April 12, 2016

Thursday, July 16, 2015

World Poetry: Israel

Happy Poetry Friday, poetry lovers!

This week's host is Kimberley Moran.
Stop by her place to find poetry posts
from all of your Poetry Friday pals.
I'm continuing my trip around the world, visiting with poets who originate from or live in countries other than the United States. Many of the poets I am featuring in this series were part of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference. Last month, we spent a week together in Salerno, Italy, talking about poetry, politics, and about being poetry advocates in our home communities.

This week, I'd like to introduce you to my dear friend, Michael Dickel.

Michael Dickel reading at the 100 TPC World Conference.
Photo by Adelia Parker-Castro
One of the realities of meeting people from around the world is learning about the political conflicts that affect many of their lives. It's one thing to read about these issues in the newspaper. But reading a poem about war, written by someone I know, feels much more real than the news.

This is true of Michael, who was born in the U.S., but has lived for many years in Israel.

Michael Dickel is a Jewish-American dual-citizen of the United States and Israel. He was born and grew up outside of Chicago. He lived in the Twin Cities—except for two years in Connecticut—until moving to Israel eight years ago. In his early adult years, he worked with runaway teens and urban youth, with children at an in-patient psychiatric evaluation unit, and at a crisis intervention and suicide prevention center. 

Michael started writing poetry in grade school. He holds a masters degree in creative writing and a doctorate in English literature. For over 25 years, he has taught in higher education in the U.S. and in Israel—writing and literature, as well as English language and education. He also directed writing centers in the U.S. 

His maternal grandmother taught in a one-room school house; his mother taught elementary school; his father, high school; and many first and second cousins also teach—teaching is probably in his genes.

Michael has done word-play workshops for elementary school children in Minnesota and poetry workshops for high-school students in Minnesota and Israel. Most recently, he conducted poetry workshops related to peace at The Jerusalem School in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The school's motto is "Peace begins with me," and the workshops coincided with its annual Peace Days.

He wrote “Overlook” for the first of these workshops. In the workshops, students were asked to use their senses to describe peace, or how they imagined it. One Palestinian young man wrote this sad, powerful response: “I never smell peace. / I never taste peace, either. / Nothing I hear sounds like peace. / Nothing I touch feels like peace. / Anywhere I go, I never see peace.”

Michael’s third book of poetry, War Surrounds Us, came out this summer. 

Find it on Amazon.

The book contains poems written during the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. Many of the poems, which focus on his family and everyday life during the conflict, are suitable for mature high-school students. 

However, the poem we are featuring today is appropriate for older elementary schoolers and up.


Along the Alon Road, near
where we once glimpsed
an Athena owl, the road
widens for cars to rest.
The look-out holds two old
olive trees together, friends.

New maps show new divisions.
Old maps recall old boundaries.
Stone fences, barbed wire
come and go. Land mines
lay sleeping. But the olive
branches don't see these.

Standing guard by the road,
the two see open land: valleys,
wadis, and fields from here
to Jordan's distant mountains
and beyond—slow-moving possibility.

                        —Michael Dickel

Glossary / notes

Alon Road—a winding, two-lane road on the West Bank. It is named for a person but alon also is Hebrew for the live oak tree.

Athena owl—a small, brown owl native to the region

Michael was kind enough
to share this photograph
of the owl (the actual owl)
that inspired the poem.
Wadi—Arabic for gulch or eroded canyon, adopted in Hebrew. Wadi is distinct, here, from valleys because a wadi has steep sides whereas the Jordan River valley is wide with rolling hills, not a canyon. The plural with an “s,” wadis, is an Anglicized usage that also occurs in Israel among English speakers.

Dickel, M. (2013). Overlook. Fragments of Michael Dickel. Blog. 30 April.

Thanks for visiting today, Michael!

In the World Poetry Series:

World Poetry: India, featuring Menka Shivdasani

World Poetry:Poland, featuring Danuta Kosk-Kosicka and Lidia Kosk


Kimberley Moran said...

I learned so much in this post. Thank you so much for taking time to share his story before sharing his poem. It made it so much more meaningful. Glad you linked up!

Diane Mayr said...

Thanks for sharing both poems. The first short one about peace (or the lack of it) was heart-breaking. Keep sending poems our way, Laura.

Linda B said...

I am always wishing that peace would come. I've had students' families in Israel, and they've told me of the fear they live with. The poem by the child is not surprising, which makes it all the sadder, and this too: "Stone fences, barbed wire
come and go." Thanks for sharing another thoughtful post, Laura, and for your poem, Michael.

Menka Shivdasani said...

I enjoyed reading the piece on Michael Dickel, Laura. Our time in Salerno was so limited and it wasn't possible to get to know everyone well. Your series is filling the gap.

Tabatha said...

Perhaps the olive trees were not close enough together for the branches to be intertwined, but I imagine them that way. Like that "slow-moving possibility." Thanks for sharing this, Laura and Michael. Nice photo of the two of you!

Carol said...

I'm really enjoying your round the world series. So many new poets. So much rich culture. It makes me really sad to think about children growing up in a world where they can't even imagine peace.

Buffy Silverman said...

Love the image of the owl and the olive trees standing guard over new possibilities. Thanks for sharing this.