Exploring Jewish forms of speaking to God : the use of apostrophe in David Rosenmann-Taub’s Cortejo y epinicio
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In his first published collection of poetry, Cortejo y epinicio (1949), Chilean author David Rosenmann-Taub (1927) references Jewish culture, prayers and beliefs. This project seeks to foreground the Jewishness in his work, as well as the cross-cultural spaces it creates. One of the central means in which Rosenmann-Taub explores Jewish forms of relating to God is through the use of apostrophe. The first section of this essay offers a theoretical framework for discussing apostrophe in poetry and prayer. The three following sections focus on three poems – “Elegía y Kadisch,” “Gólgota,” and “Schabat” – that depict speakers talking to or about God. Their reactions range from continued pleading with God, in the hope of hearing some response, to an attempt to speak for God to a refusal to address God at all. With each section, I consider the poem alongside the Jewish prayers and conventions that serve as a reference point for the poem’s rewritten prayers to God. This comparison not only highlights the notable presence of Jewish forms in Rosenmann-Taub’s poetry, but also points to how he challenges and reframes them. Rosenmann-Taub dramatizes the thresholds between belief and disbelief, divine and earthly, to point to the construction of faith as a mode of being that collapses these boundaries. In the final section of the essay, I situate Rosenmann-Taub’s work within its historical and literary context to highlight the ways in which his inquiries resonate with other poetic works emerging in Chile at that moment in time, as well as how he builds on them by representing Jewishness, heterogeneity, and heterodoxy as part of Chilean culture.