Title: Wheat, Wine & Honey: Poems by Yaffa Ganz
By Yaffa Ganz
Publisher: Zamir Press
Known primarily for her many books for Jewish children and her articles in Jewish magazines, Yaffa Ganz has now entered a new field. Or shall I say mine-field. Most people do not relish poetry. Nor usually do I. (Nor do I usually write book reviews; I stick to editing other people’s work.) But I just received a copy of Yaffa Ganz’s Wheat, Wine & Honey as a birthday gift. I thumbed through it, skimmed through a few pages, read a few poems (all this while standing) until I finally sat down and read half the book. Later that evening, I finished the rest. What can I say? It was a joy.
The book ranges far and wide. Its nine sections deal with nine different aspects of our lives and souls. Sometimes they’re serious and inspiring; sometimes they’re light and humorous; sometimes they’re downright funny. Ganz paints the world in shimmering hues and shades, calling our attention to wondrous things we should see and feel, but often don’t.
“The Sound of Prayer” and “Higher Dimensions” are personal and prayer-like. Beautiful, inspiring, and glowing. “Generations” is mostly about the author’s own grandchildren, but the poems capture the essence of all grandchildren and the hopes in the hearts of all parents. “Whimsy for the Young at Heart” contains several poems which are each juvenile books in their own right. They are a delight. How can you not love “Michael and the Sea Monster” or “The Day the Sun Slipped Into the Sea”? “Step Lightly” is plain old funny as Ganz skips, runs, or stumbles through her – and our – days.
But the crowning jewels are in “Holy Spaces” – poems on Israel and Jerusalem. The author transports us up into Yerushalayim shel Ma’alah – the Heavenly Jerusalem – even as she takes us along bustling Jaffa Road in contemporary Jerusalem. She brings us to the desert, to the Kotel, to Rachel’s Tomb. She drops us into Israel’s heart and heat of battle… and longed-for peace. These are works of love which capture the heart and essence of Eretz Yisrael.
Very few of the poems follow an expected rhyme or meter. Each one takes you by surprise, the result of many differing moods and modes of thought. Many read like stories. And unlike some poetry, they’re amazingly easy to read. Like ripples on a river, they flow. It’s a book to cuddle up with and embrace.
I inquired why the book is not available in stores and was told that Jewish publishers are wary of poetry, so for the first time ever, after almost 50 different titles on the market, Ganz simply published the book herself (Zamir Press). She says a limited number of hardcover copies are available in Israel from email@example.com but the paperback is available worldwide via www.Amazon.com .
In sum, this small volume was a joy to read and reread. It’s thoughtful, serious, inspiring; it’s also upbeat, funny, and fun. It touches upon things we think and feel but rarely put to words. Every page has something to offer. All I can say is, it’s worth having. It’s a book you’ll revisit many times. Beautifully designed, it also makes for a unique gift. Enjoy!