Ed Codish
Ed Codish

The forthcoming volume, Ed Codish: Selected Poems, includes a total of 266 poems, many short works, in addition to reprinting the sonnet sequence.

Now past 80, Ed Codish continues to work on his poetry nearly every day, producing new and inventive works. Codish drew significant international notice with the publication of his sonnet sequence, Sailing to Gaza, some 40 years ago. Hailed as one of the finest poets working in English in Israel, he dismissed the praise as “the equivalent of being called one of the finest downhill skiers in all of Uganda.” 

In reality, he is not so alone as a creative writer working in English. They have an organization, the Israel Association of Writers in English (IAWE) which produces an ongoing journal, ARC, year after year presenting the best English fiction and poetry from Israel. Codish has edited volumes of ARC.

The forthcoming volume, Ed Codish: Selected Poems, includes a total of 266 poems, many short works, in addition to reprinting the sonnet sequence. The shorter poems, many if free form, include delicate love poems to Codish’s wife, Susann; appreciations of the pigeons who live on his windowsill; imagined encounters with the leading poets of ancient China; meditations on Jewish learning; reconsiderations of political credos; expressions of admiration for natural beauty in the Israeli landscape and in the poet’s garden; and contemplations of the consolations — if any — of old age. 

The sonnet sequence, Sailing to Gaza, tells of a man who is determined to reconstruct his life after a bitter divorce by building a sailboat in the desert. Each winter, when the floods come, he takes his boat to a wadi and sails a little farther into the desert. This impractical mythic journey helps him and also provides material for his funny, poignant and wise reflections. 

You do not have to like poetry to find something to love in this volume. That is no accident. Codish explains why he insists on writing accessible poetry: “I wanted to talk and be understood,” he says. 

Nearly all the poems contain surprises: unexpected turns of phrase, slant insights, words from different neighborhoods that rub together and produce beauty. Poet William Minor writes, “The poetry of Ed Codish offers the best, the most engaging effects the art form can possess.” 

Memories of Oak Park

In his religious poetry, Codish says, “I wanted to write as a Jew as naturally as Donne writes as a Christian.”

Codish, originally from Camden, New Jersey, studied at various schools around the United States, earning his master’s of fine arts at the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop. As faculty adviser to college Jewish students, he developed a deeper commitment to Judaism and Zionism, which led to his aliyah. After decades in Israel, he returned in the 1980s to America, where he lived for 10 years in Oak Park, Mich. Twenty years ago, Codish returned to Israel, where he resides with his wife in Pardesiya. 

Recalling his decade in Oak Park, the poet remembers that he and his wife hosted writing workshops at their home, inviting high school students to critique and encourage each other’s writing, while enjoying homemade pastries. “I learned how to be a teacher there,” he says. He also notes that “being a poet has helped me be a good teacher of literature and writing.” 

Susann recalls her husband’s admiration for the late Rabbi Eliezer Cohen, a master teacher who taught Jewish texts to school students during the day and to adults nearly every night of the week. Rabbi Cohen was also a lifelong learner; when Ed Codish suggested they study Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption (1921) they began a one-night-a- week study partnership in this difficult work of Jewish philosophy. Ed and Susann Codish were among the founders of Congregation Or Chadash, where Rabbi Cohen served as rabbi. 

Details: 

Ed Codish: Selected Poems. Author: Ed Codish, illustrated by Jacob Yona Horenstein

Ed Codish's book cover

Trade Paperback: ISBN 978-1-948403-29-0, $24.95, 416 pages (including front- and back-matter)

The book will also be available as an ebook (ISBN 978-1-948403-30-6) on all major platforms; price is still under discussion.

There will be a hardcover edition, ISBN 978-1-948403-28-3, that (at least for now) will not be sold through “trade” channels but will be available only by direct order; a very limited number of signed copies will be made available. Hardcovers will be shipped from Israel.

Published by Kasva Press LLC, Alfei Menashe, Israel and St. Paul, Minnesota. Website: http://www.kasvapress.com

Publication date: Nov. 16, 2021.

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