Michael Kalisch opens up about his Jewish iden­tity to win a po­etry con­test

The Jewish Chronicle - - People -

DEVON TEENAGER Michael Kalisch has won a na­tional po­etry com­pe­ti­tion with his poem Barmitzvah Blues.

Michael, 17, was awarded one of the top prizes for the Foyle Young Poets of the Year con­test, or­gan­ised by the Po­etry So­ci­ety to dis­cover po­ten­tial pro­fes­sional poets aged 11 to 17.

His en­try was based on his own ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing, as he puts it, half-Jew, half-gen­tile, and the so­cial awk­ward­ness of at­tend­ing a barmitzvah.

He tells Peo­ple: “Grow­ing up, not be­long­ing to a par­tic­u­lar com­mu­nity was hard. My fa­ther is Jewish and I feel it’s a strong part of me, but some peo­ple would not con­sider me to be Jewish. I think a greater level of tol­er­ance is needed.”

Part of his poem reads: “It’s a barmitzvah, and I’m half Jew, half Gen­tile, And so every­one of­fers me a sym­pa­thetic smile, See­ing me caught, as I am, In this cul­tural no man’s land.”

A pupil at Coly­ton Gram­mar School, where he is study­ing drama, English, his­tory and crit­i­cal-think­ing A lev­els, Michael was en­cour­aged to en­ter the com­pe­ti­tion by his teach­ers. He was one of more than 12,000 en­trants. He hopes to read English and his­tory at uni­ver­sity and, one day, have a col­lec­tion of his works pub­lished.

Michael, along with the other win­ners, will at­tend a week-long res­i­den­tial course in Shrop­shire, where he will be tu­tored by com­pe­ti­tion judges Ian McMil­lan, a poet and broad­caster, and Eva Salz­man, a dancer and chore­og­ra­pher.

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