I’m excited to say a story was featured in Pittsburgh’s City Paper regarding my paintings and poetry being featured at Pittsburgh’s Holocaust Center. Read the full story here, or view below.
Wishing you all the best,
• • •
Artist’s paintings and poetry converge to expose the lingering horrors of the Holocaust
Reckoning with the massacre at Tree of Life is not a quick or easy process. It manifests differently for everyone. For artist Judy Robinson, it meant channeling her grief into both painting and poetry for The Numbers Keep Changing, an exhibit at the Holocaust Center on display through June 24 honoring Jewish identity, and the victims of Tree of Life and the Holocaust.
Robinson, who was born during World War II, says she has always been grateful that she was born in the United States instead of in Europe, where some of her family died in the Holocaust. Her work in this series is a reaction to the Tree of Life shooting, antisemitism, and a continuing pattern of Holocaust denial. Her art helps her to cope with it all, but also serves to remind others to keep these events in their minds.
“I have felt, as I studied that Holocaust, yes, it is the past. As I continue to study, these things don't go away,” says Robinson. “And what can we do about it except try to inform, try to educate, try to keep things in mind so people don't forget and people don't deny?”
Each of the seven paintings in the series is paired with a poem, which sits in place of a tag or info box. Robinson has painted and written poems her whole life, but only recently thought to combine the two art forms.
In the poem “1945 Song,” a woman struggles to forgive in the aftermath of the Holocaust. “A slender woman left behind/rising from the wastes of ash, in bright/pleats of internment cloth,” the poem reads. The accompanying painting features a woman in front of a bright blue and yellow background.
Her painting style is reminiscent of Abstract Expressionism. Sometimes the figures are clear and obvious, and other times a more instinctual reaction to the subject. Robinson dedicated the poem “Wildflowers Cover Everything” to Father Patrick Desbois, a French priest who has spent over 15 years uncovering thousands of previously unknown sites of Jewish execution in former Soviet Union territories. The title of the exhibit comes from the rise of the death toll long after the end of the Holocaust.
“There's all these fields and fields of bodies buried and he found them,” says Robinson. “It's startling new evidence of the horrors of the Holocaust. The wildflowers do cover everything.”
One painting and poem set, “El Kiddush Hashem; A Prayer More Than a Poem” stands out, particularly for its obvious tribute to the victims of Tree of Life. The paintings depict all 11 victims of the shooting; the ones with more detailed faces are the ones Robinson knew personally. Robinson has gone to the Temple all her life, as did her parents and grandparents. The poem lists the names of all the victims and praises them as martyrs. “You are gone from us, yet you remain with us. All who come after us will know you.”
The Center’s main focus is to provide programming that informs students, teachers, and anyone interested in learning about the history of the Holocaust. It’s an especially important time for this kind of education, when there are still people who actively deny that the Holocaust happened, or that it’s in any way connected to present-day antisemitism.
“It's a horrible thing to realize what happened, and I get maybe they don't even mean harm by denying, although many of them do,” says Robinson. “There is this push to deny it all. It's important to me and to the people of the Holocaust Center that that doesn't happen.”
From May 1-7, the Holocaust Center will hold a series of events for Yom HaShoah, the international Holocaust remembrance week, including the Waldman Arts and Writing student competition award ceremony, a commemoration tied in with the Center’s 2019 theme of Women and the Holocaust, and a staging of The Soap Myth starring Ed Asner.
Robinson hopes that her paintings provide a constant reminder of past and present dangers of antisemitism. “[I hope] that you have in your own mind now some more information that gives you some sense of what's right and what's wrong, so when you're confronted or you see this kind of hate that's in the world or people who deny the past, that you'll know better.”
El Kaddush Hashem; A Prayer more than a Poem
Akiva, Trad-yon, BenBava, Hanasi, Gadol, Shamua, ben Dama, Hakinae, Gamliel, Yesivav (the scribe).
Joyce Feinberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, Irving Younger.
Burned, flayed, beheaded, slaughtered, for the sake of their faith, Judaism.
El Kaddush Hashem: they Died as Martyrs,
Taken from this plain of struggle and pain
While actively serving God:
This is the highest elevation of a life
Spent on earth. They will be forever
The most closely bound to God,
Sheltered, cradled, held tight!
They are ours: the martyrs
who will be remembered
by shattered hearts but unbroken spirits;
by all who come after us, forever:
the beautiful, blessed nashamas of
Feinberg, Gottfried, Mallinger, Rabinowitz,
Rosenthal, Rosenthal, Simon, Simon,
Stein, Wax, Younger.
You are gone from us, yet you remain with us.
All who come after us will know you.
All will worship you eternally.
You diedEl Kaddush Hashem:
Shalom, Al Mish Ka Voe, rest in peace.
--Judith R. Robinson
Happy to report that Poetry Super Highway named me "Poet of the Week" for the week of July 30 – August 5. See the post here. And read the poems included below.
Until next time,
The first true pastel day,
made-up so gaudy bright
the eye stings.
April 25, late this year.
Three days until my son’s birthday, the only perfect
decision I ever made
in this life. No abortion, so I thank myself.
Forty-six times now.
So I pass a workman in a slicker and cap
wires on the ground around him:
Watch your step!
I know learned rabbis
who say this matters
as much as my son’s birth:
every hair on David’s head is counted.
So, the workman in the street.
His appearance in the tapestry.
If Not Exactly Human
I would be a swan, I would be a tulip.
I would be simple as a sailboat drifting on a breeze.
I would be made of bright or muted colors
I would be a natural occurrence, but
I would not be a rodent, I would not be a black snake.
I would not be a thing that doesn’t breathe,
I would not be a thing that’s covered in ice.
I would not be a thing for purchase.
I would not be any part of a crime scene.
I would have fragrance, I would have appetite.
I would have movement. I’d like to sway.
I would know comfort, somehow.
I might be any size or no size.
I might be formless, even invisible, but
You would be able to see me
and I would know it.
Spring is just around the corner. Wishing you warmth during the end of this winter.
Below, please find some recent goodies that I'm excited to share.
Until next time,
REVIEWS FOR CAROUSEL
Reviews for When I Loved You
Pittsburgh City Paper, July 2016 — by Fred Shaw
Journals — Painting Publications
This poem appeared on December 15, 2017 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
What land is this, what city?
Aren’t other places as precious to those who dwell within them?
Probably they are. Well, perhaps.
But here instead of sunshine there are gray skies,
gloom as delicious as heavy dark beer.
Green hills that slope into swift deep rivers,
moving their own way, no one else’s.
Old trees all over town, in the parks, lining city sidewalks,
along the broken alleys.
Neighborhoods of stone mansions.
Neighborhoods of clean aluminum-sided and red-brick houses.
Porches with swings, blooming gardens.
Grand old families, lying dead in leafy cemeteries,
near towers and libraries and museums and universities bearing their names.
Tough old ethnic families, lying dead in leafy cemeteries, near riverbanks
where mills rose up to manufacture the steel for trains and autos that opened up the country; wheels and planes and tanks and weapons
that saved the world again and again.
And we the living descendants, the incredible mix of all here before us,
the boys and girls of the adversaries turned friends: Wasps and the Hunkies,
the Blacks and the Jews, the Italians and Asians, we are the heirs
to the first river traders and fur hunters, the freed slaves,
the immigrant industrial barons and immigrant mill hands.
And that sometimes adversarial past.
The burning truth of Out Of This Furnace.
The ‘36 confrontation at Republican Steel.
The birth agony of big steel and big labor.
And since, the death agony, too.
Okay. A grand old city (old for America, that is)
with an interesting past, wonderful people, a lousy climate (some think).
So why the heart pull, looking at the hills? Hills, you might say, are hills.
But we who live here know something. Pittsburgh’s been good to us.
We forgive. We co-exist. We get along.
Happy Fall. Just a quick note: I have a short piece published over at TWJ Magazine. Please do check it out.
Until next time,
Teresa Marie Kapansky spoke her first baby words in Polish, learned from her parents, but then, by age four, she could also make herself understood in Italian, the language used by many in the Displaced Persons camp near Rome.
The camp was a bunch of ragged tents thrown up to temporarily house a legion of refugees: Campo Profughi, makeshift, dusty, under-supplied, and overcrowded with the war-weary, was Teresa’s first home, the place she was born, the place where she was first loved.
Piccolo Jesu, the Italians called her, Little Jesus; because of her beautiful skin and because of her hair, the mass of tight curls that formed a golden halo that surrounded her tiny, luminous face.
Teresa Marie slept in a crib until she was nearly six and the family left Italy for America. There was no room for anything larger in the tent, nor was there another bed to be had, anyway. A threadbare burlap curtain separated her crib from the rest of the single room which was the family’s living space in the DP camp.
At night she listened to her mother and father and the adults on the other side of the curtain arguing over cards, drinking, and telling stories. The world seemed to be made of these large, grown-up people, each one of them quite a distinct, looming presence.
Also quite real to her was la roccia, the rock quarry down a steep set of steps behind their tent, where Teresa was warned not to go, ever. La roccia frightened and fascinated the little girl; sometimes after her nap, if the afternoon was fair, Teresa was allowed to play along the narrow strip of earth in back of the tent. Holding Bambina, her rag doll, she would sit, shivering deliciously at the top of the steps to la roccia, gazing down as far as she could see.
What was below, among the huge stones? Or hiding in the dark, shadowy places between them?
She dared not go down there; instead, she stretched the arm that held Bambina as far out over the rocky steps as she could, and shook her, until the doll trembled in her hand.
“Don’t cry, Bambina,” she whispered, excitedly clutching her, “I won’t let you fall, oh, no, I won’t!”
Later, in her crib, with Bambina beside her, she fell asleep listening to her parents and their friends, Mr. Michaliwisc and Mrs. Contano. At first it sounded like Mrs. Contano, whose husband had lately disappeared, was crying. But after a while, as she drifted into sleep, Teresa could hear the cards being shuffled and dealt, and the laughter begin.
As these sounds faded, Teresa suddenly felt herself begin to roll and to slip, and was unable to stop. Falling fast, her arms flailing, she tried with all her strength to clutch something, but she could not; she was surrounded by hot air churning in deep, pulsating waves. She saw Bambina tumble into the black rocks just ahead of her, and she screamed. Terrified, she cried out for her mother. Then, just as the enormous dark world rushed up to envelope and smash her to pieces, Bubba Doritchka arrived.
“My darling Teresa, Ukochany, Niemowle, sshh,” Bubba whispered, catching both Teresa and Bambina easily and lifting them into her arms. “There, there, my darling baby, I love you, sshh, sshh…”
Teresa collapsed in a spasm of tears against her grandmother’s bulky body. Bubba’s warm arms held her fast, and soothed her. She smelled so clean, like her mother’s own wind-blown sheets. The child shuddered, repeatedly, breath after jagged breath, then became quiet.
And suddenly there were no more rocks, nothing to fear, and she slept.
She awoke to a sunny Roman morning. Light lay in a warm yellow triangle at the doorway of the tent. Her father and mother were sitting at the small table on the other side of the curtain, drinking coffee.
“Come, Teresa, come,” her mother said. “Look at you, still yawning!”
“Yes, Mama,” she answered, but did not move.
Her mother came and lifted her from the crib. “Wake up, Teresa. What is it, child? You look like you are still asleep!”
The little girl rested her head on her mother’s shoulder. “I was calling you, Mama, but you didn’t come.”
“What? When were you calling me, Sweetheart?”
“Last night, when I was scared.”
“I didn’t hear you. What happened? Are you alright?”
Teresa nodded. A slow, sweet smile lit her face as she remembered. “Bubba came and held me. She kissed me and then I was alright.”
Her mother set her down, and kneeled before her. “What did you say?”
“Bubba came. Bubba Doritchka, Mama. She took care of me, and everything is fine.”
Her mother’s frightened eyes found her father’s face. “Pieter…Pieter?”
Pieter Kapansky’s face went pale; his mouth fell open but there was nothing he could think to say. His own mother, beloved Dora—Doritchka---as she was called---had been shot dead in the center of the town called Lidice, more than four years before.
Hello Poetry Lovers,
A video came across my desk that is causing me to share something in addition to poetry today. It is a short film that deals in a wise and tender manner with an aspect of our history. Tragedy is no stranger to the Jewish people. Need I say more? It's not to enjoy, but it is real, and well done.
Here I will include a poem written as a blessed American Jew, spared by time and place from the Shoah.
Here bloom green
sweet with spring;
the righteous few
are not forgotten
in Our Garden.
from leaf and vine.
Note the smooth
amid the blossoms:
the sculpted mother's
the first remembrance
of the human artist.
Beyond the blossoms
his last remembrance,
the dying ashes, the
tiny flames that
within the concrete
---Judith R. Robinson
* Yad Vashem is the name of the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem
With thanks to Yale Cohen for the video, and thanks to you for clicking in.
Greetings Poetry Lovers,
I'm sure I share with most, if not all of you, an abiding love for our beautiful city. Every community poet worth his or her salt has written at least one "Pittsburgh poem." Then there are the many outstanding photographs, paintings, essays, short stories, novels and films; the artists as well as the Pittsburghers themselves are moved by our special place, no question about it.
Recently, I discovered something new and unique in our city: Randyland!
What is Randyland?
Located at 1501 Arch Street, on the NorthSide, Randyland is billed as Pittburgh's "Most Colorful Landmark," as well as "The Happiest Place in Pennsylvania." Visitors have called it "a hoot!" "a happening!" "a must-see-to-believe!"
Actually the home of artist Randy Gilson, Randyland has also been called "a candy-colored testimony to one man's efforts to revitalize an inner-city neighborhood..."
At Randylandprepare to be be startled by outdoor art in a barrage of color: bright yellow dominates but makes way for all manner of painted objects , maps, animals, birds; walls adorned by elaborate designs, faces, creatures done up in purple, green, red; add to this raucous mélange the gaily adorned old cast-offs: I particularly was taken by the ringer washing machine and the multi-colored metal porch chairs hanging above my head. Folks, you've got to see it!
Somewhere along a festooned wall at Randyland sits a Pittsburgh Poetry Box. What's that, you might ask? Another of our city's small wonders. A trio of poetry lovers have created small boxes, "poetry houses," placed here and there, which contain lovingly selected and printed poems, free for the taking.
Currently, my poem, "Spring Fever," occupies a shelf alongside three others in the Poetry House at Randyland.
FYI, I will produce the poem here, but strongly urge you, the reader, to have the delightful experience of a visit to Randyland. I can assure you, it is unforgettable.
The desire in the old man’s mind
is a stone anchor
that keeps his boney feet tethered
to the home place, dirt and all:
to own the first intruding green
he sees, the almost gold
that should burst to green
during his daily watch.
He must not miss the moment,
fears it may come forth
at once, like sudden water:
His craving appears each spring.
He suspects this must be by design,
simple and meant to be, the way
morning overtakes the brightest moon.
Otherwise he would be able;
unpossessed, he would turn away,
free to leave the garden.
So give yourself and the kids a treat--Randyland.
Thanks for clicking in! xo Judy
I'm happy to report that I was awarded "Poet of the Week" (along with George Moore) on Poetry Superhighway for the week of January 18-24. The award was chosen for the poem, "If This Was A Movie."
IF THIS WAS A MOVIE
I would drift back
onto a slope in Pittsburgh
when my ballerina days
were still a dream
and the kids on the block
found what to do
that had nothing to do
Only the bike named Betsy
negotiated for me,
helping me always win
down the hill, the street hill
not the cemetery hill.
All before I cared about any other wanting.
No big questions.
We may as well have been
tomatoes or anything else
alive that grows regardless,
What mattered was the bike
–racing–more than jacks
more than tar-baby stop
much more than Monopoly.
If there was thought
it was not deep
or has been forgotten,
slipped back, flickering,
a blurry frame
silver-gray as were those skies
Happy New Year, All! The year is off to a good start as I'm please to announce that When I Loved You was voted Best Chapbook of December 2015 by Grace Cavalieri's monthly "Exemplars of Poetry" via Washington Independent Review of Books. Read Cavalieri's kind words below. Buy the chapbook here.
Poetry will never turn its back on domesticity and a woman’s experience, often seen in deflected light from the motions of our neon world. There will always be a metric system for this poetic source, consolidatingtimeless themes of loss, children, friendship, and art. Robinson shows some leg tackling the classic reasons for why we write; becoming a better poet in the process.
Hello Poetry Fans,
Recently I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a young researcher from the Technion, Israel's Institute of Technology, located in Haifa.
The Technion is a world class university where scientists, doctors, engineers are trained; a place that employs Nobel Prize winners, a place that has successfully solved such diverse problems as methods of irrigation for farming as well as methods for the strategic defense of Israel.
Bio-medical advancement is just one of dozens of areas of research that are conducted there; for example, American corporations like Intel that produce computers have partnered with the Technion as well.
I was very impressed by this particular visitor from Haifa to our city. The experience of who she is and what she does struck me. I know from whence she came, and what her work means. I know the present state of much of the world's opinion of Israel.
I will share with you the following poem, which I hope, as an effective poem should, speaks for itself:
There is plenty of snow on the ginkos, the sycamores
& our Pittsburgh hills; ice chunks in the holes in the streets,
but not enough to deter my two aged
lady friends, having bundled themselves into furs,
leaning on canes, off with me to meet
the brave cancer survivor from Israel,
herself young, blonde, articulate. Herself a distinguished
researcher, an engineer who investigates possibilities,
each one a bright hard pellet of silicone
she aims into suffering flesh.
Thousands of years of selection and here she is,
a matter-of-fact Israeli, a Sabra, she tells us:
Father Roumanian, Mother from Turkey, both of them Sephardic,
and I think of how they got out in time, the parents,
and all the millions like them who did not.
She works very hard, their daughter;
obsessed with helping the world find the path to cure cancer.
— Judith R. Robinson
Thank you for clicking in.
Hello Poetry Lovers,
It is a pleasure today to share something worthwhile from a friend in Israel.
Helen Bar-Lev is an interesting artist—she is both poet and painter, one whose work is hightly inventive and can charm young and old. She loves words and she loves images, and possesses the rare ability to create both. She is also a skilled editor, one who reaches out way beyond geographical and cultural borders to others. After numerous books of poetry, exhibitions and one-woman shows of paintings, Helen has three recent publications well worth noting here. All are published by Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, Medulla, Israel.
CANVAS CALENDAR, 2014;
IN MOONLIGHT THE SKY WILL SLIDE, 2009;
LOVE LETTERS: The Alphabet Falls in Love with Itself, 2014;
Canvas Calendar and In Moonlight the Sky Will Slide are both collaborations with others, but each in a different way. Canvas Calendar, for which Helen served as author, artist and editor, is a seventy-seven page excursion through an entire year, remarkably with the words and illustrations of seven different poets and artists, each from a different part of the world, each sharing his or her own unique vision. Thus, in addition to Helen’s, we have the voices of John Smelcer, poet of the Ahtna Tribe of Alaska, Lillian Cohen, living now in Australia, Katherine L. Gordon of Ontario, Canada, Luis Alberto Ambroggio, Argentinan-American, Robert Kihara of Kenya, and Mike Leaf, currently living half the year in Israel, half in Thailand.
Thus, we learn that in Alaska,
January and the sun is a memory…
Most living things huddle…*
Or in Canada,
April is so tender, casting green shadows on dissolving snow heaps… **
While in Thailand, in August,
The festival of the Hungry Ghosts that visit us from Hell
..burn paper money…
Whilst the Monsoon rages…***
Come December, in Kenya,
…We slaughter goats, roast them and enjoy hearty drinks…the year is a tortoise, slowing
covering miles step by step…****
And Helen herslf tells us that in Israel:
June is delicious
smooth as a peach
beautiful as a bride
a hybrid between seasons
yellow with acacia and broom
mellow in its temperment
plug up the clouds
don’t sit on the thistles
take stock of the hollyhocks…
It is difficult to convey the sweep of this collection here. Suffice it to say CANVAS CALENDAR succeeds in bringing the reader a fascinating variety of pictures and poetic impressions, a year experienced fully, month by month, place by place.
Finally, many people feel that poetry is not for them—not accessible, not relevant, not enjoyable. For them, and everyone, really, this collection is a way “in,” a highly entertaining, informative and often quite lyrical journey around the world.
Thanks for clicking in.
Click in soon again for reviews of IN MOONLIGHT THE SKY WILL FALL and LOVE LETTERS.*
* all three titles can be ordered at:
In Moonlight: $10.
Love Letters-The Alphabet Falls in Love with Itself: $15.
Canvas Calendar: $20.
The hotel is vast and pink
squatting on a southern shore
grand old palm trees
shimmering waves of white heat.
I am running the burnished halls
that reek money
I am not naked
exactly but searching for my nightie.
Butlers in tuxedos are on the lookout.
I can’t get the elevator
to come for me
can’t remember which room I had;
utterly lost and out of ideas.
But I don’t cry, don’t give up,
just keep dashing around
in full frenzy,
the angry butlers closing in on me.
They don’t get me. I wake up.
Just in time to tell
the whole wretched tale to Y.
She listens, nods in her wise way
then goes to the kitchen to make coffee.
The paper says rain she says
and you’re not too old to dream.
Approaching another year, after a lifetime’s worth of instruction by Kim and William, Ingrid, Humphrey, Cary, Fred and Ginger and the Warner Brothers I realized that dances into golden sunsets are not regularly happening. My daily life runs more along the lines of confrontations with machines grinding away in order to outsmart me and other humans and surely take over. It could happen in 2015. According to gleeful nerd experts, computers will write symphonies greater than Mozart’s, paint masterpieces that surpass Monet’s, contol and or hack into every system we’ve got, defensive, economic, strategic, etc. Then the superhuman contraptions will go on to destroy the electric grid, whatever the hell that is. The only way I sustain a small measure of hope is to think perhaps they can’t do everything we can. The way I figure it, they will not likely commit petty larceny or string along some other machine just for carnal pleasure.