How to corner a poem (and watch it thrive): A timely confession

Ariel Zinder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The medieval tradition of Hebrew liturgical poetry (called Piyyut, after the Greek Poesis) treated ritual time with reverence, allotting poems their specific slots in liturgical events. Later in history, those same poems crossed boundaries of time and custom. Instead of remaining fastened to their original timing, some of the poems changed their temporal setting several times, acquiring a new liturgical and temporal context. In this essay, I confess my love to both gestures: to the attachment of a poem to its time, and to its recurrent uprooting and recontextualization. To love poems this way means one must adhere to the most traditional philological procedure of reconstructing an original context for a poem, just so one could bear witness to the loss of these origins, and to the unique, perhaps utopian possibility that such loss reveals. One corners these poems, simply to watch them thrive elsewhere. Through personal scenes from my upbringing and through brief readings in the words of ancient sages, medieval poets, and continental philosophers, I wish to think through this passion for the time and counter-time of poetry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-300
Number of pages10
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2020


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