The next volume, Ed Codish: selected poems, includes a total of 266 poems, many short works, in addition to the reprint of the sonnet sequence.
NOTow past 80, Ed Codish continues to work on his poetry almost every day, producing new and inventive works. Codish gained international attention with the release of his sonnet sequence, Sail to Gaza, about forty years ago. Hailed as one of the best working poets in English in Israel, he dismissed the praise as “the equivalent of being called one of the best downhill skiers in all of Uganda”.
In reality, he is not that alone as a creative writer working in English. They have an organization, the Israeli Association of English Writers (IAWE) which produces a permanent journal, BOW, year after year, presenting Israel’s best English fiction and poetry. Codish has edited volumes of BOW.
The next volume, Ed Codish: selected poems, includes a total of 266 poems, many short works, in addition to the reprint of the sonnet sequence. The shorter poems, many of which are free-form, include delicate love poems to Codish’s wife, Susann; appreciations of the pigeons that live on his windowsill; imagined encounters with the greatest poets of ancient China; meditations on Jewish learning; reconsiderations of political creeds; expressions of admiration for the natural beauty in the Israeli landscape and in the poet’s garden; and the contemplations of consolations – if any – of old age.
The sequence of the sonnet, Sail to Gaza, tells the story of a man determined to rebuild his life after a bitter divorce by building a sailboat in the desert. Every winter, when the floods arrive, he takes his boat to a wadi and goes deeper into the desert. This impractical mythical journey helps him and also provides material for his funny, poignant and wise reflections.
You don’t have to love poetry to find something to love about this volume. It is not a coincidence. Codish explains why he insists on writing accessible poetry: “I wanted to speak and be understood,” he says.
Almost all the poems contain surprises: unexpected turns of phrase, oblique glimpses, words from different neighborhoods that come together and produce beauty. Poet William Minor writes: “Ed Codish’s poetry offers the best and most engaging effects that the art form can have.
Memories of Oak Park
In his religious poetry, Codish says, “I wanted to write as a Jew as naturally as Donne writes as a Christian.
Codish, originally from Camden, New Jersey, studied at various schools in the United States, earning his Masters of Fine Arts at the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop. As an educational advisor to Jewish university students, he developed a deeper commitment to Judaism and Zionism, which led to his aliya. After decades in Israel, he returned in the 1980s to America, where he lived for 10 years in Oak Park, Michigan. Twenty years ago, Codish returned to Israel, where he resides with his wife in Pardesiya.
Thinking back to his decade in Oak Park, the poet recalls that he and his wife held writing workshops in their homes, inviting high school students to criticize and encourage each other to write, while enjoying homemade pastries. “I learned to be a teacher there,” he says. He also notes that “being a poet has helped me to be a good teacher of literature and writing”.
Susann remembers her husband’s admiration for the late Rabbi Eliezer Cohen, a master teacher who taught Jewish texts to schoolchildren during the day and to adults almost every night of the week. Rabbi Cohen was also a lifelong learner; when Ed Codish suggested that they study Franz Rosenzweig’s book Star of Redemption (1921) they began a one-night-a-week study partnership in this difficult work of Jewish philosophy. Ed and Susann Codish were among the founders of Congregation Or Chadash, where Rabbi Cohen was rabbi.
Ed Codish: Selected Poems. Author: Ed Codish, illustrated by Jacob Yona Horenstein
Commercial paperback: ISBN 978-1-948403-29-0, $ 24.95, 416 pages (including front and back)
The book will also be available as an eBook (ISBN 978-1-948403-30-6) on all major platforms; the price is still under discussion.
There will be a hardcover edition, ISBN 978-1-948403-28-3, which (at least for now) will not be sold through “commerce” channels but will only be available by direct order; a very limited number of signed copies will be made available. Hard covers will be shipped from Israel.
Published by Kasva Press LLC, Alfei Menashe, Israel and St. Paul, Minnesota. Website: http://www.kasvapress.com
Release date: November 16, 2021.