The First Rain of Poetry

The first rain of the season reminds us that even if we do live in the Middle East, we still succumb to the forces of Mother Nature and her tokens. Yet, the weather wasn’t the only thing on my mind last Sunday. On my way to the bi-monthly Open Mic night, I thought about the poems and songs I would perform and wondered if the other performers took time each week to think about their poems.

I wondered what makes an individual choose a certain piece and what does that piece represent, if anything at all. Why do we choose certain poems and leave others at rest?

I admit that aside from the occasion a cappella performance, I usually choose a piece that suits my mood or a poem that I am ready to share with an audience.

At the end of the evening, I asked the other performers what motivated them to perform their work and here are a number of responses:

I approached Dara Barnat, who teaches creative writing and poetry at Tel Aviv University, and she, in return, smiled and said she wanted to share a poem she’s submitting for publication in the near future (we got a sneak preview). Dara also mentioned how she has implemented Hebrew into her work, a sign of the multicultural influences in her life (and something many of the regular performers at Coffee Print can relate to).

Next, I asked Gil Rechtman what inspired him this week and he said that Phyllis (a Coffee Print regular) influenced his choice: the broken heart always makes way in an evening of poetry and even, well... a poem about Gil’s deceased dog Petra. Gil promised that next time, he'll perform a new piece he's working on.

I guess I wasn’t the only one who had the weather on my mind. Roy Runds left his limericks at home and choose to perform seasonal poetry, as he too was influenced by the change of weather. He ended his performance with a poem entitled “Missing”, in memory of a dear friend who passed away. The closing line of the poem, "I cherish the chapters we have shared" is not the only thing that resonates in my mind; Roy also made a nonchalant remark about how “talent cannot be taught but only developed”…

Mark Levinson always delights his audience with a variety of poetry. This week, Mark shared Marriott Edgar's "The Lion and Albert" in his natural North American accent. After we excused him for leaving his British accent at home, Mark performed his translation of Hanoch Levin’s “The Girl Hayuta Saw a Mammoth” (my free translation of the poem’s original title). Mark had a difficult task at hand (I am paraphrasing his own remarks concerning his translation of the poem): how does one translate the name Hayuta (which has numerous meanings in Hebrew) and what’s more- how can you find an equivalent to “mamuta” (mammoth) and rhyme it with the translated “Hayuta”? For those of you who stated at home, you missed out on this one! Let's just say that some kid named Rudy is going to have one hell of a time in preschool if his friends catch on to Mark's translation.

The host of the Open Mic event Asher Gelman, celebrated the one year break-up of his last (serious) relationship and read a poem in return. He also wrote a piece about a friend with HIV who does not practice safe-sex, a piece inspired by his recent visit to the States. Before ending the evening with a song, Asher also performed his signature piece concerning his gym membership and as always, left the audience with smiles on their faces.

Sonya Soloviov commented on how she carefully chooses the work she performs and shared a new piece (still untitled). Sonya stated that she tries to bring a variety of work, old and new, to the Open Mic night. She read her fabulous poem “Drag”, a poem depicting a flamboyant world where boundaries emerge and dissolve in a single room.

Alan and Danielle, two newcomers, shared their original work last Sunday. Danielle read a beautiful love poem and ran off before I had the chance to inquire about her choice of work (as did Limor who also read her original work). Luckily, Alan readily volunteered to tell me about Robert Frost’s influence on his poetry: a depiction of baseball and death. When I inquired even further, Alan explained how Frost portrays the image of “laughing in the face of death” and Alan took a (modern?) approach by illustrating Frost’s mastery through sports.

The only performer who did not come prepared was Uri Lifshitz who bravely took the task of improvising a prose piece. Uri started telling a story while pausing intermittently and pointing to an audience member for a word which he implemented into his piece – in real time. Naturally, Uri lived up to his reputation as the “Prose Guy” and pulled it off once again.

I don’t know if it’s the weather, or the fact that this February we will be celebrating our one year anniversary of Open Mic nights, but a certain creative energy certainly evolved within the walls of the Coffee Print Café. Once strangers, these performers are now familiar with each others’ work. They greet each other every other week and for a moment, create an Anglo-atmosphere of creativity, of song and most importantly- of word.

If you haven’t yet joined us- what better way to spend a wintry evening every other Sunday night? (And it's free too!)