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As an American-Israeli, like Michael Dickel, and having lived through several wars in Israel, I was very interested in reading Michael's book of poems "War Surrounds Us" and I wasn't disappointed. Robert Burns wished the gods would give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us. I think that poets like Michael give us that gift to see ourselves and to see ourselves wanting only peace with our neighbors but being pulled against our wills into a very frightening and disheartening war. Imagine sirens and missiles in Minneapolis Minnesota or Columbus Ohio. What is a gentle soul doing in a scorpion infested place like this? I especially like Michael's poems "The Roses" about the futility of words and ideas, "The Cost of Yellow" about the price of wind and the cost of yellow flowers when missiles and the rubble of buildings seem to be for free, the title poem about the Druze restaurant reminding one of Hinckley Minnesota except for the thunder of war just over the horizon, and "Here does not live in me" -- you don't know how to swim in the rock and sand or set sail on our heat waves. There are no easy answers here; only an exceedingly difficult question: why not peace?
These poems are raw, intimate, personal, and beautifully written. Some of them even put tears in my eyes. Michael has really captured the essence of the beauty, strangeness, and pain that envelopes us in times of war.
Jerusalem, Summer 2014: Michael Dickel and his family including Moshe (3 years) and Naomi (1 year) hear the air raid sirens, find safety in shelters, and don’t find relief during vacation travels. In a country smaller than New Jersey, there is no escaping the grumbling wars that encircle. So Michael did what writers and poets do. He bore witness. He picked up his pen and recorded thoughts, feelings, sounds, fears, colors, events and concerns in poetry. The result is his third collection of poems, a chapbook, War Surrounds Us.
While some use poetry as a a clarion call to galvanize war, Michael’s poetry is a cry for peace. He watched the provocations between Israel and Hamas that resulted in war in 2014 and he illustrates the insanity.
And the retaliation Continues, reptilian and cold, retaliation the perpetrator of all massacres.
Though the poems change their pacing and structure, they present a cohesive logical and emotional flow, one that takes you blood and bone into the heart of Michael’s experience as a human being, a poet, a Jew, a father and husband. He touches the humanity in all of us with his record of the tension between summer outings and death tolls, life as usual and the omnipresence of war. Both thumbs up on this one. Bravo, Michael Dickel.
The poems about one of the most profound conflicts between people are rooted in the everyday life of the author and his family who live in Jerusalem. Michael doesn't take sides. Arabs and Jews are represented equally. Through portraying his children he poses larger questions about how we are going to deal with the Other in our lives in the future. I would say that although this is about war, the poems sound hopeful to me. I realize that it takes a lot of pain for the poet not to harbor to convenient ready-to-use justification of Israel's existence as a state and instead face the injustices and acknowledge the painful truth. It must be taking a lot of energy from the author. But once he's done this job for us, we should use it. Once we acknowledge it, we can deal with it. These poems are food for thought not only intellectually. The words connect you to your body through emotions: the last lines of each poem literally give me goosebumps.