Birthright (Paperback)

By Erika Dreifus

Kelsay Books, 9781950462155, 90pp.

Publication Date: November 2, 2019

List Price: 17.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Description

The poems in Birthright embody multiple legacies: genetic, historical, religious, and literary. Through the lens of one person's experience of inheritance, the poems suggest ways in which all of us may be influenced by how we perceive and process our lives and times. Here, a poet claims what is hers as a child of her particular parents; as a grandchild of refugees from Nazi Germany; as a Jew, a woman, a Gen Xer, and a New Yorker; as a reader of the Bible and Shakespeare and Flaubert and Lucille Clifton. This poet's birthright is as unique as her DNA. But it resonates far beyond herself.

Erika Dreifus's poems in Birthright are about the skull and the heart, the bone, and the muscle. They are poems about holiness and everydayness and, in part, about the convergence of these two movements as a way to embrace and discover mercy, love, and honesty. What they illustrate is the beauty that happens in that space, when both elements are embraced and when forces collide: "I've always remembered the Sabbath day; I just haven't kept it holy." Birthright is a book that explores connectedness and connective tissue. These are poems that embrace faith, family, and the forest of good intention in all of its contradictory forces. It's about the expensive nature of coloring one's hair and the expansive nature, which explodes in the beaming colors of the Diaspora. Every time I come back to Birthright I am born again out of the little pieces in me that have died. This is the magic of Erika Dreifus's poems. They are the flame in the darkness of Deuteronomy; they are the spellbound silence of history that helps to bind you with the people right next to you and to the "ancestral spirits that mingle above."

-Matthew Lippman, author of Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful and A Little Gut Magic.

Full of humor and history, the personal and the painful, Erika Dreifus's Birthright is a thoughtful reflection on life and loss, on inheritance and the individual, collective, and intergenerational nature of Jewish experience. The book's midrashic reflections challenge readers to reconsider ancient texts and their modern resonances. Some of its more political poems, while offering a perspective that is not always easy to hear, add a critical voice to the dissonant chorus that composes today's commentary on Israel-Palestine. At its most moving moments, Birthright relays intimate and familial experiences with an earnest and generous vulnerability. With its honest, accessible language and straightforward storytelling, Erika Dreifus's first full-length collection is a welcome addition to the modern American poetry canon-narrative, Jewish, feminist, or otherwise.-Sivan Butler-Rotholz, Managing Editor, "Saturday Poetry Series," As It Ought to Be Magazine.

These clear, unvarnished poems take us deeply into a life engaged with history, family, tradition, politics, and contemporary culture.

-Richard Chess, author of Love Nailed to the Doorpost, Third Temple, and other books.



About the Author

Born in Brooklyn and raised there and in New Jersey, Erika Dreifus earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a PhD in history, from Harvard University, where for several years she taught history, literature, and writing. She is the author of Quiet Americans: Stories, which was named an American Library Association/Sophie Brody Medal honor title for outstanding achievement in Jewish literature. Birthright is her first poetry collection. Erika currently lives and writes in New York; her online home is ErikaDreifus.com.


Praise For Birthright

Erika Dreifus’s poems in Birthright are about the skull and the heart, the bone and the muscle. They are poems about holiness and everydayness and, in part, about the convergence of these two movements as a way to embrace and discover mercy, love, and honesty. What they illustrate is the beauty that happens in that space, when both elements are embraced and when forces collide: “I’ve always remembered the Sabbath day; I just haven’t kept it holy.” Birthright is a book that explores connectedness and connective tissue. These are poems that embrace faith, family, and the forest of good intention in all of its contradictory forces. It’s about the expensive nature of coloring one’s hair and the expansive nature, which explodes in the beaming colors of the Diaspora. Every time I come back to Birthright I am born again out of the little pieces in me that have died. This is the magic of Erika Dreifus’s poems. They are the flame in the darkness of Deuteronomy; they are the spellbound silence of history that helps to bind you with the people right next to you and to the “ancestral spirits that mingle above.”
— Matthew Lippman, author of Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful and A Little Gut Magic

Full of humor and history, the personal and the painful, Erika Dreifus’s Birthright is a thoughtful reflection on life and loss, on inheritance and the individual, collective, and intergenerational nature of Jewish experience. The book’s midrashic reflections challenge readers to reconsider ancient texts and their modern resonances. Some of its more political poems, while offering a perspective that is not always easy to hear, add a critical voice to the dissonant chorus that composes today’s commentary on Israel-Palestine. At its most moving moments, Birthright relays intimate and familial experiences with an earnest and generous vulnerability. With its honest, accessible language and straightforward storytelling, Erika Dreifus’s first full-length collection is a welcome addition to the modern American poetry canon—narrative, Jewish, feminist, or otherwise.
— Sivan Butler-Rotholz, Managing Editor, “Saturday Poetry Series,” As It Ought to Be Magazine

In one of the most moving poems in Birthright, the first book of poetry by award-winning American-Jewish writer Erika Dreifus, the poet writes herself into the “Woman of Valor” hymn, traditionally chanted by a husband to his wife at the Sabbath dinner table. “A Single Woman of Valor” concludes, “I have no children to rise and celebrate me/and no husband to commend me.//Yet I imagine Solomon himself in agreement that/my deeds may still praise at those gates.” In many ways, this penultimate poem holds all of Birthright’s themes: engagement with and rewriting of biblical texts, family lineage and history, a woman’s bold claiming of her place in a complex story. These clear, unvarnished poems take us deeply into a life engaged with history, family, tradition, politics, and contemporary culture.
— Richard Chess, author of Love Nailed to the Doorpost, Third Temple, and other books