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Poetry from outer space

Michal Zechariah has seen the future, and it's ruled by hipsters

Last Friday I visited the future, at a poetry reading in Tel Aviv.  I rode there in my old jalopy, wiping the steam off the windows, Adam driving and my younger sister and BFF in the back seat hoping for good. It took us about 30 minutes to get to Tel Aviv from Adam’s folks’ suburban home where I was spending the weekend. We parked the car by my BFF’s apartment and were off to the launching — pardon me, ze launching!!! — of today’s most radical literary magazine.

Let me rewind. A few months before Friday I get an email from Oded Carmeli, one of our hot contemporary poets that I half-admire-but-he-mustn’t-know. He’s dug up some juvenile poems of mine that I’d sent him some years ago, evolutionary allegorical ones, for lack of a better description. He edited them and sent them back to me. The two-line email read, “Here are your poems, edited. Please approve for printing.” I wasn’t sure where he was going to print them, but I typed a shy “yes.”

Carmeli & Shualy with a copy of Hava LeHaba

At the time, Carmeli and his friend Reuel Shualy, a pilot-turned-poet, were working on a new, revolutionary magazine named Hava LeHaba, which can be loosely translated as “Let Us from Now On.” Their magazine would bridge the unreasonable gap between poetry and science, the word and the world, would harness poetry to create energy, and promote the ultimate goal: achieving longevity. Like many other poets, Carmeli wanted to be immortal. But he meant it literally.

Last Friday, walking down Rothschild Boulevard to the Hava LeHaba launching with my boyfriend, sister and friend (well, and her new boyfriend, who joined us), I felt I was making history while being in the future, or part of it. Like many a literary event in the White City, this, too, took place in the Milk bar. We descended the stairs to the basement floor, and I tried to appear nonchalant as I grabbed about five copies of the magazine from the stack by the door and whispered to my sister, “Take some for grandpa.” The interior was dark and smoky, and I had to beg Adam not to call the supervisory authorities and tell them people were smoking in a public area. The poor thing really suffers from cigarettes, but he sucked it up for his lady love. The walls were covered with photos of everything from Stalin to whatnot, and Carmeli was pacing up and down the room looking cheerful. Some really weird dudes were already congregating, including one sporting a wife-beater tank top and a cap, and others I vaguely recognized from the shiny pages of Time Out magazine. In short, hipsters.

My sister bought me a Guinness, for which I was grateful. It wasn’t my first time reading my poetry in public, and not even the first time Carmeli had asked me to, but I’d never been part of something I felt was so big, and I needed a drink. Not that it helped. My cool alter ego just refused to kick in as the event commenced, and I heard speaker after witty speaker read the Hava LeHaba manifesto, their own poems, dummy commercials in between et cetera et cetera. One poem by Yoav Ezra expressed the sentiment that Earth is just too small for humanity really well:

Hava LeHaba in printing
Hava LeHaba in printing

The solution for the occupation is the occupation of space / Onwards, onwards / Outwards / Out of the narrow borders / So long hostile citizens, / Human beasts 

In the background I could hear my BFF talking to her boyfriend. She wasn’t really into poetry at all. Finally, I was called to the stage. I think they announced me as “the walker of the ocean” or something to that effect, doubtlessly a reference to my watery-marine poems, and then I was stumbling through the crowd to the mic. Carmeli, seeing I was about to faint, put a hand on my shoulder and said, “break a leg.” And so I read. I mostly kept my eyes fixed on the paper, trying to see my own words, which I hadn’t memorized in advance, in the dim light. I think BFF has stopped talking, but even if she didn’t, the room was silent for me. Once I raised my eyes, only to see the red light of a video camera return my gaze. When I finished reading, the silence broke with a burst of clapping. I thanked everyone and got off the stage. One of the other poets shook my hand and said he liked my stuff. He asked if I was nervous. Hell yeah.

The rest of the night is pretty much a blur of dancing and shaking hands. We left pretty early and went back to his parents’, dropping lil’ sis at home. The next day I was probably back in Jerusalem. I can’t say I was brilliant last Friday, but I was there at the break of history, in the sci-fi itself, helping to make it what it can be, and it was one hell of a ride.

Adam and me at the Milk 2010
Adam and me at the Milk 2010

I don’t have any photos from the evening (yet), but here is one of Adam and me at the same place last year, on Christmas, at Carmeli’s book launching.

About the Author
Michal is a PhD student in English at the University of Chicago