Friday, May 04, 2007

One Year On

Today, the 4th May, is the first birthday of Cat Politics blogspot.

I’m astounded that I’ve managed to keep it going for that long. But when you think of it, blogging is awfully addictive, to the detriment of work and other activities. It is fun though, and I certainly will continue to keep it up. Life is more interesting with a blog than without. I always seem to be thinking about what to write, and actively seeking blogging opportunities.

To mark this occasion I have a book to give away.

I have meant to blog about Cyclamens and Swords and other poems about the land of Israel, by
Helen Bar-Lev and Johnmichael Simon, so this entry is timely.

Helen and Johnmichael both live in Israel, though they originally came from other lands. They are partners in life as in poetry. This book is their first collective poetry book.

Almond Tree - In Safed - Helen Bar-Lev

Cyclamens and Swords is a beautifully designed book, lavishly illustrated with Helen’s paintings and sketches of Jerusalem and its environs. The poetry is very fine as well, eg:

Cyclamens and Swords
by Helen Bar-Lev

Life should be sunflowers and poetry
symphonies and four o’clock tea
instead it’s entangled
like necklaces in a drawer
when you reach in for cyclamens
you pull out swords.
This is a country
which devours its inhabitants,
spits them out hollow like the shells of seeds,
defies them to survive
despite the peacelessness,
promises them cyclamens
but rewards them with swords
It is here we live with
symphonies and sunflowers,
poetry and four o’clock tea,
enmeshed in an absurd
passion for this land
entangled as we are in its history,
like butterflies in a net
or sheep in a barbed wire fence
Where we are forbidden
to pick cyclamens
but are obliged
to wield our swords.


Driving Up to Jerusalem
by Johnmichael Simon

As we round the corner
rows of trees etched
serrated on the hilltops
against the setting sun
blackly comb their carrot hair
before their nightly sleep

into the next bend
we enter a world of gloom
the other side of the moon,
dark craters blink at us
an owl hoots, flaps somewhere
brushes the branches of a pine

We come out, reach the bottom
start to climb, our golden maidens
have retired, switched off the sun
and then the lights come out distantly
candles on the hills pinprick into the eiderdown
of folds, the city above emerges
and in sudden synchronicity the classic music
station bursts into the Halleluja chorus and as
we warm into the glowing words the trees,
the stars, the lamps, the holy candles
all merge, singing Jerusalem in our eyes

Looking Down St David St - Old City, Jerusalem - Helen Bar-Lev

This book gives a unique portrait of life in Israel, the beauty of the landscape, the timeless majesty of the city of Jerusalem, the stress of living in a suspended state of danger. The poems present a personal interpretation of the land that is illuminating and homespun simultaneously.

Helen, whom I may have mentioned before, lived with Edward Whittemore in Jerusalem for several years in the1980s. She kindly sent me her poems about, and sketches of Whittemore for the Jerusalem Dreaming site a few years ago.
Check them out here.

Cyclamens and Swords can be ordered by emailing Helen
directly at or Johnmichael at

The first person to post a comment below, requesting it, will score a copy for free.

There is a catch. The copy I am giving away has been mispaginated at the beginning of the book, but is otherwise complete. In fact you get pages 64 to 75 twice!!

I will work out a way to get the book to the winner if and when there is a winner.


Doug said...

The book is published by the Ibbetson Street Press

chiefbiscuit said...

Sounds like a lovely book. (Am I the first to request it?) And Happy Blog Anniversary!

Anne S said...

CB: Indeed you are the first. I will contact you via the email address on your blog and sort out the getting of the book to you.

It is a lovely book - I'm sure you'll love it.