Into My Garden

Poems

by David Caplan

$9.95

Buy through other online book sellers
Tags: , ,

About this book

These remarkable poems blend spiritual unease with religious confidence, an investigator’s fascinated spirit with a sense that the poet has almost–but not quite– come home.
–Stephanie Burt

A series of evocative poems that ask the big questions–about faith, doubt, love, yearning, and, most powerfully of all, the yearning for knowledge. Caplan also debates the basis of the big questions, asking ‘To know/what you feel, not what you ought to feel, /is there anything harder? ”
–Denise Duhamel

Yes, this is a book of yeshiva study, yeshiva days and nights, and of the avid, ardent, on-fire (and sometimes doubtful and conflicted) longing to understand God’s Holy Words in a world of prayerful devotion where “each syllable / [is] said corrected or repeated until it is.” But to consign these poems solely to the realm of “religion” or “theology” or “scholarly exegesis” is to dismiss Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s observation, “We must live with the times. ”
–Albert Goldbarth

A searing, shimmering lucidity: among its many offerings, David Caplan’s Into My Garden delicately, precisely, unforgettably tracks the fear and love informing Jewish study and longing. One encounters here an unusual sensibility–profound, thoughtful, rigorous, tender. An assured, commanding book which has its sights on something far more important than the merely literary.
–Maureen N. McLane

“I don’t remember half / the prayers I’ve said, even saying them,” confides David Caplan, bringing American Confessionalism into the Chassidic tradition in this searching and luminous collection.
–Srikanth Reddy

David Caplan’s brilliant new collection takes us into a yeshiva, and into the searching, longing, and dedication of the student mind. As he writes in Into My Garden, “The more/ you need them, the more words demand.” I close this book thinking deeply not only about faith but also about language–how, whether in poetry or in prayer, it carries us, guides us toward understanding.
–Maggie Smith

A book of devotional poems that speaks poignantly, often heartbreakingly, to the believers and nonbelievers of our present moment. This brilliant book is a treasure of the Chassidic–and the human–experience.
–Yehoshua November

Advance Praise

“These remarkable poems blend spiritual unease with religious confidence, an investigator’s fascinated spirit with a sense that the poet has almost—but not quite—come home. Caplan writes to portray this Orthodox Jewish world as a set of real people with serious joys and concerns, neither figures for trouble elsewhere (the land of Israel never appears) nor idealized Others from an ancestral past. Other poets have made American poems from Jewish interpretive traditions; Caplan stands out in that he makes poems about the present-day people who try to live by those traditions. Caplan’s lines try to bring into their pace and their phrasing, their details given and withheld, a way of life that he shares in part, and stands outside in part, and has brought into his circumspect and introspective American English. This project of sympathy with the yeshiva students never seems more successful than when Caplan shares their joys: the third person of ‘Chassidus by Telephone,’ asking ‘To get religious—what does that mean?’ might be somebody the poet observes ‘on the train home’ or it might be the poet himself, without an epiphany or a ‘wonder story,’ who nonetheless finds that ‘a lecture on fear and love’ has become ‘a wordless tune,’ an experience at once aesthetic, sociable, discursive, and religious, a credible form of communal sacred song.”
—Stephanie Burt

“David Caplan’s Into My Garden gives us a series of evocative poems that ask the big questions—about faith, doubt, love, yearning, and, most powerfully of all, the yearning for knowledge. Caplan also debates the basis of the big questions, asking ‘To know/what you feel, not what you ought to feel,/is there anything harder?’ Poems set in a yeshiva school, where emulation and interpretation are prized, introduce a speaker who thrives through inquiry and debate. The later poems renegotiate early teachings with the realities of adulthood. In this way, Caplan is a neo-Romantic, his poetry keenly in tune with the child’s unique worldview, seeing many things for the first time, before assimilated into the workings of grown-up societal norms. Into My Garden is a beautifully earnest, smart, and tender book. Caplan writes wonderfully about wonder.”
—Denise Duhamel
“Yes, this is a book of yeshiva study, yeshiva days and nights, and of the avid, ardent, on-fire (and sometimes doubtful and conflicted) longing to understand God’s Holy Words in a world of prayerful devotion where ‘each syllable / [is] said corrected or repeated until it is.’ But to consign these poems solely to the realm of ‘religion’ or ‘theology’ or ‘scholarly exegesis’ is to dismiss Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s observation, ‘We must live with the times.’ A microphone clipped to a lapel is here, and a bodega, and a hotel lobby where ‘a woman tells a stranger what she will do / for three hundred dollars.’ Steeped in Ashkenazic tradition though it is, Into My Garden asks to be true to all dances and struggles—of faith as well as of flesh—of this Earth.”
—Albert Goldbarth

“A searing, shimmering lucidity: among its many offerings, David Caplan’s Into My Garden delicately, precisely, unforgettably tracks the fear and love informing Jewish study and longing. One encounters here an unusual sensibility—profound, thoughtful, rigorous, tender.
Caplan’s beautifully measured lines and stanzas conjure yeshivas, cemeteries, hermeneutics, a particular beach, the life of trees, remembered friendships. From Chasidic scholars to Ezra Pound, from Queens to Jerusalem, Caplan addresses complex inheritances and uncertain movements toward the holy. The erotics of prayer, of ritual; the stringencies and ambiguities of interpretation; an ongoing testing of self and of religious engagement; the status of memory; hopes and disappointments in marriage—Caplan’s horizons are both vast and intimate. This is a book both of these times and not: beautiful and occasionally painful distillations of a notably searching intelligence and heart. An assured, commanding book which has its sights on something far more important than the merely literary.”
—Maureen N. McLane

“ ‘I don’t remember half / the prayers I’ve said, even saying them,’ confides David Caplan, bringing American Confessionalism into the Chassidic tradition in this searching and luminous collection. Into My Garden teaches us ‘that anger / is idolatry and world means concealment’ in Jewish theology, but it also makes a yeshiva of City Park, where we learn how ‘the world leans toward kindness, // God’s finger on the scale.’ From Ezra Pound’s Venice to the Biblical Song of Songs, these poems investigate the eternal dialectic of understanding and awe. Such art is only made possible through the most disciplined of devotions: ‘each syllable / said correctly or repeated until it is.’ ”
—Srikanth Reddy

“David Caplan’s brilliant new collection takes us into a yeshiva, and into the searching, longing, and dedication of the student mind. As he writes in Into My Garden, ‘The more/ you need them, the more words demand.’ I close this book thinking deeply not only about faith but also about language—how, whether in poetry or in prayer, it carries us, guides us toward understanding.”
—Maggie Smith

“These elliptical, imagistic, and lovely poems arrive at the perfect pitch for honoring the inexplicable—in its tragic, lifting, and mystical iterations. While rooted deeply in Chassidic faith and culture, Caplan’s masterful poetry does not spare the reader painful questions, personal sorrows, an aching sense of alienation. Into My Garden accomplishes what many concerned with contemporary poetry deem impossible: a book of devotional poems that speaks poignantly, often heartbreakingly, to the believers and nonbelievers of our present moment. This brilliant book is a treasure of the Chassidic—and the human—experience.”
—Yehoshua November

Reviews

“The value of Caplan’s work is not anthropological; it is literary and psychological. He has rendered the complex inner experience of becoming a contemporary Hasid in decidedly un-Hasidic language. Indeed, Caplan’s poems are powerful and surprising, in part, because they are written in the familiar introspective and confessional first-person voice of late-modern American lyric poetry.”

“…the spiritual experience he describes will be familiar to ba’alei teshuvah and other spiritual seekers. The beauty of Caplan’s book is that it is not polemical. It does not set out to win an argument or ask you whether you’ve put your tefillin on today. These gentle poems invite the reader into one person’s profound, ambiguous religious experience.”

Jake Marmer, writing in the Spring 2020 issue of the Jewish Review of Books