Carine Topal

b. 1949

Current City, State, Country

La Quinta, California, USA

Birth City, State, Country

New York City, New York, USA


Carine Topal was born in New York and earned her M.A. from New York University. She has lived in Jerusalem, Israel, where she worked with Palestinian merchants in the West Bank and Bethlehem. She was also employed by the Office of Assimilation, working with new Russian immigrants. She lived in Heidelberg, Germany, and travelled extensively. Over the years, Carine has anthologized the poetry of many special needs children. She participated in the grassroots organization California Poets in the Schools, was the Poet-in-Residence for the City of Manhattan Beach, and Poet-in-Education for Manhattan Beach elementary schools. Her work has appeared in numerous journals throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2005, Carine was awarded a residency at Hedgebrook as well as a fellowship in St. Petersburg, Russia. She is the recipient of numerous poetry awards, including the 2007 Robert G. Cohn Prose Poetry Award from California Arts and Letters, from which a special edition chapbook, Bed of Want, was published, The Briar Cliff Review Poetry Award, Palettes and Quills Poetry Chapbook Contest, The Red Wheelbarrow, West Trestle Review and many others. Carine was also honored with the Excellence in Arts Award from the City of Torrance, and an Artist in Residence Award from Manhattan Beach Schools in California.  She lives in La Quinta, California and Long Beach, California, conducting poetry and memoir workshops near the sea and close to the Santa Rosa Mountains.

What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?

As a Jewish poet I try to steer clear of sentiment and  lay bare the truth, as I know it. Much of my reason to write with my “Jewishness” is to be one of the many who keep history alive through the written word; My family’s personal history at Auschwitz-Birkenau, my family fleeing Germany in the late years of the nazi regime. The death of my two young brothers and how my parents coped with this tremendous loss. How much did Judaism play in my family’s mourning and how did they attempt to right themselves from day to day is not clear, but this loss marked us with suspicion and fear and at times contempt.

There are many ways to understand and convey the atrocities of the Holocaust. I strive to keep this history in the present, as this type of barbarism is with us still and I must speak up. Not just for the Jews, but for the Roma, the handicapped, the homosexual community, the political prisoners–all unreplaceable human beings who speak to the world, and  speak  through me in many of my poems. As a cultural Jew I cannot but help write with “Jewishness,” as that runs through me. It is my blood. I think of my poems as meditations on death and injustice. We cannot pretend not to know the past, and it is with this knowledge that I find my way out of despair and beyond bitterness into a manner of memorializing and remembering.

Published Works

In Order of Disappearance (Pacific Coast Poetry Series, 2018)
Tattooed (Palettes & Quills, 2012)
In the Heaven of Never Before (Moon Tide Press, 2008)
Bed of Want (Black Zinnias, imprint of California Institute of Arts and Letters, 2008)
God As Thief (The Amagansett Press, 1994)

Author Site

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading

Current Title

Poetry teacher


C. W. Post College, B.A.
New York University, M.A.

Subject Matter