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Yehuda Halevi: The Poetry Contest

Find your inner 11th-century poet and win an iPad

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Many consider Yehuda Halevi the poet laureate of the Jewish people. A poet, physician, and philosopher of the 11th century, Halevi’s work has become an integral part of the modern Jewish liturgy. His words are even echoed in Naomi Shemer’s famous song “Jerusalem of Gold.”

To celebrate National Poetry Month, every day for the rest of April we will be presenting a Halevi poem a day—or an excerpt of one—in their beautiful modern translations by Hillel Halkin, whose biography of Halevi was published by Nextbook Press earlier this year. For today, here is a pocket-sized version of two of Halevi’s most famous poems, “My Heart in the East” and “On Boarding Ship in Alexandria,” for you to print, fold, and share.

We’re hoping that not only will you love these poems, but that they’ll also inspire your own reimaginings of Halevi’s work. To that end, a contest: compose a song using Halevi’s lyrics, or create an illustration or video inspired by his writing; anything that applies your own creativity to interpret one of these poems. We’ll select the best entries and post them to Nextbook Press and Tablet; one winner will be chosen to win an Apple iPad! Publish your entry on your blog or website and send us a link, or share it in the comments section below. Deadline is April 26, and we’ll announce the winner on Poetry in Your Pocket Day, April 29.

Download complete contest rules here.

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Richard Benari says:

Nicely done.

Great idea. But am I the only one bothered when Yehuda HaLevi is referred to as “Halevi” as if it were a surname instead of an epithet? He’s “Yehuda, the Levi” and just calling him “the Levi” always seems strange to me.

Raquel Zoharcante says:

What if I have a song on tape to submit

is that possible?

Things have change since your time, Reb Yehuda. But then you were not always so upbeat either…

A Latter-Day Footstool

after Yehuda HaLevy

The thought of blossoms bores me.
My trees are watered by Israel,
the Guatemalan illegal
I pay in cash
to tend my sun-blessed crop.
I hasten to Vegas, embark
for Atlantic City anointed by lust.
My friends had no time to kiss
my ass farewell as I hoisted
my sail at the Potomac yacht club.
I cannot forget the peace
Of a study hall I do not visit;
spend my Sabbath longing
for nothing, limo-driven to the deli.

The splendor off my sweet delight
swapped for a stacked
Reuben sandwich on rye toast
with extra Swiss. A cloying God
cannot penetrate the dry thistle
I do not know my life has become.
The remote in my right hand,
shoeless, the subtle fragrance
of my feet on Ottoman territory.

–Sol Lachman

I couldn’t get my poetic response to Yehuda Halevy to format properly. Here’s a link to a better looking version:

A Song of Shomron

Lord, you know the secrets we keep
in the fast, failing beat of our hearts,
the waxing moon floating above us
like a golden Temple in the sky.
We have offered ourselves and our seed
to the weary machines of war and more war,
purified and whole in this Pesach sheni night.
Quaking we cast Your Holy Name like a baby
into the depths of the dark River of Egypt,
cried out: O Bullock, Arise, O Bullock!
How we bore the burden of his bones
through the deserts of our sojourn,
how we buried him tender
in the rough rocks of Shechem.
Aggrieved of the lamb we begged for your favor.
Turn Thou us unto You, we shall turn and return.
Let it now be heard, on the hilltops of Kedumim,
let it sound now from the Horns of Shomron
through Shiloh, to Eli, Elon Moreh, Immanuel
to even the hustling industrial zone of Ariel.
Let the sleepers among the olives awake in their turn.
You shall surely remember your promise to Yosef:
Arise O Bullock, inheritance awaits,
his horns are the horns of the Re’em.
Let the moon in its waxing, never again wane,
the fallen Sukkah of Dovid, arising again.

Avraham Bar-Shai says:

In a couple of month I’ll be turning 71 have been writing poetry (in Hebrew & never published)just for the benefit of my own sole. I have so called studiet Yehuda Halevi at school as a youngster and I have Not had the heart to understand him.
Thanks to my oldest daughter I have redescoveed the strenght an passion of his herart. I remaain humbled aw strucked by the poems and the piutim.

The particular guy that really does a lot more than he / she is paid for will in the near future be paid for a lot more than he or she does

I remember the days when I would enter poetry contests. I might get back into with this one.

When you can’t get meat, chickens and bacon are good. – Spanish Proverb

I’ve said that least 4013361 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

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Knock Knock. Who’s there! Alka! Alka who! Alka-phone!

I will right away grasp your rss feed as I can’t in finding your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Please allow me recognise so that I may subscribe. Thanks.


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Yehuda Halevi: The Poetry Contest

Find your inner 11th-century poet and win an iPad

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