Yehoshua November is a young Hasidic poet who teaches at Rutgers University. In his classes, he’s been known to reference the non-linear storytelling of the Torah to encourage students to tell stories the way they remember them. This religious orientation has not stopped major media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, from reviewing his new book, God’s Optimism.
Most recently, Garrison Keillor, the host of the NPR show A Prairie Home Companion, picked November’s poem “After Our Wedding” as the final entry of the year in his daily Writer’s Almanac (listen to it below). The poem starts out with a situation that’s both funny and awkward–“when you forgot the address of our hotel/in your suitcase/the driver had to pull over”–and goes on to consider the day in retrospect, years later:
Since that day,
many of the guests at our wedding have divorced
or are gone,
and the restaurant has closed
to become a tattoo parlor.
The reading might present an odd mental picture–Keillor, who is 68 years old with a thick Midwestern accent, reads a first-person account of a young New Jersey Hasid. However, Keillor, who’s been a radio host and orator for several decades, seamlessly claims these words and makes them his own. Maybe it’s his professional touch. Or maybe it’s just that, like all great stories, November’s poem dissolves the boundaries between cultures and lives and evokes something that’s fundamentally, universally human.