Discover Jewish poetry for a new generation.
People need poetry. Jewish people need Jewish poetry. Not only Jewish poetry, God forbid — we would never part with our Robert Frost or Wendell Berry or Mary Oliver or the rest of our shelf — but we also need poetry that expresses our specific culture and language. "Poetry," Frost wrote, "is what gets lost in translation." So too, translated yiddishkeit isn't quite the same. Hence, Jewish poetry. At Ben Yehuda Press, we publish poems (and other genres) whose Jewishness is integral.
Our Jewish umbrella casts a very wide shadow. Some of the poets we publish are intoxicated by God. Others look for spirituality in a world without God. Some allude to the Bible, others to Jewish experience. Ben Yehuda Press believes there is no one true Judaism, no one authentic Jewish voice. It is the multiplicity that defines our community, and our Judaism, and, optionally, our God.
With this Kickstarter campaign, Ben Yehuda Press is launching its poetry volumes for the Jewish year 5778. Immediately after Rosh Hashanah, we hope to publish three books of poetry. Three more volumes will be published in the spring.
These six titles come on the heels of the four we already published, starting with one volume in 2007, then three more in 2015. Now, with our ambitious line-up for 5778, we hope to begin a regular commitment to publishing Jewish poetry. But we need your help, to prove that there is a community of readers open to these new Jewish voices, and to help us grow that community.
The Books of Fall 5778
We have three titles ready to go to the printers. They are:
In the archives of Kibbutz Beit-HaShita,
I discovered forgotten hand-written notes
for a Passover Seder from 1927.
Instead of the Kiddush, the author wrote,
“Blessed are you, kibbutz.”
In his footsteps, I widen the blessing circle
and say, blessed are you, world —
to praise your fragile, complex beauty.
After we buried our father, the moon came nearest
earth's center, resplendent in its wholeness,
most expansive night of all other nights,
the Shiva Moon.
unify my desires.
Let me look at you as I look upon a lover
and look at every lover
as I look upon you.
The Books of Spring 5778
These next three titles have farther to go. Your support will help pay for proofreading, final cover design, typesetting, and marketing.
The Sabbath Bee: All day I have been traveling from flower to flower, distracted by every bright color under the sun. Now as darkness falls I lay down my burdens, the collected pollen of a day’s work, and I give myself over to a welcoming family and the sweetness of rest.
Alone in his bethistled desert bed,
Young Jacob writhed in fog of soul-fraught dust,
Till triumph over man or angel shed
A blushing dawn, some clarity of trust
Shechina is riding shotgun.
Her toenails are purple.
She’s tapping at her smartphone
sending texts to the Holy One.
The Books of our Backlist
From the Coffee House of Jewish Dreamers is two books in one. On one side are imaginative meditations on the weekly Torah portion. Pick it up from the other side to find four decades of poems on Jewish identity, from the Lower East Side to Coney Island to Jerusalem, that the Jewish Week described as "funny, deeply observed, without pretension." The House at the Center of the World is poetic midrash on the parts of the Torah that normally don't grab our attention: from the end of Exodus through the beginning of Numbers. What does sacred mean for a space, for a person, and for a people? Those are the questions that animate this thoughtful work. Open My Lips collects prayers and poems from Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, a leader of the Jewish Renewal movement and author of the Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah. We Who Desire features poems loosely tracking the weekly Torah portion, interweaving the mythic and the mundane with carefully chosen words, astute observations, and deep emotion.
The Book of Fish
Who is Ben Yehuda Press?
Ben Yehuda Press, founded in 2005, has published nearly 50 titles, in exciting and innovative Jewish voices, spanning all denominations and genres. Two of our books have been National Jewish Book Award finalists.
We love stretch goals in Kickstarter campaigns. Unfortunately, we can't promise extra poems, because that's not how poetry publishing works. So instead, we're offering things that we as the publisher can deliver.
Stretch Goal #1 $2400 — Minimize the risk
As we mention in the Risks and Challenges section below, Ben Yehuda Press has not yet drawn up plans to ensure continuity in the event its current staff is incapacitated. For this stretch goal, Ben Yehuda Press executives will finally sit down and write up a manual enabling anyone to continue operations. This will include all the necessary Google passwords, Instructions for shipping books to the warehouse, and everything else currently held only in heads and obscurely captioned post-it notes.
If this goal is reached, we will draft the instructions and mail them to trusted associates and successors in three separate states. The envelopes will include a list of all supporters of this Kickstarter campaign. In the event catastrophe strikes Ben Yehuda Press, your name will be one of the first things read as recovery begin!
Stretch Goal #2: $3600 — We'll put a book of poetry online
Poetry wants to be shared. And we all know the best way to share is a link. If we hit the goal, we'll publish the complete content of one of the poetry collections on our website. Each poem will have its own permanent internet home. And you can share away.
Stretch Goal #3: $10,000 — We'll put all our 5778 poetry books online
We'll put online all the 5778 titles whose authors permit and whose authors haven't already done so. (Did we mention that the Sabbath Bee was first published at TheSabbathBee.blogspot.com?)
Risks and challenges
With 49 titles under our belt, the risks are limited. Our three fall titles are ready to go to the printer as soon as this campaign concludes. They've been typeset, proofread, had their Hebrew properly dotted where appropriate, and even had a full panoply of blurbs assembled for the back covers.
Our three spring titles are not as far along, but we're reasonably sure they'll hit your shelves by Passover -- Shavuot at the latest. Covers have not yet been finalized. Illustrations for the Sabbath Bee have been commissioned but not yet delivered. Some of the authors are still fiddling with the manuscripts, not all of which have been typeset. Still, these are manageable risks.
Then there are the unexpected risks. Ben Yehuda Press has delivered books since Labor Day 2005, but past performance is no guarantee of future results. As a small press, we haven't gotten around to proper in-case-of-emergency planning. Sure, we back up everything to the cloud, but in the event of a serious attack on the American economy and info-infrastructure, we have no fall-back facilities in Colorado to ensure the presses still roll. If key personnel get hit by a falling meteor, kidnapped by terrorists who little understand the true economics of small-press publishing, or prematurely fall prey to the lifestyle ills those of the bookish sort are prone too -- well, we'll regret not having drawn up contingency plans, won't we?
But life is a risk, creating is a risk, and finding new modes of Jewish expression is a risk. It's a risk we believe is worth taking.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (34 days)