Judge’s Comments: poetry

Summer Hunger, by Judith Pacht
shortlisted: So Late, So Soon, by Carol Moldaw

JUDGE: Rachel Tudor

Judith Pacht’s Summer Hunger is a not unfamiliar exposition of Jewish identity in a world which seems simultaneously familiar and estranged.

The poem that best exemplifies this theme is “Sister Wendy at the Kimbell.” Pacht begins her poem by literally standing in the spot where Sister Wendy stood only a week before, and then she recites Sister Wendy’s keen and visceral commentary on the various works of art housed at the museum. As the poem proceeds, we witness Pacht struggle to merge with and separate from a personality that symbolizes–with her nun’s habit–a thousand years of Christian persecution and domination. However, the nun’s habit also contains one of the most sensitive, perceptive, and recognizably human intelligences walking among us.

“I, a non-observant Jew, read/the observant’s mood, see Wendy as my kin/we both translate myth to burning flesh/shiver in another’s cold, shrink time”

The poignant question raised, but never answered by this collection is found in “Two Double Agents.”

“Lying alone on the rented matress/she wondered, Who am I? not What do I want to be?/ Featureless as an unformed fetus”

Every new identity discovered requires a displacement of another. In “Jenine, Palestine, April 2002” Pacht writes, “Some happen/ to hear those buried alive. It happens/ Rumors? Well, they may be true. In camp/either way people do/ know who’s gone. They don’t listen to officials checking the house/ (or whatever’s left of it here)/who asks, What happened? They don’t/ answer in the camp, but the houses/ only concrete shells, speak here.”

The preeminent question the author asks the reader:

“What would you do/ if threatened? Would you/ point to the Jew in the cupboard?/ A man, a woman small as a dish/ In a closet a person/ can stand tall, hiding./ In a cupboard/ an object rests. A small Jew/ in uncertain weather.”

is the question she is searching for herself.


10 Responses to Judge’s Comments: poetry

  1. Catnie Sandstrom says:

    Congratulations both to Pacht, Tebot Bach and to PEN Texas. Pacht’s work is always carefully crafted, finely honed, and unafraid to address the big questions.

  2. Lorine Parks says:

    Congratulation! Judith’s fine work is getting the attention it deserves.
    Lorine Parks

  3. Mary Fitzpatrick says:

    What a fine choice: Pacht’s elegant, spare, meticulous voice.

  4. Carine Topal says:

    I am so touched by Judith Pacht’s sensibility. She speaks to me
    in her poem, “Jenine….” I am in awe.
    Carine Topal

  5. Lorraine Lubner says:

    To read Judy’s poetry is to enter a world both known and not, new and old as the eidetic images it summons. Thank you and congratulations!
    Lorraine Lubner

  6. Jackson Wheeler says:

    A triumph for Judith and for Tebot Bach. Judith’s exquisite work married to the keen eye for quality possessed by Mifanwy Kaiser of Tebot Bach Press has produced a love child recognized and praised by Ms. Tudor.

  7. Dinah says:

    Marvelous and well-deserved recognition for a poet who goes beyond stylishness to wrestle with authentic meaning. Kudos to both Judith and Tebot Bach.

  8. Judith Pacht says:

    My sincere thanks to you all, those I know and those I don’t know, who have taken time to read my work and write comments. Judith

  9. Lucille Patton (nee Pacht) says:

    Judy, I’m so happy for the recognition of your deeply felt and precise use of our wonderful English language Congratulations. I look forward to reading more.
    Thank you, Lucille

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