Religion & Beliefs

If You Haven’t Read Jabes

Before I go, I want to point you to a Jewish poet I love, Edmond Jabes. To begin with, you should crack open a copy of his Book of Questions… Although I've never studied Jabes in any formal way, and … Read More

By / May 17, 2007

Before I go, I want to point you to a Jewish poet I love, Edmond Jabes. To begin with, you should crack open a copy of his Book of Questions…

Although I've never studied Jabes in any formal way, and it makes me nervous to stumble into the language of Postmodernism…

Derrida called the question ‘our freedom’ from God, which is what allows us to speak and to write, making Jabes’s intractable Book of Questions ‘a book on the book.’

And a lot of people read Jabes' with a lens of Postmodernism.  But Jabes was also very much a Jew and a theologian, and I find the bridge he builds between God (with a special interest in Kabbalah) and Postmodern Poetics to be really really useful.  He knew:

"The name of God is the juxtaposition of all the words in the language, Each word is but a detached fragment of that name"

But he knew this as both a Jew and a poet.

This Kabbalistic idea means that breaking open words and recombining their letters is neither just fun nor impious. It is not even just the Kabbalistic tradition of "traveling inside the word." (12) For Edmond Jabes, this method "permits a rediscovery, a rereading of the word. One opens a word as one opens a book: it is the same gesture" (DB 95). More, it is creation in the sense of enacting the possible. The motor of this process becomes, as Joseph Guglielmi has realized, the single letter. It at the same time interprets and creates

And as both a  poet and a Jew I find his work to be inspiring and complicated.  Which is a good thing. I like the marriage of inspiration and complication.  I'm a beleiver in the question.

Some words:

What if the book were only infinite memory of

 

a word lacking?

 

    Thus absence speaks to absence.

 
 

    "My past pleads for me," he said. "But my fu-

 

ture remains evasive about the assortment in its

 

basket."

 
 

    Imagine a day without a day behind it, a night

 

without a previous night.

 

    Imagine Nothing and something in the middle

 

of Nothing.

 

    What if you were told this tiny something was

 

you?