| Images fron the Rim of Time no. 13 copyright Reva Sharon. |
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The Deronda Review is the continuation of The Neovictorian/ Cochlea, which was founded in 1996 to provide a venue for a kind of poetry which is often considered "old-fashioned.” The NV/C masthead bore the following explanation of the magazine’s dual name:
"Neovictorian" is a declaration of loyalty to a culture that offered poets an honorable place on the public stage, not only as singers but as thinkers who could help to sort out the complexities of modern knowledge and life. “Cochlea" is a declaration of loyalty to a poetry addressed first of all to the inner ear (in contradistinction to a certain current emphasis on "visual imagery"). The fact that this second name derives from anatomy rather than culture is meant as a reminder that all forms are grounded in the human form, and that all literary criteria are only approximations to something that must always be listened for without presuppositions.These commitments continue in The Deronda Review. The name change was prompted by a wish to express a connection which we have always felt, and which becomes more acute with each passing year -- the connection between the kind of Western culture we would like to see, and the survival of Israel.
On one level it is a personal connection. The founding editor spent the 80’s in Israel and has visited periodically since, each time with the feeling of entering a world separated from the outside by an event horizon. But the personal connection has always been underscored by a sense of history, by a feeling that the fate of the world in which we grew up is bound up with the fate of Israel (a thought first suggested to her by the work of Paul Celan). For the West, the founding of the Jewish state represented an opportunity to atone, to reclaim some part of its honor, which was lost when the Western nations carried out, or failed to prevent, the Holocaust. That loss of honor, that self-betrayal, is, we sense, at the heart of the modern and postmodern cultural malaise. The Holocaust stemmed, we believe, from a rebellion against the ethical which was part of the modernist reaction against Victorianism, and is part of various destructive trends in Western culture today.
This is a thesis that doubtless calls for tomes of explication and argumentation. And indeed, we hope to call forth discussion of it. But above all, we hope to return to the point where a different historical development seemed possible, from which it might yet be possible.
For us that point is symbolized by the fact that the quintessential Victorian writer, George Eliot (Marian Evans), concluded her career with a novel in which the hero discovers and affirms his Jewishness and returns to his ancestral land. Eliot was nothing if not a universalist. She seems to have had no definite religious creed. But her writings exemplify the sense of responsibility, the commitment to human betterment, which informed the best of Victorian culture. That sense and that commitment are at the heart of the Jewish tradition. And so it is no coincidence that after various novels that probed the human heart and surveyed the state of human society she came at last to the threshold of Judaism, of a culture that was deeply foreign to her world and yet somehow central to it.
Daniel Deronda was an immensely influential work. It is said to have inspired not only Arthur Balfour, author of the 1917 Balfour Declaration that was a significant step toward the establishment of the Jewish state, but also Eliezer Ben Yehudah, whose dictionary is credited with reviving Hebrew as a living language. To adopt this title is to express a hope of reinvoking some of the – social as well as artistic -- creative energy that Daniel Deronda incorporated and released.
For this to occur, two things, we believe, are necessary. First, poets must recover some of the spirit of Victorian idealism, that spirit which perhaps was best expressed by George Eliot herself in her poem “O May I Join the Choir Invisible.” We must have the courage to cast off the self-protective irony of modernism, to rebuild trust, to think of the word again as something to be given and kept. And second, there is need for a deeper understanding of Judaism, precisely in the light of universal concerns. In December 2006 Susannah Heschel wrote in a Newsweek article, “Nativity of the Jews”:
The nativity saga of the Jews […] is about all of us, and the work we must take on […] From our birth in Exodus, we learn that God did not simply call us into being, but continually has expectations of us. We were brought into being as a people with a collective conscience.The Exodus narrative (“let my people go”) has been incorporated into the consciousness of many peoples. The Sinai narrative – the confrontation with the Creator (or, if one prefers, with the destiny of humankind and the planet) and the acceptance of collective responsibility – has been less readily absorbed. Yet it must be absorbed; there is simply no sustainable alternative. And part of the process of absorbing it must be, as said, a deeper understanding of, a closer acquaintance with, the culture of those who have carried the Sinai narrative through the centuries and the millennia. As one example, on the “Kippat Binah” page of this website there is an essay on Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”), a central text of rabbinic Judaism which has, we believe, many lessons for all who wish to see a constructive poetics, a poetics of community, come into being.
The Deronda Review will, as said, continue the basic character of its predecessor. We seeks for poems of beauty and integrity that express a commitment to the subject matter, and that speak not only for the monadic self but for at least a potential community. We attempt to present the poetry we receive as a conversation about the world.
We welcome poetry in traditional forms, because these forms can be a source of strength; and we hope that this will remain one of the most diverse poetry magazines in existence. All kinds and degrees of outward formality, all levels of diction; love poems, nature poems, religious poems, social satire, "light" verse, even, at times, rhymes that verge on the much-decried "greeting-card verse" (shouldn’t every poem contain a greeting?) – all are welcome, provided this particular poem has pith and coherency. Poetic dialogues are especially sought for. The coherency of the magazine is a matter not of stylistic uniformity but of meaningful juxtaposition. Each issue is a composition meant to suggest the "macropoem," the play in which each of us has a part.
Unlike The Neovictorian/Cochlea, however, The Deronda Review will be open to prose. Prose contributions must be brief (up to 500 words) and must be of a reflective nature, and germane in some way to the "thesis for discussion" which we have proposed. We are also open to printing abstracts of longer pieces and posting the complete text on the website. We look forward to your contributions and responses. We will appreciate your help in spreading the word about this publication, which is intended as a bridge – between Israel and the West, between the present and at least the vision of a hopeful future.
Esther Cameron, Editor
Mindy Aber Barad, Co-editor for Israel