115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Emma Lazarus to Me: Poems that Re-tell the Immigrant Experience 

Renee Ruderman, Metropolitan State University of Denver

I will read and discuss Emma Lazarus’s famous sonnet “The New Colossus,” a poem that re-casts the classical Greek Colossus as the “Mother of Exiles,” a welcoming “woman with a torch.” Subsequently, I will share a few of my poems that re-ify my family’s immigrant Jewish experience as they fled encroaching fascism and entered the United States. 

Proposal: 

Emma Lazarus to Me: Poems that Re-tell the Immigrant Experience

Bio:

Renée Ruderman, an associate professor of English at Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado, has two published books, Poems from the Rooms Below (Permanence Press, San Diego, CA, 1995) and Certain Losses, a chapbook (Main Street Rag, Charlotte, NC, 2004). She has won prizes for her poems, and some of them have appeared in The Bellingham Review, I-70 Review, Borderlands, and the Raleigh Review. Renée taught at Universität Siegen, Germany during a sabbatical in 2009, and she recently (2013) taught a poetry workshop at Palacky University in the Czech Republic. This summer, 2017, Renée will be teaching a course on Jewish American Poetry at the University of Mainz, Germany.

Proposal:

I will read and discuss Emma Lazarus’s famous sonnet “The New Colossus,” a poem that re-casts the classical Greek Colossus as the “Mother of Exiles,” a welcoming “woman with a torch.” Subsequently, I will share a few of my poems that re-ify my family’s immigrant Jewish experience as they fled encroaching fascism and entered the United States.

Below is a sample poem of mine:

 

Blackbirds

(based on a drawing by Kurt Böttcher)

 

Two blackbirds caw, their beaks open to hasten the sky-bound flocks toward what’s left in the wind-bitten tree. They stretch their necks to place their sound just below the cumulous cloud -- under which specks of wings accumulate like dark gliders. Another bird on a lower branch spies the ground, the grass still green, flower husks holding the promise of seeds. The birds prepare to fly south, over the Alps from this park near the Bahnhof in Fürth, where no one walks the curving path into the woods. It’s 1920. The Pegnitz streams under the delicate branches, and the Great War is over, the next brewing in the valley beyond the forest. The blackbirds understand about leaving. They do it every year at the first gust of impossible wind.

 

 

Bahnhof means train station in German; Fürth is a town next to Nurnberg, Germany; the Pegnitz is a river.

 

Published in Urge, Poems by Finalists in the 2016 Alexander and Dora Raynes Poetry Competition, judged by Alicia Ostriker.