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