In-person versus online poetry community

Poets of Babel

Last year (2021), during the Jewish autumn festival of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), I attended a local gathering of poets in Jerusalem, hosted by Shoshana – a poet I’d come across here on WordPress who happens to live down the street from me. Then, in May ’22, I attended another poetry reading organized by Shoshana.

It is now Sukkot again, and Shoshana once again invited local poets to her sukkah (ritual hut) to share poetry and hang out. In fact, my ‘Соус, or: Соул’ poem, which I wrote for d’Verse on Tuesday night, was birthed in Shoshana’s sukkah that same evening, the product of a dictionary-based writing assignment that she gave us.

Need for connection

I still recall my tremendous excitement last autumn at discovering Shoshana and her poetry group, which she calls ‘Poets of Babel’. Here on WordPress, I had been writing poetry and interacting with writers from all over the world for more than a year by then; but I was deeply feeling my lack of in-person connection to other poets.

To a large extent, this remains today a great part of my motivation to attend the ‘Poets of Babel’ events that Shoshana organizes, even if they only come once or twice a year. It feels very grounding and and comforting to sit among fellow human beings and share some of our deepest words. As such, when I saw that Shoshana was organizing a poetry reading this week, I immediately knew that I would be attending.

Itch: Scratched

Things in my life have changed for the better since I attended my first ‘Poets of Babel’ poetry reading one year ago; and I find myself generally more fulfilled socially and creatively.

The Skeptic’s Kaddish

This blog has evolved over the course of the last year, much to my satisfaction:

  • In autumn ’21, I launched my ‘Poetry Partners’ initiative, inviting other poets to share their works with me to publish at The Skeptic’s Kaddish, along with personal poetic responses from me. Since then, I’ve responded to 138 poems; both creatively and socially, this has been incredibly rewarding.
  • In spring ’22, I created the W3 poetry prompt, which was actually inspired by ‘Poetry Partners’. I’d been having so much fun responding to other writers’ poems, I reasoned that other poets would probably also enjoy it! That’s why W3 was designed to be “bottom up”, rather than “top down”, which means I’m not personally providing the prompts. Instead, W3 leaves that to other community members. Managing W3 these last five months continues to be a blast!
  • My poetry partnership(s) with Sangeetha, which we began in the spring of ’21, are still ongoing; we’re now on our third series of poems! These ongoing projects of ours are so much fun – and so creatively stimulating. While I’ve never met Sangeetha in person, I feel deeply connected to her.

New job at The Jewish Agency

In May, I began a new job as a writer for The Jewish Agency for Israel, which continues to be wonderful for me in many ways, not least of which is – social. See, whereas I had been working for a tiny NGO with only four full-time employees prior to joining The Jewish Agency, I’m now working for one of the largest Jewish NGOs in the world.

This means that I have many more coworkers than I once did – and, as it turns out, they’re all lovely people. I know, I know… that sounds too good to be true! But it is true – I truly like all of my coworkers – I’m happy to see them and talk with them at work. Of course, social considerations are not necessarily the most important when deciding to take a new job, but given how many hours we spend at work every day, they’re quite significant!

Actually, it’s not only that my co-workers are nice – they’re also interesting. For me, poetry is not only a creative outlet, but an intellectual one… And now, at my new job, I get regular intellectual stimulation from interesting conversations at the office.

Poets of Babel

While Shoshana’s ‘Poets of Babel’ group only meets a couple of times a year, that has proven to be enough of an in-person connection with other poets for me. To be honest, I’m not sure how many more times I could attend poetry reading events annually, given everything else that I have going on (multiple jobs, fatherhood, The Skeptic’s Kaddish).

Where I’m at today

So, as I was sitting in Shoshana’s sukkah this week, enjoying the company; the poetry; and the nosh, I realized that I’m in a much better place today than I was one year ago… And I feel that I’ve gotten to a really good place with my community at WordPress – it’s taken me a while to get here, but I find great personal, social, and creative fulfillment from my blog.

I’m no longer quite as hungry for new connections with other creatives as I was even one year ago… And that is a heartening, happy feeling.

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