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     The Smoke of Dreams

     by Reena Ribalow

Reena Ribalow is a poet and writer living in Jerusalem, Israel. She was born in New York City and educated at the Yeshiva of Central Queens, Hunter College High School and Queens College. She attended the University of Iowa PhD. Program and Writer’s Workshop on a Danforth Foundation Fellowship.

She is First Prize winner of the Moment Magazine-Karma Foundation Short Fiction Contest, the Margaret Reid Poetry Prize and The Golden Prize. Other awards include the Keats Poetry Prize, the Stand Magazine International Short Story Competition, and The New River poetry prize. “Winter Street With Figure” was a finalist for the Cutthroat Joy Harjo Poetry Award; “Voices of the Dead” was a finalist for Cutthroat’s Rick DeMarinis Short Story Award, and appears in Cutthroat’s Fifth Anniversary Edition. Her work has been published in The Jerusalem Review: Ariel: The New York Quarterly: Shirim : The Literary Review: Midstream: The Jerusalem Post: The Keats Prize Anthology: Voices, Israel: Arc and Israel Short Stories among others.

Her grandfather was Menachem Ribalow, essayist, Hebraist and founder and editor of Hadoar, the first Hebrew weekly in America. For the past thirty-five years she has been a Chief-Screener for the prestigious Harold U. Ribalow Prize for Jewish Fiction, named in honor of her father, Anglo-American Jewish critic, editor and anthologist, Harold U. Ribalow, and administered by Hadassah Magazine. Her grandfather on her maternal side was an Orthodox Lithuanian rabbi. This heritage, its memories and echoes, a previous marriage into a Holocaust survivor family, as well as an adult life rooted in Israel, form the blood knot of her writing.

The Smoke of Dreams
by Reena Ribalow

"The poems in Reena Ribalow's brilliantly precise yet lyrical new collection give us the sweeping arc of one woman's life (and many women's lives), in the erotic revelry of first love, the grounding in marriage and child rearing, with its joys, fears and questions; the wrench of endings, mourning, and most of all, the pain of survival. Ribalow uses her beloved Jerusalem as biblical and literal backdrop, as inspiration and also metaphor, with an immediacy and intimacy reminiscent of Yehuda Amichai. These are essential poems that should be read and savored and reread; I could not put it down."

Sharon Pomerantz, novelist, author of Rich Boy

ISBN 978-0-9975021-3-8
74 pages
5.5"x8.5" perfect bound, paper

To purchase this book click HERE.


Domestic Enchantment

Some spells turn a prince into a frog,
some tame wild girl to wife,
conjure mother out of woman,
tranced by cooking, tending, laundry.

Swaying from their pegs the colored clothes
are dazzling as the wings of
subjugated butterflies.
Sun scents the air with opiate of soap;
captivity subdues the blood like sleep,
with cleanly, sweet,
obliterating peace.

The kitchen table is set
with the artifacts of enchantment:
a jug of flowers upon a blue-checked cloth,
white mugs, a fresh-baked cake.
She herself prepared the potion,
the recipe her mother’s song,
sung before memory.

A cup of flour, two eggs,
a handful of the magic
that fetters sense and soul:
that gilds the room the gold
of an imagined sun:
that heats her veins
like the tea which steams
from teapots,
with the smoke of dreams.


"Reena Ribalow is a poet to treasure, as anyone lucky enough to read this collection will discover.  The poetry here is brimming with fresh, startling and gorgeous imagery, but these poems are, also, by turns, unsparingly honest, emotionally lacerating, mordant, tender and full of longing, wisdom and penetrating insight.  The longest poem, "Jerusalem of Heaven, Jerusalem of Earth”, is simply a masterpiece.  The heart-stopping first line, “I think this place may break my heart” promises a lot and delivers it all; this whole collection does.  I envy those who may be encountering Ms. Ribalow's stunning poetic voice for the first time."

Patricia Randell, actor, Associate Artistic Director at New River Dramatists and poetry series

"Mostly I read for voice, and I would recognize Reena Ribalow’s voice anywhere. It is clarion.  It rings out sorrow held within a thunderously large heart. It belts out pain.  It croons images of places on this earth and in other hearts where it has lived.  A chant of loving is its rhythm. You can't forget the song it leaves on your mind. Ribalow inhales Jerusalem with every breath and exhales its sorrows and those of the whole world. These are powerful poems. They are poems that give, and they are poems that take. “Domestic Enchantment” carries the tune of “her mother’s song/sung before memory,” the lullaby we all hear that “gilds the room the gold of an imagined sun,” before we wake to the brokenness of a mother’s dream for our lives. All women live in this poem, either with “the smoke of dreams” or after as in “Winter Street With Figure” becoming the figure whose back is bent from the weight of groceries, including a celery “whose tail waves limply” by our side. These poems leave a mark on us. So when Reena Ribalow speaks to a poet in “To Another Poet Growing Old,” and says that your prizes “outweigh mine,” my response is “not for long”, because though in their youth neither poet knew “what it takes to be even the smallest stitch in the future of anything,” with these poems Ribalow has entered the future. What came to mind on laying down this book were words from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover.”: “the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!”"

Bonnie MacDougall, Professor of English