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Donna Spruijt-Metz is a professor of psychology and public health at the University of Southern California. Her first career was as a professional flutist. She followed her flute teacher to the Netherlands and ended up staying for 22 years. She had always written poetry, and her only way into the Dutch culture was through their poets. That’s how she learned Dutch, and she still translates Dutch poetry. During her years in the Netherlands, she slowly seeped into academia – for fun, at first, but then it became her next way of life. She married, had a child, and then moved back to California with her family. Always restless, she attended rabbinical school for a year and a half but found she couldn’t combine it with a career in academia, a family, and the increasing space that writing poetry took in her life. Her poetry and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in venues such as the Copper Nickel, RHINO, The Cortland Review, The Tahoma Review, and Poetry Northwest. Her chapbooks are Slippery Surfaces (Finishing Line Press) and And Haunt the World (with co-author Flower Conroy, Ghost City Press). Her first full-length manuscript, General Release from the Beginning of the World, chosen by Brenda Hillman, is forthcoming in January 2023 (Free Verse Editions).
What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?
One other thing that poetry demands from me is that I wrestle with what is Holy—we are, after all, ‘God wrestlers’, are we not? I have tried to duck out on this so many times, sometimes because people outside of my particular tiny wedge of the Jewish community didn’t resonate with it, and sometimes because it is just, well, hard. But I finally had to turn and face it. When I write, I am in conversation (sometimes adversarial, sometimes plaintive, sometimes grudging, sometimes open and free and present, but always longingly) with God—or the Goddess—with the Shekhinah. Whether I like it or not. And their visits come when they come, and the only thing I can do is try to keep myself fit for it, present as a poet. For me, this is a hard task. I am imminently distractible. I so admire poets like Ada Limón—she really knows how to keep herself present. I am a somnambulist reconstructing family, I am a new-fangled metaphysician trying to enter my faith fully, on my own terms. And I am so grateful for the Yetzirah community.
- General Release from the Beginning of the World (Free Verse Editions, January 1 2023)
- And Haunt the World, a collaborative microchap with Flower Conroy (Ghost City Press, 2021)
- Slippery Surfaces (Finishing Line Press, April 2019)
Links to Sample Works
Otis College of Art and Design
Royal Conservatory Den Haag
California Institute of the Arts
University of Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam