6: Poem, Adi Keissar’s “Black on Black” translated by Ayelet Tsabari, 2016.
Adi Keissar is an Israeli poet of Yemeni descent who is the founder of Ars Poetica, a literary movement that seeks to increase the visibility of Mizrahi artists and writers in Israel. The name “Ars Poetica” is both a nod to Horace’s poem of the same title and a play on the Arabic word ars, meaning pimp, which is derogatory slang in Israel for Mizrahi men. Keissar’s poem “Black on Black,” originally written in Hebrew, addresses the themes of language, heritage, and family so central to “Say It Again,” a connection made closer by the fact that Ayelet Tsabari created this translation of the poem into English.
Suggested Activities: First, read the poem once out loud while the class follows along with the text. Then ask the class to close their eyes and pay attention to their own thoughts and feelings as you read the poem out loud again. Ask students to offer any images, memories, ideas, thoughts, impressions, or feelings that the poem triggered in them. Use these as a blueprint for discussing the themes of language, family, continuity, and identity central to the poem. Allow students to discuss the way that the poem arouses their own personal connections to the very specific story about a young girl and her Yemeni grandmother. Ask students to draw connections between Keissar's poem and Tsabari's story and then to write their own poem or story in response to these two works they have read.
Source: Adi Keissar, “Black on Black” ("Shachor al gabei shachor"), trans. Ayelet Tsabari, Lyrikline, https://www.lyrikline.org/en/poems/12604#