"Caremla Ben Yishay's poetry…contains an inner outburst of power on the verge of the mystical… touching Middle Eastern existence. A unique genre…blurring the thin border between words and music".
Time of the Vineyard – Time of the Oversoul (extra soul)
Carmela Ben Yishay, Time of the Vineyard, published by Bimat Kedem, Arugot
Hashira (the Garden Bed poetry), 2002
When numerous anthologies of poetry pile up in the bookstores, our soul yearns for a unique voice, a voice seeking harmony and rhythm, the kind of poesy that knocks on locked gates. Carmela Ben Yishay writes an apparent minor kind of poetry, a whispered poetry, but between the lines one can hear a heart-breaking voice:
"You will come to me, to my quiet/ I will fill it up for you with longing/ from the distance/ and I will bring/ I will bring sights to you/ sights and words and sounds/ to your heavy beauty from the breeze of the mountains"
Carmela Ben Yishay writes a lovers' dialogue, softly spoken, like a prayer. The repetitions create a rhythm of whispers, an enchanted atmosphere. The lover and the beloved are placed in a natural surrounding, in open spaces. Something prophetic, primeval prevails upon the poems:
"My dearest/ time of the seasons leaves marks on us/ brings dreams brings/ raisins and almonds to the gust of lights/ rips off our hungry body /its troubled frill sleep/ "her heavy beauty", he says/ "my dearest"/ how/ how tiny we are/ our seasons go by in sequence/ but who/ who will come to guard our little bright stars/ and who/ will carry the burden of longing/ lest we no longer know the breeze slipping away in our arm pits/ the meat of the earth in the honey /flowing before its time".
Short breaths; And the whispers evoke ceremonies, rituals of the cycle of seasons. It is a kind of Hassidic conception that God is present everywhere in nature, so we feel that the world of lovers conquers nature from earth to stars. Everything belongs to the lovers. The little stars are their children, love will protect them. "Our seasons pass by in the cracks", and in Carmela's poetry the word "season" has both a cyclical meaning and an erotic meaning (in Hebrew the word for "season" also means intercourse, in the biblical meaning). The end leads to the relief of the act of love when there is unification and merging with the earth: "The meat of the earth in the honey/ flowing before its time". The honey of love, the ejaculation of love: the unification of nature and love.
The ritual and the sacrifice are part of this primeval world, and sometimes it appears to be feminine poetry in which the woman gives away her love as an offering to the lover, to God:
"A person comes /comes transformed/ where is the center of the earth/ in green affluent crevices".
And then there is the relief and the merging with nature in its pure ritual form: "There was the offering/ there was the fire/ and there was the vine /in the trees in the immersing".
The heavy beauty of the woman turns her into a tree, into a ripe fruit, and the lover who comes to her is also part of the spiritual, vivid cycle, he comes in a different shape, transformed. "The center of the earth" and "The green affluent crevices" both describe the land as well as the beloved woman. Everything turns into one. The prayer verses taken from the Jewish ritual are used by the lovers to express their love, they are their vowing spells:
"When the letters are in the mezuzahs on the door frames/ and our necks shiver at the drops of the temple/ from the breath of smells, of first fruits/ and wheat and wine and oil/ opened his hand and satiated on oil and purified for a prayer/and the sages who hurried to pass the phrase/ 'By whose word all things came to be' and our body folded one inside one/ from the day of the temple on the mountain".
These short lines hold in a nutshell the Mount Sinai scene, the sacred ceremony at the foot of the mountain, as well as the prayer of the individual, the prayer of unification, that merging into "one".
Carmela Ben Yishay is known for her dance performance that combines lyrics and music. Sometimes, while reading, one feels as if one is in the middle of an electrifying performance of words, in which the music of the dance and the movement of the beloved are hidden in the background, playing between the lines.
Words cannot describe well enough the rhythm and the lyrics. I will conclude by drawing the attention to the "Neve Tzedek" cycle of poems, which opens a gate to Carmela Ben Yisahy's world of childhood, to her roots, to her unique dreams of her home and her ancestors. Especially beautiful is the poem about grandma Simcha:
"And she would put on me the signs of people and things/ and of doings/ and of omens of her dreams/ and I would feel great fear".
A number of Carmela's poems are trapped in the magic of the orient:
"The veils of women on the shores of ancient land/ the taste of hot steamy coffee/ "I am coming to you", he said,/ "to turn you into the woman of legends".
He who wishes to set out on a trip, the sort of trip that will carry him into a world of inner music and mysterious charm, should set out with "The Time of the Vineyard". He is sure to discover the finest grapes.
"The show uniquely combines original poetic texts, which are presented in a harmonious flow of music, acting and movement. The original setting, rich in symbols, maintains a fine measure of stage performance and good taste.
Original texts…a harmonious flow of music, acting and movement, aesthetic textual and stage energy".
Orzion Yishai , writer