Friday, March 25, 2011
For Enid with Love
Barry Wallenstein, Editor
The New York Quarterly Foundation, Inc.
Review by Rene Schwiesow
Enid Dame was a woman dedicated to the art of the written word. She was a poet, scholar, teacher, mentor, and a political activist. When Enid died in 2003 she had touched the lives of many. The 2004, #50 edition of “Home Planet News,” the journal founded by Enid and her husband Donald Lev, was sweetened with poems, memories and tributes to the prolific writer. In 2007 Donald Lev and the poet, D. H. Melhem, began work on “For Enid with Love,” edited by Barry Wallenstein. This collection by friends and colleagues and, indeed, some who only knew her profound impact through Rene Schwiesow
her work, is a “festschrift,” a festival of writinFor Enid with Love Barry Wallenstein, Editorgs.
In Dame’s essay, “Art as Midrash: Some Notes on the Way to a Discussion,” she opens with: “I’m a poet: many of my poems are dramatic monologues, in which characters from Jewish mythology (particularly women) explain or reinterpret their experiences, often from a modern sensibility. In the past, I’ve called these poems ‘confessions,’ but they are in fact midrashim.”
Her friend Alice Ostriker, called her a Midrashic Prophet and writes: “Her midrashic writing is a tree of life sprouting through disasters.” Midrashic literature refers to writing that interprets a Biblical text. The Midrashic writer focuses on, among other things, diving into the deep meaning of a text in order to bring life to the surface and fill in the gaps. For example, Enid’s poem “Lot’s Wife,” follows her thoughts post pillar of salt:
I’m not surprised
this happened in some ways
was always numb
But she may be best known for her midrashic writings on Lilith, Adam’s first wife. Enid wrote “Lilith” after ending a marriage and processing the fact that she could never return:
kicked myself out of paradise
left a hole in the morning
no note no goodbye. . .
I cry in the bathroom
and the man and the god
I couldn’t live with.
As a festshrift, “For Enid with Love,” is a wonderful success. The many contributors have shared their love, respect and admiration for Enid as person and writer with open abandon. That Enid Dame lived her life as a Mensch is clear.
Rene Schwiesow is a South Shore Writer and co-host of the popular monthly Plymouth venue, The Mike Amado Memorial Series: The Art of Words.