A book of Jewish poetry
Paradise Collectors is a 75 page compilation of Jewish themed poetry, featuring poems from D.L. Lang's previous books and a few new additions.
Paradise Collectors is a 75 page compilation of Jewish themed poetry, featuring poems inspired by Judaism, Jewish holidays, and Jewish practice from D.L. Lang’s previous books and a few new additions. Includes “Turning” previously published on ReformJudaism.org, “Prayer for the Shomrim” previously published in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and “Is” previously published in the Marin Poetry Center anthology Vol 21, and winner of 3rd place at the 2019 Solano County Fair. This collection grew out of my building a set for a synagogue reading in Napa.
The title comes from a quote I read in May 2018:
“Paradise is scattered over the whole earth and that is why it has become so unrecognizable.” — Novalis
It struck me and others as a very Kabbalistic quote. I wrote the title poem Paradise Collectors after reading that horoscope.
We are paradise collectors
and one day,
we shall find it.
- Paperback: 75 pages
- Publisher: Independently published (September 18, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1790187702
- ISBN-13: 978-1790187706
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.9 ounces
Excerpt from the foreword:
I am not clergy, nor am I qualified to be such. I am merely a poet who happens to be Jewish. I’ve written numerous poems with an overtly Jewish theme over the years, and I wanted to put the better ones together in a book. To be accessible to a wider audience I did include some simple definitions of Yiddish and Hebrew concepts and terms as I personally understand them after 18 years, but I refer you to the myriad of scholars and books out there if you need more in depth information.
I formally converted to Reform Judaism in 2010, but I have identified as Jewish, studied Judaism, or been involved in Jewish community for half of my life. I related to Judaism because of the desire to change this world while one is in it, rather than awaiting an afterlife. In my conversion essay I defined Judaism as “peace, love, and tikkun olam” which also sums up a lot of my poetry. My synagogue rekindled within me a love of nature, a love of music, and a love of activism, all of which feature prominently in my poetry.
At the turn of the century I minored in Judaic Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and made straight A’s in my 44 credit hours. I did not major in it because that option was not offered at the time. My major at the time was Film Studies, and I used my independent study in Hebrew to create a Hebrew language film in 2005 called The Hebrew Project that shines a light on the beginnings of the Hebrew program at the University, and our wonderful professor, Dr. Ori Kritz. This aired on the Jewish Channel in 2009.
Ori gave me my nickname of Dinah in 2003, and later on I chose to be renamed Dinah Ora as a Hebrew name. My given name is Diana Lucille which means Divine Light, so I wanted “light” in there as a callback to what my parents named me, so my rabbis suggested Ora as an add on.
Attending synagogue would often put me in such a joyous state that I felt compelled to write about my experiences. The liturgy, songs, psalms, rituals, and communal experiences would often create what amounts to ekphrastic and liturgical poetry.
Judaism has been a great influence and inspiration for me. I have also noticed that certain structures appear in my poetry that are influenced by the liturgy. For example, when writing a poem specifically for an audience I’ve noticed that I often include a blessing. Most of the gatherings I am asked to speak at are not of a religious nature.
For example in writing my first poem as poet laureate about Vallejo, I concluded with “Vallejo, my sweet city, dear city of opportunity, may all your dreams arise to infinity, may you know progress and prosperity, may your children grow up joyously, and your homes be as warm as the way you have welcomed me.” When I gave the invocation at the 2019 Vallejo Women’s March, I was basing that poem on call-and-response prayer, trying to uplift the audience spiritually by sharing what I feel when I’m on stage.
Judaism helped me return to myself and reconnected me with my natural strengths again during many years of working secretarial jobs and feeling lost and unsure of what I was meant to do in this life.
In my mid-twenties I volunteered in a lot of areas at my synagogue over the years from helping with the congregational machzor, to being an overnight shomeret for congregants who had passed away, to leading shacharit services, to facilitating a prayer writing workshop and chanting meditation, to designing a website for the Women of Reform Judaism’s pacific district, to participating in various social action demonstrations.
In many ways a poet laureate has to give voice to the issues of her time and publicly express the feelings of the people. It was also synagogue life that made me comfortable again with taking a public stand on the problems facing our world. With my synagogue and other Jewish organizations I had attended several demonstrations which ultimately inspired me to stand up on my own. Although this is not meant to be an overtly political book, I am including some of the poems inspired by those demonstrations in this text.
It would be accurate to state that if I were not so involved in Jewish life I would not have become the Poet Laureate of Vallejo. Due to my clergy and the song leaders often asking me to read poetry and liturgy out loud in front of the congregation, this once shy, quiet woman slowly became more comfortable with public speaking.
The turning point occurred on December 6, 2014 when Congregation Rodef Sholom held a talent show that they called the Beit Cafe. That’s where I first performed my poetry in front of an audience. I had read a few poems by other poets at our Shabbat Unplugged musical gatherings over the years, but this was different. I enjoyed it so much that I felt a strong desire to pursue performing my poetry afterwards, and I sought out Poetry by the Bay in 2015 where I’ve been reading regularly ever since.
I was encouraged and even serenaded a few times by our synagogue musicians to continue on this path. Their faith in me lead me to where I am today. I owe so much to their having seen a spark in me. My eternal gratitude to them for changing my life for the better.
I have pulled most of these poems from other books. Some refer to specific events, some are very personal, and some more universal. Some are intended to be prayers. Others are just personal reflections on Jewish life and my own journey.
I hope you enjoy them.
Vallejo Poet Laureate 2017-2019