Helen Bar-Lev & Johnmichael Simon: Poems and Paintings about the Land of Israel

Israeli poets Helen Bar-Lev and Johnmichael Simon’s new book of poetry, Cyclamens and Swords, is now available from Ibbetson Press. This collection is beautifully illustrated with Helen’s watercolor paintings of Jerusalem and the Israeli countryside. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the culture and landscape of the Holy Land, as well as poetry fans generally.

You can purchase your copy by emailing hbarlev@netvision.net.il or j_simon@netvision.net.il . Prices are 65 NIS (including postage to Israel), US$18 (including postage to US or Canada), 14 euro (including postage to Europe or Australia), or 10 pounds sterling (including postage to the UK). Payment accepted by cash, check or PayPal.

See what the critics are saying about this book:

The achingly beautiful cover of timeless trees, earth, flowers and rock, is redolent of Israel’s destiny. This little land, so hallowed in human history, seems the literary and spiritual core of existence to most of humanity. If strife is ever present here, how can there ever be the peace of ancient promise? This land seems to symbolize the eternal quest for harmony where forces of turmoil march ceaselessly. Bar-Lev and Simon explore this theme for us. Cyclamens and Swords will become a treasured classic, echoing as it does so fluently, the longing, fearing and questing that marks these troubled times. Helen Bar-Lev’s poem Beauty sums up the reader’s feelings as we reluctantly finish this special book: “and I,/the ingrate,/ever insatiable,/implore you,/please,/ show/ me/more.”

–Katherine L. Gordon
Author, Editor, Publisher, Judge and Reviewer, Resident Columnist for Ancient Heart Magazine

Bar-Lev and Simon open the reader’s eyes and hearts to Israel as a land of dazzling, sometimes tragic juxtapositions. The timeless tranquility of Bar-Lev’s unpopulated landscape paintings gains poignancy alongside poems that show an equally ancient violence alwayslooming on the border. This elegantly designed book shines with love and gratitude for the small miracles of natural beauty and human kindness that flourish even in a war zone.

–Jendi Reiter, editor of www.winningWriters.com and author of A Talent for Sadness

There is a point where art transcends our daily lives and past experiences to touch deep the old stories from where all of humanity arose. In this volume Helen Bar-Lev and Johnmichael Simon have drunk deep from the wellhead of this locus to combine poetry and visual art into a Jungian statement that illustrates how, when portrayed at its artistic essence, the story of one place becomes a story of us all.

–Roger Humes, Director of The Other Voices International Project, Author of There Sings No Bird

Helen Bar-Lev and Johnmichael Simon bring the beauty of Israel to life in Helen’s lush watercolors and evocative monochrome paintings and in the sensitive poems they both write. Their verbal and visual depictions of the breathtaking scenery, flowers, birds, fish, deer and ants, testify to Israel’s magnificent natural environment. But like an undertow in a dazzling ocean, the ongoing undercurrent of conflict tries to steal the serenity of the scenery. Their book is simultaneously exhilarating and jarring. They reveal the beauty and the pain which live side by side in the compelling, complex reality that is Israel. One shares their hope that serenity will triumph.

–Rabbi Wayne Franklin, Providence, R.I. 


A selection from Cyclamens and Swords:

Waters of Gaza
by Johnmichael Simon

They moved out of Gaza
not without protest, not without prayer
feeling like ivy ripped off the walls
like irrigation pipes torn from the soil
they moved out on unwilling legs
on buses to nowhere
fathers, mothers, children
and children without fathers
without mothers

They moved into Gaza
not without covet, not without envy
feeling like water released from a dam
bursting into surrendering fields
carrying all before it, trees, houses
places of prayer, fences, gardens
waves breaking over alien temples
again and again till water covered all

After the water came briny hatred
lusting for a redder liquid
and the skies darkened again
lightning and thunder returned to Gaza
rained on this thin strip of unhappiness
writhing between the wrath of history
and the dark depths of the sea


Cyclamens and Swords
by Helen Bar-Lev

Life should be sunflowers and poetry
symphonies and four o’clock tea
instead it’s entangled
like necklaces in a drawer
when you reach in for cyclamens
you pull out swords

This is a country
which devours its inhabitants,
spits them out hollow like the shells of
defies them to survive
despite the peacelessness,
promises them cyclamens
but rewards them with swords

It is here we live with
symphonies and sunflowers,
poetry and four o’clock tea,
enmeshed in an absurd passion for this land
entangled as we are in its history,
like butterflies in a net
or sheep in a barbed wire fence

Where it is forbidden
to pick cyclamens
but necessary
to brandish swords

4 comments on “Helen Bar-Lev & Johnmichael Simon: Poems and Paintings about the Land of Israel

  1. crazyverse says:

    What dress to wear? Red or black?

  2. musicref says:

    What dress to wear? Red or black?

  3. zhenimsja says:

    Hi, man! I am completely acclaim that way of assessment and all of connected.

  4. Starr says:

    Walking in the persnece of giants here. Cool thinking all around!

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