Sasson caught up with Esther Cameron, Editor-in-Chief of the poetry journal The Deronda Review and regular contributor to Sassonmag.com, to find out more about the latest edition.
(In case you are wondering about the formatting of this piece, Esther responded in verse!)
Sasson: Esther, the last issue was pulled together
Around the theme of “Flight”. What is this year’s theme,
And how did you come to choose it?
EC: After “Flight,”
We thought we ought to pick a destination,
And our muse supplied, “Utopia.” We did have
A feeling it might seem — how shall I put it –
A little out of tune with present trends.
But we were counting on what Yeats once termed
“The fascination of what is difficult.”
Or as one of us phrased it, some years back:
“Utopia! Thou star of human making
Which we from time to time have tried to thrust
Beyond the gravity of earth, in hopes
Of setting up in the ambiguous heavens
An ever-fixed mark to guide our journeys
Upon this erring sphere! Again, again
You’ve fallen back to earth and cracked in pieces,
Showing the rubble of which you were made,
And sometimes there were people underneath.
And yet we have no choice but to thrust out
Such worlds, and hope that one at last will fly,
Lest we grow savage in the dreamless dark.”
Sasson: What sort of pieces were you looking for?
EC: First, what we didn’t want — we sifted out
Expositions of what we knew already:
That it’s dystopian forecasts that appear
More plausible these days; that previous
Utopias have worse than failed; and that
We wouldn’t want to live in a perfect world—
Perhaps there’s really something in each of us
That feels that way. We’re primed to cope with crisis;
What would become of us, if all were solved?
And so we make, or try to make, our peace
with the state of nature, though it is not clear
that it wants peace with us.
Sasson: Speaking of which–
EC: Yes, we’re aware of being situated
In a Utopian experiment of sorts,
namely the state of Israel. Not yet,
admittedly, the perfect state, but still
a start. Whether you think we hold this land
on lease from the Almighty, or regard
the world’s permission for our state to rise
as compensation for the crimes against us,
this is a country founded on a premise
of justice, rather than mere right of might.
If there’s a chance for this, there is a chance
for all of us. If humankind can want it–
that is the question. Behind all arguments,
accusations, craven calculations,
that is the question. Can the natural world
endure the irruption of a higher law
on and around this marginal spot of earth
and bid it welcome, or must it turn away
toward the outcomes which the natural laws decree?
–Have I got off the subject?
Sasson: You’ve got on
The Subject, these days. But what’s in this issue?
EC: Not much Utopian planning (just a little),
But intimations of Utopian being,
Recollections of times and places where
Utopia seemed briefly realized,
Anticipations, illuminations, movement
In a direction not yet quite descried,
A kind of predawn light, more felt than seen,
Shone for us from these works as we arranged them.
Thanks to all those who answered to our call
and to the Raanans, for Yoram’s paintings
that shine upon our covers with the full
light of new inspiration since the fire.
Sasson: What about next year’s theme?
EC: Our muse prompts: “Building.”
Sasson: How can readers gain access to this issue?
EC: It’s posted on our website in two formats:
.html, easily viewed on smartphone,
And .pdf, which, when printed out in duplex,
Gives a facsimile of the print edition
Readable on Shabbat.
Sasson: Are there hard copies?
Esther Cameron: Yes, and we hope that some will order them
To give or treasure. Print copies may be purchased
for 28 NIS in Israel,
$7 plus postage in US. Please write
To derondareview at g mail.
I would also
like to take this opportunity
to invite Sasson readers in Israel
to a poetry reading “In the Spirit of Purim”
on Sunday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m.
at the OU Center in Jerusalem.
I will be reading with Mindy Aber Barad.
Co-editor, and fellow- poet, also
Judy Belsky, Wendy Dickstein, Ruth Fogelman,
And Dvorah Belenky of the Shevet Achim ensemble
Will join us with Hasidic melodies
Played on the flute. We would be thrilled to see you!