When my year of mourning commenced, I couldn’t know quite what form my project would take, but I did intend my series to be a year-long conversation among myself; my grief; my family; my community; other mourners, Jewish rituals; Jewish thought; and Jewish religious authorities. I committed myself to substantive study, heart-searching and brainwork, aiming to share these with whomever.
I deliberately wove Jewish texts into my personal reflections, reasoning that they would imbue my blogging with gravitas. I would disagree or agree with them in whatever ways I fancied before diving assuredly back into my own reflective stream.
The sources grabbed me, led my internal and external processes; drove my writing. I responded to the voices of tradition in whatever ways felt most true, but striving for authenticity took any thoughts of disregard or omission off the table. The texts demanded respect, and I could only grant it.
I would begin a blog post, intending to explore a particular facet of my mourning experience in the context of my learning, only to find myself led away from my intended observations by ancient or modern scholarly insights. Many a time, I made mental notes to return in future writings to particular ideas and memories, but my processes would continue ever forward, and older self-reflections too often remained unwritten.
Still, these very confounding interactions between man and text led to unexpected self-discoveries and rendered the ‘Skeptic’s Kaddish’ an essential part of my development that year. I wasn’t merely recording experiences but having them.
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Also, unexpectedly and unintendedly, I awoke something within myself that had been resting abeyantly, coming to perceive my kaddish blogging as a creative writing project. I found myself making use of poetic devices, staggering words around, punning, and consulting a thesaurus for precision and eloquence.
I wasn’t brave enough to write any kaddish poetry that year, but Allen Ginsberg planted a seed in me, nurturing my imagination. Then, more than half a year after I’d completed the ‘Skeptic’s Kaddish’, a poem of mourning grew out of me: ‘Natural English, or: Sidespin’. Its flowering was unanticipated, but something more startled me.
As I reworked ‘Sidespin’ (I’ve continued tweaking even after publishing it), rereading repeatedly to feel out its rhythm and rhyme, I found that I couldn’t envisage the end of it. Even my next unwritten lines were obscured by fog; I was compassless.
In much the same way that the sages had once shepherded me through seemingly endless groves of logic trees, I was determinedly being pulled along the corridors of an English labyrinth by gamboling sounds and syllables. The turns were unpredictable, and I often found myself circling back through its corridors, until I finally caught a whiff of deliverance wafting from the exit,
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I don’t know what direction this website will take me in, (and I will, of course, be sharing some lighthearted and breezy pieces along the way), but I may make, just perhaps, a serious return to poetry. Over many years, I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy it.