Leading Israeli poet ADI KEISSAR is a voice for Israelis haunted by the October 7 attack.
Prominent Israeli poet Adi Keissar’s latest work “October” has made waves in the Jewish world, masterfully capturing the trauma and impact of the current Israel-Hamas war and the indelible mark October 7 has left on the country and its people.
First published in Hebrew just two weeks after the October 7 massacre, the poem made its debut in the literature and culture supplement of Yedioth Ahronoth and quickly went viral across social media platforms, including being shared by politician Naama Lazimi.
Like the songs which have become a playlist of the Gaza war, poetry gives voice to the emotions that news reports and images cannot capture.
Reflecting on the overwhelming response, Keissar told Plus61J Media that she was astonished at the widespread recognition and appreciation the poem received from audiences around the world. Since its original publication, “October” has been translated into English, German and Spanish, amplifying its impact on a global scale and highlighting the poem’s universal resonance.
Keissar is a prominent Israeli poet of Yeminite descent who was born and raised in Jerusalem, and the founder of “Ars Poetica” — a new wave of Mizrahi poetry that expands the medium to include music and dance from the Middle East.
In an interview with Plus61J Media during her visit to Melbourne for Limmud Oz in 2018, Keissar described Ars Poetica as “basically one big party with poetry reading and music. Music is one of the main incentives for my writing. You can feel the music in my poetry, and I love reading my poems with music and musicians”.
The name “Ars Poetica” cleverly plays on the Latin phrase meaning the “art of poetry”. However in Arabic, the word “Ars” takes on a different connotation, referring to a “pimp” and in Israeli slang, depicts the stereotype of young Israeli, typically Mizrahi, men from lower socio-economic classes.
The core themes of Keissar’s poetry revolve around Israeli Mizrahi identity, feminism and motherhood, and creates a rich tapestry that resonates with a diverse audience.
October by Adi Keissar
I’m not sure
if I could go back to life this time
A morning run, bike trip, party
without the face of the dead
I’m not sure
if I could come back alive this time
An empty baby bed, a blanket
What I’m sure of
Automatic weapons, fire and smoke
shattered windows and a broken door
sirens going up and down
ashes and wreckage
The world is burning
and I am the flames
The hours blended
also, the days
At night came the dreams
and the mosquitos
to suck my skin
As from a hidden signal
swirled around me
buzzed in the darkness
asked for my blood.
All through the night
the air stood still
between me and the world
not going in and not coming out
In the morning I opened a window
the sun was shining in the sky
the silence filled the empty streets
I’m not sure
if I could ever hear silence
that doesn’t hide a disaster within.