Page 31 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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GREENSTEIN / THE HIDDEN MEZUZAH
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lationship. “Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they
are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by
law, custom, convention, and ceremonial.” This notion of
liminality thus provides another perspective for observing mar­
ginal or transitional activities related to the artistic process. After
passing through this intermediate stage the individual re-enters
society with a higher status and in so doing, he manages to
elevate society itself.
T u rn e r’s anthropological system pertains to Jewish writers not
only because of the liminal nature of all writing and the tra­
ditional marginality of Jewish experience in the Diaspora, but
also because many Jewish writers focus on a variety of thresholds
and view the Exodus as an historic rite of passage for Jewry.
Literally and figuratively the
mezuzah
stands as a rem inder of
historic crossing of thresholds celebrated in the Passover ritual
which re-enacts a collective rite of passage and the experience
of “communitas.” The
mezuzah,
in short, symbolizes liminality;
it is a mark of marginality for the Jewish imagination.
JEROME ROTHENBERG
T u rne r’s theories have influenced Jerome Rothenberg’s po­
etry and thought — his “ethnopoetics” or ways of entering mar­
ginal societies from American Indian to Jewish. In “Poland-
/1931 ” Rothenberg returns to his ancestral roots and imagines
a wedding where grooms and brides cross thresholds: “shall
stand like kings inside thy doorways / shall throw their arms
around thy lintels Poland.” More explicitly, “Vienna Blood”
opens with an image of women guarding the door or “the
place / between,” continues with “the carnevals of middle,” and
develops the liminal in section 4: “the liminal he writes / or
‘place between’.” After exploring uncertainty, zones, fruitful
chaos, frames, reversing roles, and open flowing, Rothenberg
concludes his poem with a brief section 5 dedicated to Victor
Turner: “communitas / (I meant to tell you) / is holy terro r.”
As soon as Viennese ritual turns to pogrom, communitas bares
its demonic side, and the liminal
mezuzah
testifies to an absence,
an empty Europe.
Rothenberg combines avant-garde verse and a return to the
past in
Khurbn
which opens with Clayton Eshleman’s epigraph,
“Since the hidden is bottomless, totality is more invisible than