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Koshering

This year's winner of the Charlotte Newberger Poetry Prize

I am thinking of buying
yellow plates. Is milk yellow?
Yellow and blue, and a small, square jug.
I keep finding myself
puzzled as a hooked fish in the aisles
of department stores, wondering
about the colour of milk.

And numbers. I ask
strangers behind counters at what age
a woman acquires a dinner service.
Of themselves, plates
are no more irrevocable than breadknives,
but in quantities…
It is a good yellow this, a decisive yellow

And a meditative blue.
They are growing on me.
And it isn’t the money – money
replaces itself and is forgotten.
It is the ownership –
Even from under brown paper in the bottom corner
of my cupboard they will be bright

And clean as idealism,
grown up as a wedding ring and articulate
as confession. From now on
my kitchen will own up to milk plates.
Yellow and blue, with a rim
like a tide mark.
Six of them.

Since writing this poem, Sonya seems to have acquired numerous sets of dishes, a husband, two children (and another one in progress). She has also published poems in various magazines and writes autobiographical non-fiction (under a pseudonym in the interest of self-protection) for the Jewish Quarterly in Britain.


Poet Alicia Ostriker was the judge for the 2007 Charlotte Newberger Poetry Prize at Lilith.  She is the author of 11 books of poetry, her work has been translated in seven languages, and she has been nominated twice for the National Book Award.  Appreciating this year’s entries, she says:

“There are so many ways to be Jewish, so many diverse ways a Jewish woman experiences her Judaism, so many ways of bringing those experiences into poetry, into language that will reach the souls of readers.  There were many poems about family, about ancestors living and dead, here and ‘over there’.  There were Holocaust poems and holiday poems.  There were midrashic poems that explored the meaning of biblical characters and stories for us and our time now.  Poems of memory, poems of the moment, poems of the quest for holiness, poems yearning for reconciliation with those who might be our enemies.  Poems of mourning and joy and everything in between.  Beauty of language, beauty of soul.”

The poetry prize is named for Charlotte A. Newberger, whose support for Lilith makes possible the publication of new poems in every issue, reviews of books by established and emerging poets, and this annual poetry competition.  Newberger has had a longstanding interest in poetry and the arts, and has served for many years on the boards of such institutions as Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater and The Poetry Center, as well as serving as president of the Foundation for the Jewish Culture.