A joint US-Israeli effort, The Deronda Review makes use of every available inch of its 8 ½ x 11 pages, covers included, presenting poems written originally in English and poems in English translated from Hebrew by more than 90 poets – as many as four or five poems per page. With this much work gathered in one slender volume, it’s reasonable to expect some unevenness in quality, which is the case here. At the same time, there are a number of lovely, serious, and memorable poems.
The journal typically favors the lyrical and spiritual, with a predilection for large themes rather than the small occasion, although the work published here does not rely exclusively on heightened language. Poems built on the language of everyday speech include work by Leonard Eskowitz (“How vulnerable our clients / in this modern government office. / Rent a P.O. Box to become suppliants / if they know little or no English.” from “Road Map”); Thilde Fox (“Every time / you annoy me / talk too loud / laugh when / I’m serious / hog the TV / then fall asleep” from “The Reckoning"); and Wm R. Ford (“I thought I saw Rose Larner / walking down the road / yet it was some other / a girl whose face showed a heavy load” from “Rose Larner").
I was most moved by poems of social commentary, of which there are many, including Shira Twersky-Cassel’s “Chernobyl Avenged,” “In Memory” by Yakov Azriel, and “Second-Generation Survivors” by Rivkah Goldberg. This issue also contains many beautiful poems about Israel, including work by Reuven ben-Yosef and Yonadav Haim Hirshfeld. This particular issue is dedicated to eight students “gunned down in the library of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva.”