Page 86 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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transmission of their poetry from one poetess to another, from
one generation to the next. Women’s poetry is characterized by
short lines and repeated imagery. Unlike male poetry which is
noted for its elusive metaphorical language, women’s poetry is
intended to be understood precisely as conveyed.
While men prayed in Hebrew, women, who were barred from
schooling, sang in Arabic, the vernacular o f the land. In this re­
spect their literature was closely wed to the world o f Islam which
encircled their community.
The genre o f oral poetry as the domain o f women, reflects a
wide and deep range o f human emotion: lamentation for a
daughter about to en ter marriage and exile; a young man’s
yearning for the wild and the hunt; the pain o f a dead fa ther’s
absence; and a woman’s exultation in the sexual power bestowed
upon her by nature. The singers address each o f the significant
figures in their lives — son and daughter, mother, father, and
lover. Th rough frequent shifts o f narrative voice, often within a
single composition, we are given access not only to the varying
states o f women’s hearts but also to the emotional spectrum o f a
whole community. The singers confidently express and play with
desires, frustrations, and longings.