Another Word For Sky

by Lewis Whittington

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday April 19, 2008

Another Word For Sky

Jay Michaelson's poetry in Another Word for Sky his newly published volume of verse, draws you immediately into the poet's private world. His lyricism pulses, and his dramatic realism is quietly volcanic.

One can find oneself reading 'sky' aloud just to hear its cadences, like Tantric seeds sounds on frequencies one has to be alert enough to tune in. This verse enters your body. Consider this passage:

The proposition I would present to you is this:

There is space for a wide-open skylight,

for the cross-beams of light to pattern the architecture of disappointment,

He invites you into his imperfect realm of beauty, eroticism, spirituality, curiosity and human struggle and failing.

Michaelson sustains an intimate tonality that frames even obtuse sketches of people and place, but always with economy and concrete imagery. Catching an autumn tree line in a car listening to classical music so bold, it "Makes me forget poverty and loneliness."

He is unflinchingly brutal in a blistering commentary the prevalence of anti-Semitism "An American in Jerusalem" and reveals the might of his poetic power in a piece like 'the knowing' with lines like

"the thinnest meridian of an instant/This most transparent love."

In fact one doesn't even have to know that Michaelson's previous volume of poetry "God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness and Embodied Spiritual Practice." to understand that he is a deeply spiritual man and a voluptuary. Some of his relationship poetry is whisperingly erotic without any mechanical literary devises, or predictable explicitness.

Michaelson has more trouble communicating on the page what obviously works when he performs his poetry. Puff Daddy in Fiddler on the Roof" for instance will get laughs for its explosive social ironies, but it reads like an overreaching abstraction. And social diatribes like "Stop the school violence" stick out like literally like an oped article in a book of verse.

In contrast his brilliant social comedy"'Twelve Tribes of Israel: a true story" investigates the rituals of gay male Jewish dating with the ending salvo-

Let the boys come home/To each other

I call you now, my brothers-

We are not all/Accountants.

Michaelson, national community organizer for Jewish GLBT people and editor of "Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture" promotes inclusiveness and understanding. Michaelson is a compelling polemicist with such titles as "Keep Your Godwrestling, Thanks: The Uses and Limits of Theology."

With such evocations Michaelson's 'another word for sky' reveals a vivid poet blessed with a prismatic voice.

Another Word For Sky: Poems
Jay Michaelson
Lethe Press, $14.95, paper

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.