What do we long for as we carry the traumas of our past and look into the future with guarded hope? In Longing: Poems of a Life, acclaimed poet Merle Feld tells her intensely personal story while naming profound human experience. Feld opens forbidden doors and long-shuttered windows, peering through the lattices of memory at moments of anguish, breaking, blessing, surviving. We accompany her through early family violence, isolation, the discovery of community and love; we witness her climb from the loss of possibility to the assertion of self-worth and purpose. Threading through the years are conversations with a mother long gone--"a slip of a girl" whose misplaced loyalty and endless capacity for loving are both cautionary tale and guidepost. Deeply Jewish yet universal, these gripping poems will stay with you.
Reviews for Longing: poems of a life
What is so compelling about Feld's writing is her ability to capture defining moments in her own life... Her willingness to engage deeply with painful experiences of abuse and loss while also celebrating beauty and intimacy... virtually ensures that readers will find many points of connection with this powerful book. -- Judith Plaskow
Feld opens her tender and strong heart, speaks from the depths of her being, and expresses in touching and heartrending poetry the sorrows and joys, trials and satisfactions that mark human life. This is a book that both disturbs and caresses the soul.
-- Rabbi David Ellenson
Merle Feld's bracing poetry deepens and challenges the Jewish canon, while finding language for the moments we might have otherwise buried or missed. This book is bravely personal, deeply stirring, unblinking. You will revisit your own truths in these poems, finding power and courage in her beautiful words.-- Abigail Pogrebin
I know I will read this book many times. It is that kind of book... Read one page and you'll see: the truths Merle Feld reveals in Longing unlock everything, and leave everyone wide open.-- Rabbi Noa Kushner
Order Longing: poems of a life
We yearn for loving family connections, we yearn for home. We navigate surprising complexities of adult friendships, we struggle to center our lives on what is nourishing and meaningful. And sometimes we are able to take strength from the stark holiness which can emerge from ordinary moments.
Order Finding Words
"Reading Feld, you burst out laughing one minute and wipe away tears the next. Mostly, we recognize ourselves -- the messy, complex, uncertain yet precious threads which make up the fabric of our lives."
–The Jewish Times
"[Merle Feld's] voice is warm and vivid… an inspiration to all of us to take seriously the imperative that the spiritual and the ethical must be intertwined."
"down-to-earth, honest, courageous and revealing"
Order A Spiritual Life: Exploring the Heart and Jewish Tradition
Returning was created in the summer of 2020, and I recommend that you present it as a Zoom reading rather than an in-person experience. Like its predecessor, The Gates are Closing, it interweaves a minyan of characters varied in life stage, circumstance, and concerns. Its characters present interludes of dramatic chanting, enacting/reacting to parts of the liturgy, while sharing their individual innermost thoughts and feelings: a recently minted graduate student, suddenly frozen in time; a girl contemplating her virtual bat mitzvah amidst family anguish; an Israeli-American looking back on his life-choices; a rabbi facing hard decisions; a surgical resident struggling for courage and stamina... Some of Returning's characters are new, others reprise as old favorites from The Gates are Closing, speaking their stories anew amidst the 2020 pandemic.
"Standing room only, and other than the voices reading, only the sound of hearts pounding. We had no lighting, only one microphone, no Equity actors. We might have had a ninety minute bomb on our hands. It was hardly a bomb, but it was explosive."
–Havurah member, South Florida
Daphna, a young Israeli lawyer, and Najah, her streetwise client accused of a terrorist bombing, share the stage with Biblical Sarah, Abraham and Hagar. The mythic women come to life, playing out ancient rivalry and bitterness, while the modern women struggle to overcome respective legacies of political hatred and mistrust.