Current City, State, Country
Birth City, State, Country
Yiskah Rosenfeld is the author of Tasting Flight (Madville Books, 2024), a collection framed by the myths of Eve and Lilith, runner up for the 2022 Arthur Smith Prize and a finalist for the Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize. Her ekphrastic chapbook Naked Beside Fish (Finishing Line Press, 2023) has its roots in poetry residencies on the Arad Arts Project in Israel and the Brandeis Collegiate Institute in Southern California. She holds an MFA in poetry from Mills College and an MA in jurisprudence and social policy from UC Berkeley; she is also a proud rabbinical school dropout. A Pushcart Prize nominee, awards include the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award and the Reuben Rose Memorial Prize. Poems appear in The Seattle Review, The Bitter Oleander, Lilith Magazine, Rattle, December Magazine, Magid, Kerem, Blue Lyra Review, and elsewhere. Her writings have been selected for anthologies such as Wild Gods: An Anthology of Ecstatic Poetry, Why to these Rocks: 50 Years of Poems from the Community of Writers, and Yentl’s Revenge: the Next Wave of Jewish Feminism.
Yiskah feels most human and joyful when teaching, whether creating a literature and Jewish Studies mash-up as an adjunct at Temple University, or launching a creative writing program for schools in underserved neighborhoods as a San Francisco WritersCorps instructor. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where she balances solo parenting with teaching workshops on Judaism, feminism, and creative writing.
What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?
Judaism—ritual, text, feminism, thought, and culture—permeates my poetry. Chana Bloch was my poetry mentor and MFA advisor. Born and raised in a secular Jewish family in Kansas, I was fortunate to live in Israel at age 12 and fall in love with the Hebrew language. I first took Jewish studies courses at Oberlin, then deferred law school eternally to returned to Israel and study at Machon Pardes. Over my years in Israel, I studied mysticism in Tzfat, participated in an environmental and text study program on Kibbutz Keturah, and taught English literature to American, Israeli, and Palestinian teens. On a year long interdisciplinary arts program in the Negev, I collaborated with other Jewish artists and had the opportunity to meet writers such as Amos Oz and Yehuda Amichai. My writing hangout in Jerusalem, where I had also lived at age 12, was the bookstore Tmol Shilshom, which I call the bellybutton of the world. Back in the States, I have been a Jewish educator and spiritual leader, working with diverse ages and communities. Since the 90s, I’ve enjoyed creating popular adult writing classes related to the Hebrew letters, Jewish ritual, midrash, and Kabbalah. This led me to four years of study on a full merit scholarship at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. As a poet, I’ve served as a judge or co-judge for the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize for poems on the Jewish experience and the Reuben Rose Memorial Prize run through Voices, Israel. Long ago, I had the opportunity to run Kol Isha: A Jewish Women’s Poetry Conference in Berkeley, with keynote speaker Grace Paley and a dozen wonderful Jewish women poets leading workshops and giving readings. Around that time, I delved into the works of Jewish women writers to write a comprehensive essay on Jewish women’s poetry in America. While I do not consider myself religious, Jewish ritual and text infuse my career, home, way of being in the world, and, of course, my writing.
My first poetry collection, Naked Beside Fish, contains poems that had their seeds writing in the back of art studios in the Israeli desert. Ekphrastic poems on Chagall and Reuven Rubin rub elbows with poems on artists such as Matisse and Miró. My latest collection, forthcoming in June, 2024 by Madville Publishing, contains a mix of Jewish-themed and other poems loosely framed by the “superpowers” of Eve and Lilith, taste and flight. Tasting Flight is at its core one woman’s book on Jewish identity, with poems on Jewish texts (letters even), rituals and Biblical stories, as well exploring themes of sexuality and sin, motherhood, and questioning faith.
Tasting Flight (Madville Books, 2024)
Naked Beside Fish (Finishing Line Press, 2023)
Links to Sample Works
University of California, Berkeley
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College