Sound and sight: Karen Shenfeld


In the hands of a master poet, words become malleable, syntax malleable and images juxtaposed, concentrating the mind like a pool of still forest into which a single pebble falls, the ripples resplendent with silence and understanding.

Karen Shenfeld has written poetry and prose her entire adult life. With four published books of poetry, countless magazine articles and reviews, and three documentary films, Shenfeld has immersed herself in an art form few dare to explore. His poetry is compelling and provocative, seductive and deeply moving. She dives deep into the relationships of family, loved ones and the amazing impressions she gathers from her extensive travels around the world.

Growing up in an upper neighborhood of Bathurst in Toronto, Shenfeld marveled at the diversity of cultures and variety of people she mingled with, a characteristic trait of many who later in life become itinerant travellers.

From her first memories, she fell in love with language and writing. “I think I write about my childhood because it ties into my Jewish identity and I guess the first poetry I read was really in Hebrew school when we were reading the Old Testament. And I still find the language and cadence of the Old Testament to be of great beauty and power, and of great mystical resonance and transcendence.

Seduced by the mystery of poetry and its power to communicate refined impressions directly, in an astonishing way, to a reader’s inner sanctum, Shenfeld followed her passion to York University and studied with the famous Canadian poet Irving Layton. Layton was an “exciting teacher” who espoused the philosophy that poets are prophets, heralded in ancient cultures as destined to be divine conduits and spokespersons, pointing to unseen truth or perhaps unheard sound. .

A poet must find the skill to use language – ordinary words – to speak directly to the heart, somehow circumventing so-called rational thinking. It’s almost as if the poet twists the words into another dialect, the one that the Irish singer Van Morrison called “the inarticulate speech of the heart”.

“As a poet I tend to be like Wordsworth, I tend not to write about things in the moment, but rather about things remembered in stillness, which can be transformed, in some way , by my imagination. I like things to seep into and maybe hopefully write about things in a more transcendent way,” Shenfeld says.

William Wordsworth (April 7, 1770 – April 23, 1850) was an English Romantic poet who, along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped launch the Romantic era in poetry.

Shenfeld published his first book of poetry, The law of return, in 1999 at Guernica editions, which resulted in the publication of two other books, The Fertile Crescent in 2005 and My father’s hands spoke in Yiddish in 2010. She received the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Poetry in 2001 for The law of return. His poems have been noticed in countries around the world and many are included in well-known journals and anthologies.

Ekstasis Editions has released its latest book To measure the world in March 2020. Based in Victoria, British Columbia, Ekstasis is highly regarded for his poetry publications. Changing publishers represents a major transition for Shenfeld as an author. In her multifaceted themes, she struggles with the weight of the past and the frailties of human love.

For most of her life, Shenfeld was a tireless explorer, making incredible journeys through the Sahara Desert, the Congo River and India. Much of his poetry is inspired by these travels.

On the Isle of Wight by Karen Shenfeld

A kind of dyslexia
or ODD, maybe:
You read the map,
connect the GPS Then,
without fail, lead
left instead of right.
Right instead of left.
Or go around

the only roundabout
like we had all day.
“But we do”, you say.
“It doesn’t matter,” you say.

“The Needles at Bembridge
is close from A to B.
On the IOWater,
we can’t walk away.

“Don’t be angry, my love;
Clearly, there is no wrong way.
If we miss the road,
we will take the small path.

From To measure the world, © Karen Shenfeld, 2021

Listen to Karen read this poem:

“I have had a long-standing connection with Muskoka because, like many nice Jewish girls in Toronto, we are sent to summer camp as children. I actually went to summer camp for the whole summer, from age 12 to 19. So those were very formative years and I loved camp and I definitely have an attachment to the landscape, the lakes, the forests, the trees – the iconic things about Muskoka. And I remember very well that even from the time I was twelve, when the summer ended, and after eight/nine weeks I had to go home, I was just bawling my eyes out, all the time. way back on the camp bus,” Shenfeld says of his long love affair with Huntsville and the surrounding area.

Seven years ago, Shenfeld and his partner Jim McCuaig, an accomplished guitarist and songwriter as well as a related traveler himself, settled in Magnetawan where, as Shenfeld could tell, the stars are always as bright as ever. one could imagine.

Poetry is an art that strips a moment to its essence, takes the pure impulse of time and space, heartbeat and breath, and adds insight. Karen Shenfeld is a lifelong craftswoman and recognized master. Find her books and spend time with the phrases she works so hard on to convey your inner eye, the beauty that surrounds us in everything we see, touch and feel.

Listen to Karen Shenfeld read “Hamman” from The Fertile Crescent::

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