Debut book of poems by 2022 Henry Morgenthau Poetry Prize winner Mark Elber.
HEADSTONE is Mark Elber's stunning debut poetry collection examining his personal history as well as his Jewish inheritance. The book won the 2022 Henry Morgenthau Poetry Prize for a poet 70 or older. Judge David Keplinger notes that it is a "Dantean journey...and perhaps it is this compulsion to look back, to gather up the artifacts of the past, stories and voices in memoriam, that charges the electrifying language of this poetry, so full of emergency and details that spur more details. While its title suggests a world already fixed behind us, HEADSTONE is an illustration, rather, of the aliveness of the past as it courses in us, and we are its walking, talking monument."
“‘Gala upon gala’ Mark Elber declares in his sumptuous, expansive volume of elegies, Headstone. Poignant, candid, fearless (and funny) odes and laments for the poet’s father — and the poet’s own life — come tumbling from this splendid book. Elber’s tapestry of generations and culture begins in Eastern Europe, unfolds through the Holocaust, and finishes in New York and Israel, spanning births, marriages, and deaths. ‘An epigram wishing I were an epic . . . a narrative wading in a stream of consciousness,’ Elber draws us in with wordplay, long Ginsbergian lines, angst, and charm. The miraculous story of how his father saved his life — and how it ultimately saves the poet’s own — makes this book a treasure.” —Molly Peacock, author of The Analyst: Poems
“Mark Elber’s tender-hearted and incantatory Whitmanian poems catapult us into his Jewish past with fierce determination and loving detail. Headstone is a rescue operation, a book of lost worlds, a memorial of grief that turns into praise.” —Ed Hirsch, author of Gabriel: A Poem
“Mark Elber is a poet who holds nothing back, a poet of profound connectiveness, who has the ambition to write ‘These are love letters to the dead’ and ‘The future was yesterday’ and the humility to balance that ambition with, ‘Stop writing poetry and start waxing the car.’ There will be no question about it. Here is the poem and here is the man. Throughout Headstone there are lines that insist I stop and read them aloud, and whole poems of heroic compassion and tenderness toward existence. With one book Mark Elber has given us both an elegy and a hosanna to what it is to be fully human.” —Rodney Jones, author of Village Prodigies
“What stitched together sounds can I offer?” Mark Elber asks in this moving collection. Eloquent through their gritty particulars, the poems of Headstone reclaim a Jewish past that, in Elber’s hands, precipitates a resonant present. At their frequent and animated best, they convince with their textures, their rhythms, their emotional precision, and in their relentless, disarming attempt to account for what Coleridge called “the whole ad hominem.” —Peter Cole, author of Hymns & Qualms: New and Selected Poems and Translations
“Age-old questions – What are we from? Where are we going?
In Elber’s sometimes Whitmanic, sometimes Ginsbergian, always Elberian poems, in their alert detail and distances of time and place contained in spreading lines, in their mingling of catalogue and prayer, ode and anecdote, these questions feel urgent all over again. Elber makes the historic personal; the personal becomes myth and song. There’s great mourning in this book — both collective and individual – but Elber also knows that ‘the tongue will sing its sweetness’ — maybe even in darkness.” —Daisy Fried, author of The Year the City Emptied
Poetry. Jewish Studies.
Review @ Poets & Writers
Mark Elber was born and raised in Queens, New York City to Holocaust survivors and grew up hearing Polish, Yiddish, German, Russian, and English spoken at home. Rather than following his father's and brother's path into the medical profession, Mark pursued philosophy, Jewish mysticism, poetry, and music. He studied philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, Kabbalah at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and years later received his MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. In the intervening years, Mark was involved with forming two rock bands, songwriting, and becoming a rabbi. He is the author of The Everything Kabbalah Book and The Sacred Now: Cultivating Jewish Spiritual Consciousness. Mark lives with his wife, Shoshana Brown, and their son, Lev, in Fall River, MA, where Mark and Shoshana are the rabbi and cantor at Temple Beth El.