Dan Bellm
  • Review
By – March 9, 2012

Dan Bellm uses the method­ol­o­gy of midrash, which is a way of explain­ing omit­ted parts of bib­li­cal text by expand­ing on what is there or imag­in­ing what might have been said, to com­ment on mod­ern life. For exam­ple, in his poem Esau,” he imag­ines what Jacob might have been think­ing when he is sup­posed to rec­on­cile with his brother: 

I should go and make peace with my broth­er. Trou­ble is we’re not fight­ing. Where I come from, we have such good man­ners we don’t talk to each other. 

This, of course, is also an obser­va­tion on non-com­mu­nica­tive fam­i­lies of today. He con­tin­ues that idea in mus­ing on the prac­tice of light­ing year­ly Yahrzeit can­dles for a loved one who has passed away: 

How sim­ple it ought to be, to prac­tice com­pas­sion on some­one gone, even love him, long as he’s not right there in front of me. 

In anoth­er iron­ic poem, he com­pares his fifty-sev­en year old, flab­by body, climb­ing the unend­ing stairs of the Stair­mas­ter to Jacob’s lad­der burn­ing calo­ries like prayers.” 

He skill­ful­ly inter­twines para­bles and bib­li­cal sto­ries with every man’s dai­ly strug­gle with the world and him­self today. And for those not well-versed in the sto­ries of the bible, the ref­er­ences for each of the texts are made clear in the appendix.

Eleanor Ehrenkranz received her Ph.D. from NYU and has taught at Stern Col­lege, NYU, Mer­cy Col­lege, and at Pace Uni­ver­si­ty. She has lec­tured wide­ly on Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture and recent­ly pub­lished anthol­o­gy of Jew­ish poet­ry, Explain­ing Life: The Wis­dom of Mod­ern Jew­ish Poet­ry, 1960 – 2010.

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