New Love: Alicia Jo Rabins

22 Jun

What hooked me first, pun unavoidably intentional, was Alicia Jo Rabins’ poem “How to Confess an Affair” in Issue 47 of The Collagist:

Details are fishhooks that will remain in the lip of the small fish that lives inside your spouse and swims sometimes towards  you, sometimes away from you. If you love the fish, be careful.

If you love the fish, be careful.  I love this admonition, tiny and lasting like ocean ripples always traveling farther from shore.  I knew I had to see more of her work after this poem, and whew was I blown away. Rabins braids Judaism and Jewish mysticism and sensuality and pumpkin seeds and scrap metal into graceful, fiery cords again and again in her poems; for instance, this excerpt from “Malkmut,” one of four of her poems up at The Arty Semite:

The field of time stands up
and grows a face.
Arms sprout from his side,
wings from the arms, blue mouth

burning between the feathers.
The field of time changes the air
around him as a sunken pothole
changes the road, as a flaming tree

The landscapes and atmospheres of Rabins’ poems are hallucinatory, prophetic, and explosive; reading them feels like waking up in the middle of a twenty-first century creation myth.   Birthing and destroying and rebuilding and consuming the glory of the earth is always happening, and never cleanly–stones toppling in one country while little fruit trees first blossom in another.  Rabins saturates her poems with fire and meaning and weight, like little scraps of rumored apocryphal books.

As if Rabins’ poetry isn’t kickass enough, she’s also a musician with a project called Girls in Trouble that chronicles the lives of women in Torah.  It’s plucky, haunting indie rock with religion-infused storytelling, sometimes performed with a band but often just Rabins, her violin, and a looping pedal.  Here’s a great talk from Rabins about how she came to discover and love Torah, especially the stories of its women, concluded with a Girls in Trouble song about Hagar, Abraham’s concubine and his wife Sarah’s handmaiden, called “The Arrow and The Bow:”

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