalize the 2015 Poetry Retreat schedule, please take a look at the 2014 schedule below.

The KlezKanada Poetry Retreat, 2013

The KlezKanada Poetry Retreat, 2013

The Jew in Me is the Ghost of Me: From Babylonian to Beat Talmud, Sefer Yetzirah, Jerome Rothenberg, David Meltzer and Jack Hirschman 
“The Jew in me is the ghost of me,” wrote Beat poetry icon David Meltzer in his shamanic cycle Golem-Wheel. This session will explore the explicit encounter with the Supernatural in traditional Jewish texts as well as the revelatory, radical, irreverent, contemporary poetics of mysticism explored by David Meltzer, Jerome Rothenberg and Jack Hirschman. We will also investigate the relationship of spirit, body, and language, and attempt to give a new life to the ancient practice of creating a Golem through letter combinations.

Humour Noir: Tristan Tzara, Franz Kafka and Lenny Bruce
Humour Noir or even sarcasm may not be a strictly Jewish phenomenon but to a Talmudic mindset, trained to answer every question with a barrage of other questions, loopholes, and ellipses, it is a way of addressing and probing the world’s utmost darkness. Freud thought that gallows humor erupts when “the ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality”; we’d like to add that a poet employing humor noir is herself a provocateur, triumphing over oppressive realities, structures, limits, in ways that are impassioned, engaged, enraged, outrageous, obsessive, dominating, shticky and sometimes treif… are you ready?

Between Revelation and Nihilism: Walter Benjamin, Gertrude Stein, and Charles Bernstein
Gershom Scholem famously wrote about mystical themes that “walk a fine line between revelation and nihilism.” It is our belief that experimental, avant-garde poetry places itself in just such an encounter. We will explore some recent approaches to experimentalism, including the ghostly practice of erasure, in which shadows and specters of language emerge and recede through veiling, unveiling and révenance (returning).

Poetics of Hauntology: Reznikoff, Rukeyser, Agamben, Morrison
Through the transmigration of language, data, mappings, lineages, what can emerge? In this session, poets will ravenously invade, possess, feed-off each other. Investigating practices of intervention and translation, we will explore text as a spectral dance of flickering signifiers, establishing not an ontology but a hauntology, a written and performed space where language emerges as a congregation of disembodied voices.

From the Anti-Semitic to the Semiotic: Amiri Baraka and Ezra Pound, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Paul de Man
Can you be a Jewish poet and read Ezra Pound? What about Amiri Baraka’s poetry of late 1960’s? For Jewish poets, one of the truest, and most difficult encounters with darkness is finding language to speak and think about sublime poetry written by those who have reviled us – casually or continually. There’s no easy answer to this dilemma, but perhaps it is within the space of poetry that the most potent and compelling responses can emerge.

Participants will have the opportunity to engage in both solo and multi-vocal performance and work with musicians, dancers, experimenting across all disciplines. Last year, the works of our students were published in the Forward here and here – a tradition we certainly hope to continue, expanding to features in other publications as well.


Imagine, by Bob Smolkin

Imagine, by Bob Smolkin

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