Ear­li­er this week, Aaron Roller, an edi­tor of Mima’amakim, wrote about the Jew­ish Austin Pow­ers and the Jew­ish poet­ry con­spir­a­cy.

I knew some­thing excit­ing was afoot when an email from the poet Jake Marmer popped up in my inbox with the sub­ject head­er, Won’t you be my Tosafot?” Jake Marmer is a long­time edi­tor with Mima’amakim who per­forms impro­visato­ry jazz poet­ry with the hippest down­town avant gardists. The Tos­fos were a group of Tal­mu­dic com­men­ta­tors cen­tered most­ly in medieval Provence whose work of dense and bril­liant legal expo­si­tion is com­piled in the mar­gins of the Tal­mud. As many a teacher of Tal­mud might ask, So, nu, what’s the connection?”

Jake had the idea of cre­at­ing a page of poet­ry that would mir­ror the form of the Tal­mud. The actu­al words of the Tal­mud occu­py the cen­ter of the page. They are flanked on either side by com­men­taries. On the inside mar­gin is Rashi, the 11th-cen­tu­ry giant, and on the out­side mar­gin are the Tosafot. Jake offered an ini­tial poem to a bunch of fel­low poets to get the ball rolling. Then he stood back and wait­ed for us to cre­ate our own, indi­vid­ual com­men­taries” to his orig­i­nal work. Then one of the par­tic­i­pat­ing poets, Sipai Klein, took the com­men­taries and syn­the­sized them all into two dis­tinct texts, one to serve as the Rashi and one to serve as the Tosafot. The result­ing page appears in the new issue of Mima’amakim.

The poems the result­ed man­age to cap­ture some of the fla­vor of the Tal­mud. Just as Tal­mud (and the Tosafot com­men­tary) cap­tures a mul­ti­plic­i­ty of voic­es and syn­the­sizes them into a sin­gle con­tin­u­ous text, Sipai took the dif­fer­ent poets, each dif­fer­ent styles and approach­es, and turned their words into a col­lab­o­ra­tive text. It’s all so seam­less that I don’t even remem­ber which part I wrote anymore.

But, in case one reimag­in­ing of the Tal­mud isn’t enough, Mima’amakim fea­tures two. Where Jake and his team of com­men­ta­tors adapt­ed the for­mat of the Tal­mu­dic page to a rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent, poet­ic con­tent, Yon­ah Lav­ery-Yis­raeli takes the con­tent of the Tal­mud and brings it into a con­tem­po­rary for­mat, that of the com­ic book. Yon­ah takes the char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tions of the Tal­mud out of the ancient Ara­ma­ic and put into the most under­stand­able of all lit­er­ary for­mats. In so doing, Yon­ah opens the reader’s eyes to the lyri­cism, emo­tion and even the humor of the Tal­mud. Yonah’s comics ren­der the Tal­mud and its rab­bis as peo­ple who are, if not exact­ly con­tem­po­rary, then at least famil­iar and easy to relate to.

While Yon­ah has a large num­ber of Tal­mud comics avail­able to view at her web­site, she was kind enough to let Mima’amakim pub­lish a pair of images in our newest jour­nal. When lay­ing out the jour­nal, it only made sense to have one of the Tal­mud comics face Jake’s Tal­mud-inspired poem, cre­at­ing a two-page spread of artis­tic cre­ativ­i­ty inspired by the rich­ness of the Tal­mud, itself one of the great­est Jew­ish lit­er­ary con­tri­bu­tions of all time.

The new issue of Mima’amakim is now avail­able. Aaron Roller has been blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Jew­ish author blog­ging series.