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‘Urge and the urgency remain the same’

‘Urge and the urgency remain the same’

Alicia Ostriker
Alicia Ostriker

CELEBRATED POET and critic Alicia Suskin Ostriker will present “Midrash Poetry: Spinning the Sacred Texts” on Sunday, May 22, at the Jewish Museum of New Jersey in Newark.

A Princeton resident and professor emerita of English at Rutgers University, Ostriker teaches in the master of fine arts program at Drew University in Madison. 

In a 2012 interview with NJJN, she said her 14th collection, The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems, 1979-2011, includes “family poems, poems dealing with the Holocaust, with Israel, with spiritual quest, with what it means to be a woman within Judaism, and how our understanding may change as we move into the future.”

“Whether I am exploring personal life, or politics, or what we can possibly mean by God, the urge and the urgency remain the same.”

Her 1994 book, The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions — her first specifically about being a Jewish woman — is, she said, “a combination of prose and poetry, midrash and autobiography, from my 20th-century Jewish woman’s perspective.”

“I have always written as a Jew because I am a Jew, but I only started putting my Jewish identity and my wrestling with tradition front and center in the mid-’80s,” said Ostriker. “I started writing midrash before I even knew the word. It was rather frightening at first, and then I discovered that others were doing it, and had been doing it, forever.”

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