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Twilight with Halfmoon

Poetry by Peter Gimpel

Twilight With Halfmoon Rising: Selected Poems by Peter Gimpel.
Containing . . . POETRY MY ARS! A hilarious send-up of the academic poetry scene. ON THE INTERPRETATION OF BEETHOVEN: Elegy from the ruins of today's mass-media classical-music celebrity culture. THE QUESTION: What if the State of Israel had no right to exist? A fable. CANTO VII: An unsuccessful bid for the first civilian spaceride is transformed into a defiant tribute to the Challenger VII Astronauts. TESHUVA: A five-poem cycle celebrating the poet's return to Jewish observance in the chassidic tradition of his grandfather. And much more!
Trade paper.
Price (US): $7.95.




REVIEWS

(December 19, 1997)


"The title of this poet’s first collection evokes the kind of bucolic, naturalistic imagery one immediately associates with the great poets of the Romantic era, Wordsworth or Keats, perhaps. How utterly, and pleasantly, misleading it is.

"Intending no offense to the Romantics, it’s nice to discover that Gimpel, a Los Angeles chasid, has something else entirely in mind.

" This poet is a rare breed amidst today’s oh-so-serious, woe-is-me—and usually painful-to-read—community of bards. He finds and explores the fun and satire inherent in poetry, and does it skillfully, whether in free verse or with classical lyricism. Although deeply religious in his personal life, Gimpel does most of his readers the favor of keeping his spiritual convictions well separate from his poetic endeavors, although Judaism and G-d are certainly major components of his message.

"‘Poetry My Ars’ is a light-hearted, although biting, satirical canon based on modern poetry styles, in which Gimpel actually lifts lines (anonymously, of course) from a host of recognized poets, and then adds his own, less than reverent, conclusion. He exercises the sort of razor-sharp pen that Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce once wielded so well, but without their curmudgeonly bitterness.

"In ‘Believe It Or Not’, he uses the awestruck amazement of a viewer at Ripley’s famous museum to illustrate the power and the mystery of Divine Creation. It works precisely because of, not despite, its striking contrasts, a testimony to the poet’s insight and intelligence.

"All is not, however, light here. ‘The Question’ is a lyrical, strangely beautiful, ode to the fabled city of Chelm, and how its very Jewish presence offended its non-Jewish neighbors. Shades of the blood libel and the Holocaust infuse this seemingly easy-going poem with a dark and powerful portent.

"‘The Book’ is perhaps the strongest work here, describing the intensity and importance of a scholar’s quest into the depths of the Torah. It is inspired by the powerful music of Poe’s ‘The Raven,’ which Gimpel proves himself very capable of echoing—no mean feat for any poet, modern or archaic.

"In short, Twilight with Halfmoon Rising manages to evoke smiles, laughter, tears and more than a few chills—in other words, precisely what good poetry is supposed to do."

 

"A POET NAMED PETER GIMPEL"

By Herb Brin, (Across the City Desk), Heritage Southwest Jewish Press.
(January 22, 1993)

 A.M. Kline of Canada, the Chasid Peter Gimpel and I are, of course, highly disparate. Klein is long gone. May his troubled soul be eternally at peace. Gimpel sports a beautiful, silvery beard, and tzitzit hang in strands from his dashingly Chasidic attire. Herb Brin cannot recite the Rabbonah Kaddish without stumbling sadly.

But in a way, Klein, Peter Gimpel and Herb Brin are very much alike. Yiddishkeit is the essence of our poetry. In English, of course.

I had known Klein as a towering poet, the gift of Montreal to Jewish letters. His novel, The Second Scroll, has served as addendum to my reverence for the literature which Jews had given to the world.

Klein’s search for his Uncle Melech comes through as a remarkable testament of faith. Forget the Allen Ginsburgs and the beatnik poets who sold green suits to denizens of hallowed halls to convince academia that chemical jollies have a place in poetics. As they don’t and never did.

Who among the wayward poets of the nation can conceive a line such as Klein's observation on visiting a German murder camp:

 I see them all about me, the men who cheated the chimney, those who by some divine antitioxin were preserved from the 32 fictitious diseases—through the kindergarten of the orphans . . . I observe how it is that so many of them wear little lockets that break open, like cloven hearts, to reveal the picture of father or morther or brother lost, old-fashiioned, poorly taken snapshots of the formal stance or the gay moment—they are everywhere—and I conceive the multitudinous portrait-gallery of our people: it hangs pendant from the throats of little children . . .

* * *

Peter Gimpel, in rediscovering his Jewishness, is like the rest of us, wandering the pathways of Uncle Melech, seeking our roots. Passionately seeking our roots.

Gimpel writes in every form ranging from Italian couplets to sonnets and free verse. Satire concerns him as it must concern all essential poetry. Clarity and precision of thought concern him. Precise, precise clarity concerns him.

The Jewish experience is the thread, often golden, often mournful in memory, that holds it all together.

He sent me his first book of poems, Twilight with Halfmoon Rising (Red Heifer Press) and I exploded.

A major Jewish poet in our midst.

But major. No nonsense. No inductive chemicals. No flippant, anemic academia poetry lecturers for whom obscurantism is the essence of poetics.

I invited Gimpel to join with violinist Sam Fordis and me in a reading at Barnsdall Park, a few weeks back. He came on stage under a spotlight that accented his Chasidic garb and the audience was hushed.

Herb Brin, Sam Fordis and Peter Gimpel sat through an hour of the usual f-word poetry as though bodily functions are what poetics is all about. The legacy of Ginsburg and the oomsters.

Fordis offered the thin lines of a Hebrew melody and the soft tonalities of the fiddle were entrancing.

***

Listen. Listen to the Chasid poet:

Some think that poetry is drunken prose,

and that the poet is ready to compose

When images begin to rear and prance

like a herd of hemorrhoidal elephants.

In fact, the first thing about the mystique

of being a poet of the collegiate clique

is: reach for a metaphor as for as gun

Only, don’t shoot to kill, but just to stun;

and while the reader’s stunned, you stick to him!

***

Who is Peter Gimpel? You’ll find him at Lubavitcher minyanim, davening with passion, awaiting his twilight with the halfmoon rising. This is a scholar of exceptional mintage. He’s 47 years old, the son of Jakob Gimpel, the world famous concert pianist who [was] presented in concerts throughout Europe and America, [once] the protégé of Bronislaw Huberman—founder of the Israel Philharmonic (once known as the Palestine Symphony).

Peter’s uncle, Bronislaw Gimpel, his father’s younger brother, was once concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and later won international acclaim as a soloist.

Sam Fordis studied with Bronislaw.

Peter Gimpel studied the classics while living for 12 years in Perugia, somewhere between Rome and Florence. Obtained a doctorate in classical letters from the University of Perugia and returned to California in 1976, where he worked as a research assistant at UC Irvine.

He started writing his poetry in Italy, in English, and in time became a Baal Tshuva, a Lubavitcher Chasid.

You’ve never come upon a Chasidic poet writing things such as: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / than dreamt of in your poem on fellatio . . ."

But there are intrinsically woven passions here for his people and one knows he has come upon a rare vision . . .

Are we taking back the muse from the hippy-notists of Ginsburg?

But then, poetics has been an ancient Jewish art from. As much ours as theirs.

 

Twilight With Halfmoon Rising: Selected Poems by Peter Gimpel.
Containing . . . POETRY MY ARS! A hilarious send-up of the academic poetry scene. ON THE INTERPRETATION OF BEETHOVEN: Elegy from the ruins of today's mass-media classical-music celebrity culture. THE QUESTION: What if the State of Israel had no right to exist? A fable. CANTO VII: An unsuccessful bid for the first civilian spaceride is transformed into a defiant tribute to the Challenger VII Astronauts. TESHUVA: A five-poem cycle celebrating the poet's return to Jewish observance in the chassidic tradition of his grandfather. And much more!
Trade paper.
Price (US): $7.95.


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