Review by Kara L.C. Jones
KOTA PRESS   www.kotapress.com
May, 2002

Songs from the Territories
by Chaim Bezalel
ISBN 0-595-13694-X
from Dekel Press

We met many people at the Washington State Poets Association conference last month, and we also found many wonderful books of poetry at the book fair there. One of the books I picked up was the collection from Chaim Bezalel called "Songs from the Territories" which includes photography, poetry, and narrative prose. This is a most interesting collection!

The photography is stunning. In particular, there is a photo from a Turkish Bath in Acco that is amazing. And there are some very interesting pieces that are reproductions of tv and film media in the Middle East. The poetry has historical and personal tinges that blend seamlessly to tell us the story of one person finding his way through this maze of life. And yet the poetic narrative is larger than one person, too. One of the pieces from the section "Prison Camp #7, Negev Desert" stuck out and stuck with me for days after reading it:

How willingly we suspend our disbelief
Like Don Quixote for his blessed whore,
In his eyes virgin evermore.
But every lie must come to grief.

It may just be that my everyday work is in the grief and healing world, but that line, "...every lie must come to grief..." seems to apply to every situation I've encountered in the weeks since I first read it! And this book is full of works like this. In the "Workaday Verse" section, there are so many pieces that speak truth with a sense of humor-- any working artist will appreciate these. Specifically, my favorites are "Hack" and "The Unknown Poet" -- "Ode to Commerce" is also very poignant!

Bezalel's narrative prose in the section "Observations on the Border" is not to be missed either. I've read this section at least three times now, once outloud. My wheels were spinning so fast after reading the first time that I actually penned my own piece using a line from this as an epigram (see page 18 of the Poetry Journal this month May 2002). Bezalel has led a most interesting life and the accounts in this "Observations..." section are woven with politics, religion, and common sense in a way that is most compelling.

This collection is a must read for any working poet! You'll find idea-prompters, well-crafted poems, creative photography, and more here. Get your hands on a copy today.