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Book details
  • Genre:POETRY
  • SubGenre:Middle Eastern
  • Language:English
  • Pages:98
  • Paperback ISBN:9798350926507

Spirit Captive

Jerusalem in Poetry, Prose and Paintings

by Helen Bar-Lev

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Spirit Captive is the title of Helen Bar-Lev's latest book and its culminating poem. It reveals her love affair with Jerusalem and captures the essence of her long, romantic journey to, in, and around the city. Through prose and poetry, she shares her fascination with its environment: the pinks of its stones, the greens of its trees, and the variety of its people. She describes her life as a painter and poet, introducing us to the places she loves, the people she cherishes, and the moments that terrify her. Her artwork adds immeasurably to the whole work, adding an important dimension to the overall composition by giving resonance to Helen's work and identity as a visual artist; her art concretizes visually the words she is writing. Spirit Captive is both personal and yet also universal. She has done much to redeem Jerusalem's splendor, magic, mystery and complexity. The mystical city lives in her words, her pictures and her memories. Her words and her artwork link her attraction to the Holy City with her fear of its perils. She captures our spirits, too, with her images, poetry, and prose.
Spirit Captive is the impressive collection of poems, short stories, memories and artworks that Helen Bar-Lev presents to us as a real declaration of love to Jerusalem. Emily Dickinson wrote "Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door" and this is what Helen seems to do here: ready and open to numerous opportunities to profess her unending dedication to the city she so deeply loves: the result is a sense of universal – sometimes suffering - beauty that permeates us. Through Helen's eyes we see Jerusalem in the four seasons, in the passing of the hours of the day, and every time what we perceive is a city of exquisite beauty. Memories of people who remain carved deep in Helen's soul surface in this collection: friends, artists, and teachers who walked alongside her and, in some way, left a mark. She introduces us to Yoseph Hirsh - wellknown artist and her mentor, to Yaakov Pins – with his woodcuts, his oils and precious Asian collection, to Miriam Tal - translator and art critic, and more. To appreciate the real spirit of this work we should start from the end: reading the poem Spirit Captive (hence the title of the whole collection) we can feel how a real bond exists between Helen and Jerusalem, whose magnetism she cannot escape a city that does not let me go, - she says – ... every street and corner is inscribed in my genetic memory. In A Love Poem to Jerusalem Helen wonders if God created the sweet air of the city just to intoxicate her and if every stone or gate or flower may have been created as a source of inspiration for her paintings. This is really Helen's masterpiece, where her poems, prose and paintings pay magnificent tribute to Jerusalem.
About the author
I was born in New York City in 1942. September 1959 – I arrived in Israel age 17 1/2, right after finishing high school, with a scholarship to study at the Haim Greenberg Teachers' Institute in the Ba'aka neighbourhood of Jerusalem. 1961 - I returned to New York. In 1963 I was accepted to study art at the Cooper Union School for Art and Architecture, then moved to Los Angeles in 1965 where the Op-Art and Pop-Art of the time put me off art for the next ten years. So instead I graduated with a B.A. degree in Anthropology. 1973 - Made Aliyah with my family and within the year, the beauty of the landscape beckoned, and my art returned. 1973 - 1978 – Lived in Rehovot, 1976, first group exhibition, 1977, first solo exhibition 1977 - 1978 – Travelled once a week to Jerusalem to study with Yosef Hirsch 1979 - moved to Jerusalem 1982 - 1989 - Lived in the Compound of the Ethiopian Church in the Centre of Jerusalem. This was without doubt the most colourful, memorable phase of my life 1989 - 2001 - Lived in the Artists' Colony, Tsfat (Safad), City of Mystics, the Upper Galilee, had an 'exhibition' (read: gallery) in a large room in my house. 2001 - 2007 - Back to Jerusalem, lived adjacent to the Moon Forest 2004 - Began writing poetry, then short stories. 2007 - forever - moved to Metulla, the northernmost town in Israel I've had over 100 exhibitions of my landscape paintings, 34 of which were onewoman shows. My poems and artwork have appeared in numerous online and print anthologies. Eight poetry collections so far, all illustrated by me. I have been awarded the Amy Kitchener senior poet laureate and in 2013 I was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I'm also the Israeli representative for Immagine & Poesia. I am the recipient of the Homer European Medal for Poetry and Art. In 2021 I was the winner of the Colori dell'Anima award (Sanremo, Italy), 10th Edition, for a collection of ten poems about Jerusalem, all of which appear here. I have been a member of the Israel Painters and Sculptors Association since 1979, and a member of Voices Israel Group of Poets in English since 2004, and for which I have held these positions: Assistant President of Voices Israel, Chief Editor of Voices Annual Anthology, and Overseas Connections Coordinator. I've lived in Metulla now for 16 years, but Jerusalem continues to course through my soul. Often enough I have dreams that I am back in Jerusalem, asking the Ethiopian monks to rent me a flat.