The Young Israeli Poet In Palestinian Drag


Growing up in Tel Aviv, Morani Kornberg-Weiss only encountered the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine’s national poet, by chance. As a “voice from the other side,” Darwish seemed to speak to her across an unfathomable distance – until she began speaking back.

The result is Dear Darwish, a book of poems – really a book-length poem in parts – out this fall from BlazeVox Books. Part reader-response, part self-interrogation, Kornberg-Weiss strives to leave aside rhetoric of political conflict and painstakingly, lyrically track the places where Darwish’s language and her own aligns and separates. At times borrowing directly from Darwish in English translation, Kornberg-Weiss doesn’t seek to unburden herself to the poet so much as to dress in a kind of poetic drag: putting on Darwish’s words to see how they feel.

Alongside her correspondent’s verse, Kornberg-Weiss’s own language doesn’t always hit its target – but its occasional imprecision befits her raw project. And she rises to her own formal challenges, as in a section that borrows from Yom Kippur liturgy. The exchange between these two poets is fictional, but maybe we need more such fictions – more imagined difficult conversations that prepare us for real ones.

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