Poems in the Void

by Hanoch Guy-Kaner


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About this book

Absence and Presence are the twin constants of Israeli poet Hanoch Guy-Kaner’s new poetry collection NOKADDISH: In the Void. In these poems, Guy-Kaner grapples with the God he experiences, who seems both impossibly distant and almost near enough to touch. NOKADDISH is at times mournful, and at others comedic—but above all, it’s a startlingly honest exploration of what it means to be a person living with the Absence and Presence of God.

Advance Praise

“On Yom Kippur, it is said, Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev publicly put God on trial for breaking His own laws and failing to fulfill His obligations to the Jewish people. Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav spoke about the ‘Torah of the Void’. Several generations later, after the Khurbn, the Yiddish poet Jacob Glatstein wrote to begin a poem: “At Sinai we received the Torah / In Lublin we gave it back.” Hanoch Guy understands; he is a contemporary heir of their insights. This ‘given-back-Torah,’ a persistent luminous trace in the Void, is what Hanoch Guy receives. In him, in the poems of NOKADDISH, it begets (and recapitulates generations of) a subversive, midrashic play with meanings–specifically Jewish meanings, and then the reversal and negation of these meanings. Meanings inseparable from allusions and references to the Hebrew Bible with which the poems of NOKADDISH are redolent and resonant, and which they metamorphosize into literature. They could even become prayers. Maybe–given the Void-silence they haven within them, they already are. ‘Maybe,’ the Tikkunei Zohar comments with a wink, is the ‘personal Name’ of the Divine Presence.”
—Robert G. Margolis

'Could Not Help It'

Could Not Help It

In the beginning the earth was red hot.
Winds rushing madly across the meadows.
Poppy flowers huge and tall sunflowers
surrounded Avram’s house.
God was young and impetuous
lusted after Avram,
told him to defy King Nimrod, leave for another desert.
He was determined to have him and made him
outrageous promises such as:
Your descendants will be as many as the stars in heaven,
or more numerous than the grains of sand.
He meant every word but
broke every promise.

Reluctantly he put on a magical fire show.
Felt sorry for his most loyal prophet Moses.
His love affair was doomed
and still he promised, threatened, seduced.


When the Israelites forced Aaron to mold the golden calf,
he danced with them.
In a fury fit Moses broke the first set of tablets.

'Please Sign'

Please sign

against all clauses, sub-clauses, stipulations,
conditional blessings,
unconditional penalties.
Delete the Yom Kippur prayer book bulging
with pleas, whining, angst,
eighty varieties of guilt and praises.

Drop any expectation of prayers.
Apologize in writing for your misdeeds,
cruelty, agony destruction you caused us.

Take back all injunctions
No fasting.
No promises.

Your track record proves
your words are worthless.

Your fasts turned into feasts
Your names erased.