Like the first rain on the parched land of Israel after a hot, arid summer, a collection of poems leads the reader into a season of soul-searching, transformation and promise.
Poets have always been interpreters of dreams and harbingers, says leading Israeli poet Moshe Dor, co-editor of "After the First Rain: Israeli Poems on War and Peace." Readings from the compilation of works by Israeli poets will be presented Sunday in Columbia.
"I think it's the first book of its kind because of the range of people involved," Dor said. "The true essence of Israel is represented by its poets and not by its politicians."
Sixty-four poets helped create the text, which was co-edited and translated, in part, by Barbara Goldberg of Bethesda.
"This is an intense look at life on the edge," Goldberg said. "It's a look at humanity at its fullest."
The Howard County Poetry and Literature Society and the Columbia Jewish Congregation are presenting the poetry readings at the Meeting House in Oakland Mills. Some poems will be read in their original Hebrew as well as in English. Linda Pastan, former Maryland poet laureate who was nominated for this year's National Book Award in poetry; Reed Whittemore, a past poetry consultant at the U.S. Library of Congress; and Dor, Goldberg and others will read selections.
"We're so bombarded with pictures and news reports, sometimes we need a language that doesn't follow traditional formula to really describe what's going on," HoCoPoLitSo President Ellen Kennedy said.
The pain, suffering and hope associated with life in the war-torn Middle East are captured in the writings of "After the First Rain."
The book is dedicated to slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and includes a forward by former Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
A poem titled "Palestinian" by Eli Alon asks:
... Where has it all gone?
Where have they all gone to?"
Another work, "To Live in the Land of Israel" by Aryeh Sivan, paints a picture of peril and promise:
They say that a cocked gun
is bound to go off. Well, it isn't.
Anything can happen in this Land of Israel.
A broken firing pin, a rusty spring,
or an unexpectedly canceled order,
as was the case with Abraham on Mount Moriah.
A short poem by Ella Bat-Tzion titled "Peace" illustrates the power of understated prose:
Peace is a sea
will carry us far.
The threat of international danger remains a constant, and the perspectives of these Israeli poets offer insights for Americans.
"I think a great power in the world can learn from a small country like Israel," Dor said. "Our prophets believe good will will overcome evil, and faith in a better destiny has enabled us to survive."
Tickets are $7 general admission and $5 for students and seniors. Readings begin at 3 p.m. Refreshments and a book signing will follow. Information: 410-730-7524 or 410-730-1802, press 2.