Why I Write Poetry: Nurit Israeli

Last week, I posted about “Why I Write Poetry” and encouraged others to share their thoughts, stories, and experiences for future guest posts. I’ve already received several, and I hope they keep coming in. Thank you!

Today’s “Why I Write Poetry” post comes from Nurit Israeli.

Nurit Israeli holds a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University, where she was associate professor of psychology. During her long career, Nurit enjoyed directing a family therapy department; directing, teaching, and supervising at doctoral and postdoctoral psychology training programs, and membership in the committee of accreditation of postdoctoral training programs in family psychology of the APA. Nurit has published poems in international poetry anthologies, New York City Haiku (a Rizzoli book publication), Nassau County Poet Laureate Review, the New York Times, Writer’s Digest, and other online and print magazines. Several of her poems won awards in writing challenge competitions.

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Why I Write Poetry: Nurit Israeli

Nurit Israeli

I perceive the world through a poetic lens. Writing poetry enables me to put words together in ways that most accurately reflect who I am, expand me, let me live deeper.

I am a survivor. I went into survival mode before my beginning, when I was an almost miscarriage, and I became my parents’ only surviving offspring. I was born in the midst of World War II, in the shadow of the Holocaust, at a time when most members of my extended family lost their lives in concentration camps. I started writing poems for my parents at a very young age – attempting to help them transcend horrendous losses and hold on to hope.

Ever since, I kept on weaving my own story through obstacle courses: wars, bouts of cancer, relocations, and more – surviving well enough to embrace and celebrate with abandon life’s amazing offerings. The process of translating personal traumas into poetic forms has been healing. It has helped me explore, reflect, bear witness, discover layers of meaning, move beyond, feel the power of my own voice.

I am a romantic at heart: a dreamer, a lover of nature, a passionate believer in the power of love (topic of my doctoral dissertation and many of my poems), attuned to the subtleties of human experience, grateful for moments of spiritual transcendence. Poetry has become my vehicle for reflecting on the interplay between grieving and gratitude, pain and pleasure, fear and the power to overcome, darkness and light. Poetry lets me integrate the seemingly contradictory dimensions of experience, present them as closely intertwined, express time and again different versions of my life’s mantra: In Spite of Everything – YES!

I also write poetry to communicate. At times, my poems are interpersonal bridges – attempts to reach out to fellow seekers on the path, touch them, take them somewhere that is both new and familiar, affirm how unique yet similar we all are…

And sometimes I am not sure why I write poems. Some poems just sneak out of me, insist on writing themselves their own way, escape the pen that tries to control them, or hold them responsible, or make them relevant. Truly? I let the rebels have it their way, and I take delight in giving birth to these adventurous slivers of myself…

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If you’d like to share why you write poetry, please send an e-mail to robert.brewer@fwmedia.com with a 300-500 word personal essay that shares why you write poetry. It can be serious, happy, sad, silly–whatever poetry means for you. And be sure to include your preferred bio (50-100 words) and head shot. If I like what you send, I’ll include it as a future guest post on the blog.

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27 thoughts on “Why I Write Poetry: Nurit Israeli

  1. PKP

    (had posted this to your site ..but not here … all praises need to be sung loud and clear m’dear dear Nurit !)

    There are few poets or persons who can manifest the sheer brilliance of life in the way of my friend
    Dr Nurit … Surely if there were a doctorate granted in the grace of living … in the shimmering vibrancy words – surely Nurit would be a Professor Emeritus – if my words seem effusive / know they are paltry compared to my true feelings – for Nurit who dances as she would say “in spite of” and shares wisdom and joy because she is … Bravo Nurit ❤️❤️

  2. BDP

    “Weaving my own story through the obstacle courses.” I love that line, among many other lines to love. Strikes me that through your poems you also, at times, dissolve the obstacles. You are a wonderful poet, Nurit. Write on! To borrow from Hirsch, keep making us “all stare up at once.” For that you do–your poems are stars. And I thank you.

    1. Nurit Israeli

      Thank YOU, Barb! Your kind words, here and elsewhere, mean much to me (especially since I still see myself as a psychologist who “also” writes poems, and who faces the challenge of writing in a language that is not her mother tongue). Yes – writing has been a helpful to me. My recent psychological presentations have focused on the Healing Power of Expressive Writing: There is much evidence-based data that support my personal experience.

  3. AsWritten

    “insist on writing themselves…”

    This is how it is for me. The trouble, I find, is when they insist, but I do not have a pen, or my arms are filled with kids.

    Or I wake up having composed a miraculous work in my dreams, only to find the words melt swiftly away as the sunlight kisses my face.

    1. Nurit Israeli

      Yes, AsWritten, this happens to me all too often! Fragments of poems come to me at night, or at other inopportune times when I cannot attend to them, and then just fade or melt away – never getting a chance to be written. I imagine a poetic universe where unwritten poems gather, awaiting redemption…

      1. AsWritten

        This is perfect!

        The Universe of Misfit Poems

        Makes you think: if they escape from me, could some other thought conquistador pull a Roald Amundsen and beat me to my own runaway insights.

        1. Nurit Israeli

          Oh no, AsWritten, our Unwritten Poems don’t run away with someone else as far as polar regions (though I have sweet memories of traveling there way back when). Most just patiently await in the Universe of Unwritten Verse, till they find ways of sneaking back into later poems…

  4. Anthony94

    Thank you for all your wisdom disguised as poetry! I especially appreciated how poems have a way of sneaking out of you, of having to be written, and that you trust that, too! So many poets in this space are unsung mentors, and now we can “sing” you!

    1. Marie Elena

      “Wisdom disguised as poetry.” Oh my goodness yes, yes, yes. I could not agree more, Anthony. I’d be hard pressed to find one poem of Nurit’s that isn’t percolating wisdom. She can’t help it. It’s who she is. <3

    1. Nurit Israeli

      I am truly grateful for all that I have learned from you, for this generous comment, and for your ongoing support. Thank you, dear Walt!

  5. seingraham

    How lovely, Nurit! Your poetry always leaves me breathless and now, the passion and reasons behind the words are doing likewise. I remember the first time I read your mantra, “In Spite of Everything – YES!” and am glad to be reminded of it now. Such optimism is a fine way to live life and I need to remember it. Thank you for sharing so much of your journey with us; as always, you are generous to a fault.

    1. Nurit Israeli

      Dear Sharon, the generosity is all yours! What I shared is just a small part of both the hardships and the intensity of gratitude for the goodness that has come my way, even so. I do find meaning in giving back. For me – writing in a language that is not my mother tongue – the ability to touch another with my words is a gift. Martin Buber, one of my first mentors, convinced me early on that “All real living is meeting.” The I-Thou encounters that happen through this site add meaning to my days.

  6. Sarah Metzler

    Nurit! I was so pleased to see your post and enjoyed reading about you and why you write poetry. I often wonder about the poets behind the poetry on Poetic Asides. I’m excited to read more. I was also interested to find out that besides poetry, we have psychology in common as I am a counselor who works with children and families.

    1. Nurit Israeli

      Sarah, so glad to hear about our similar backgrounds! I am fascinated by the interrelationship between psychology and poetry – both focused on internal landscapes. I have used poem writing in therapy with both children and adults, as well as in my teaching of psychology and in my workshops with survivors of trauma. If you would ever be interested in specifics, I would be glad to share.

      1. Sasha A. Palmer

        My daughter is a rising junior. She’s been volunteering at the institute for autism–working with autistic children in a music therapy program–and is about to start her summer job there. She loves it. She’s considering majoring in psychology (probably, behavioral psychology.) She does have another passion–theater–which she’s determined to pursue. She’s trying to come up with an idea that will tie her two passions together.

        Could you recommend something in this psychology-theater area? Maybe, a book worth reading, or a program you know of, etc.?

        Thank you very much for your help.

        1. Nurit Israeli

          Drama Therapy is a field combining the two (though any form of therapy has theatrical elements, as a therapist gently enters another’s life script and – via dialogues and reenactments – helps a patient examine, edit, revise, re-write, change roles…)

    1. Nurit Israeli

      Thank you, Sasha. A friend just sent me a poem by Edward Hirsch titled:
      “In Spite of Everything, the Stars” (from his book Wild Gratitude). I love it, and you may too.

        1. Nurit Israeli

          I am glad you do, Sasha. “The night is alive with lamps” – there are glitters of light in the darkness, when we look hard enough…

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