It doesn't seem right to write about anything but the war while people are still dying, but since a Palestinian friend of mine just posted something about wanting to take piano lessons, I take the cue from him and declare a humanitarian ceasefire.
It's hardly a ceasefire, because a new war is on its way. The Annual "Desert Poetry Days" festival is coming this weekend, promising drama. This festival, taking place in secluded Sde Boker, on the rim of a lovely canyon, is always a battleground. The poets start off by fighting about poetry. The various generations and cliques clash, if not on stage, then around the past-midnight whisky bottle.
Then there's social tension within and between the groups. in a small creative community such as Israel's, forced friendships last for too long and are good fodder for misplaced frustrations. Ego cluster bombs explode: someone suddenly vanishes to protest having been dissed, someone else calls someone else's poetry "bullshit" to a third person who snitches. An hommage for a dead poet ends with participants being blamed for pretending to be her friends only now that she died and the blamed blaming the blamers for blaming.
Then there's the romantic baggage.
Unlike the Metula Poetry festival, Israel's snobbier, northern verse-fest, Desert Poetry Days shuns snobbism. In Metula, the young, avant garde croud is invited only selectively. In Sde Boker all are welcome to take part in a poetry cabaret. Dorm rooms with capacity of 6 beds are provided for poetry's troublemakers. At least one of them will house no less than nine young spirits for the duration of the weekend. The couple combinations are bound to change mid festival, if not mid-night. Parties at the adjacent kibbutz have been known to fuel the fire, the chill of the wintery desert nights gives it a further kick. Forget poetry, this is a sexy time of year.
Two of my relationships of the passing year began at that festival. Both broke up and in each case one of the parties was hurt badly. now we'll all be there together again. Let me chart out the disaster for you:
-A met me before going to the festival.
-B met A at the festival last year,
-C and E met me at the festival last year.
-D met C and E at the festival last year, hit on E and had a small thing with C.
-B dated C for a few months.
-E and me had a short affair.
-C broke up with B and dated me.
-B hooked up with A. C left me and is now dating F (D's nemesis).
-I am now avoiding C and F.
-G and me developed an interest in each other, but it didn't work out.
-G now avoids me, but will be at the festival,
-as will A,B,C,D and E (F may come too).
-E tells me she's uncomfortable about staying in the same room with D and H
-(D had a thing with J, an ex of both B and previously unmentioned K,
-while H seriously hit on L, A's former good friend, whom she now avoids).
-E prefers to stay with me, M, and N, one of whom once desired C,
-But that bed is already reserved for G, who now avoids me.
Besides, this would just be too mad. I tell E that she should sort it out for herself because things are way damn complicated as they are, and if I could avoid going to the desert I would, but I'm being paid to coordinate a panel and MC an evening with Amos Oz. Wish me luck, brothers and sisters. Hebrew poet Alterman warned his daughter: "Preserve yourself from what is near / like gravel and like sky". In a terrain of much gravel and much sky, I'll do my best.