Poems: Repair Begins with Confusion
Three Score and Ten
My life: a Domesday Book,
a reckoning, deeds and misdeeds.
My life: the Encyclopaedia of Everything,
laid on its lectern open to the penultimate page.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m on some kind of
‘Truman Show’, me a solitary player
to whom, when it’s over, that Audience
of One will offer a standing ovation.
I’ve misplaced my map – faded, smudged,
torn at the creases – where I’d marked a well,
fed by springs from an underground river. One sip
of those sweet waters, I thought, I’d be home free.
I keep her photo in my wallet.
When I collapse and die at the foot of a
Charing Cross escalator, people will
find it and say, What a lucky guy.
From Stone. Bread. Salt.
In this very personal collection of poems Norbert Hirschhorn takes stock of his life and gives voice to his quest to pass on the experiences of the generations before him.
Or in the author’s own words: ‘Over the past decades I have lived and worked in the Middle East, coming to a greater understanding not only of Judaism, but also the other Abrahamic religions. As I approach my ninth decade of life I am aware of the need to share with my descendants the wisdom, texts and lessons handed down by our ancestors of all religions. The poems in this collection reflect this aim and necessity.’
As the title suggests Stone. Bread. Salt. combines seriousness with playfulness, and saying goodbye is contrasted with new beginnings. In the opening poem, Three Score and Ten, the author takes a serious look at his life whereas in Life-Course Department Store he measures out a life in department store goods.
Norbert Hirschhorn experiments with rhyme and metre, free verse and prose poems, yet they all are in his inimitable voice, and together they tell a story.
In some lines the echoes from the past are eerily relevant for present-day life:
Don’t ask your friends what their leanings are:
stir up trouble, you’ll be blamed.
You cannot, must not, push your friends too far,
or they’ll make you wear the yellow star.
What makes this collection extra special is Norbert Hirschhorn’s work on translating some of Fouad M Fouad’s poems from the Arabic. Working closely with the author, a medical professor, poet and Syrian exile this resulted in four remarkable poems: Killers Live Long, After the Barrel Bomb, Canon Lens 18-300 mm and The Wolf in the Hospital Corridor.
This collection sweeps you along from London to New York and the Middle East and back again. At some points Hirschhorn almost literally stops readers in their tracks by using the + sign.
On BBC website black cloud icons every day for the next five + counting In Hawaii sunny 68°F + the surf is up Midnight here a dirty mist descending 1°C even birds are coughing My winter bronchitis has returned + I was escorted from a British Library reading room when people complained
Each poem can be savoured on its own but together they paint a picture of a thoughtful poet and American Health Hero (to quote Bill Clinton) trying to catch the essence of life to hand it down to the next generations.
Three Score and Ten
The Poet Fantasises
On Reaching Seventy-Five
Life-Course Department Store
London Winter Blues
Because It Is My Heart and Because It Lives in Outer Space
June 8, 2038
Directives for My Funeral
Ode to My Old Passport Wallet
My Friend the Scholar Comes At Last to Attend to His Father
Even If He Can’t Answer Maybe He Can Hear You
Salomé With the Head Of St. John The Baptist
The Pigeon Chaser
Killers Live Long
After the Barrel Bomb
Lost at Magnetic North
Canon Lens 18-300 MM
The Wolf in the Hospital Corridor
The Last Neanderthal
The Wall Artist of Aleppo
Lebanon Mon Amour
Enfolded By Flowers
Bound Up in The Bond of Life
The Princess & The Doula
The Destined One
A Continuous Life
A Nation Sundered
Cat Meets Rat in New York Alley
Christian Co-Workers Schedule an Important Conference on Yom Kippur
Letters from Vienna (1938-1941)
Repair Begins with Confusion
Stone. Bread. Salt. was published on 26 April 2018.
For more information or review copies please contact the publisher: firstname.lastname@example.org, +44(0)7792611929.
Norbert Hirschhorn is the author of To Sing Away the Darkest Days –Poems Re-imagined from Yiddish Folksongs, published by Holland Park Press in 2013.