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The Two Norman Finkelsteins: Poet and Provocateur

I always knew there were two Norman Finkelsteins. But I was not quite positive about which was which until last week, when this Norman Finkelstein came to Purdue University to give a talk and to read some of his poetry. Yes, … Read More

By / October 2, 2007

I always knew there were two Norman Finkelsteins.

But I was not quite positive about which was which until last week, when this Norman Finkelstein came to Purdue University to give a talk and to read some of his poetry. Yes, I said poetry. This Norman Finkelstein is a poet–and a good one, at that.

After the lecture, I was fortunate enough to join the poet Finkelstein and another professor for coffee and a lively discussion. Somehow, I also managed to score a free copy of Finkelstein's newest book of poetry, Passing Overwhich is a gem.

Below are a couple of exquisite excerpts from two of the poems.

From "inscription of the body on the text":

Something I know of bodies and something of texts, / how lines are inscribed and how they curve, / how they mingle freely and how they are forbidden, / how they articulate their wonted and unwonted fires.

And, from "Elegy":

Let the Angel of Death stay in his dressing room / forever redoing his makeup, / and let our hopes flourish falsely into flowers / for our lovers, who will laugh and throw them away.

Let the old world remake itself / into a sequence of lights. / There will be crowns in the sky and we will look up amused, / for we were told that the past / could be cleansed of all its imperfections. / Yes, we will laugh and turn the switch; / the lights will be extinguished and we will embrace in the dark, / thinking, before we give up on thinking, this is how it was meant to be.

The other Norman Finkelstein, the political theorist of the recent DePaul tenure scandal (and the subject of recent Jewcy discussions), does not write poetry. Both Finkelsteins, however, do publish books and articles on Jewish-American culture–though one is more politically-inclined, while the other relegates his critiques to the world of the literary, metaphorical, and poetic.

It is funny, though, no?

I wonder if, somewhere, there is also another Alan Dershowitz.

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