Origin Stories – Judy Kronenfeld

Origin Stories for May
    Musical Surprise
    by Judy Kronenfeld

    All through the klezmer concert 
    at the synagogue, all through the wailing, laughing,
    talk-back violin, the clarinet cavorting
    and kazatski-ing, and climbing up to cry
    from the rooftops, the cymbals shushing and tsk-ing, 
    the sax keening and weeping its ecstasy  
    of prayer, my dead father and mother sit down beside me,
    and my unmet father’s sister who never escaped
    Germany, and my mother’s parents
    who died before I was born, and their parents
    before that—all of them silently kvetching, kibitzing
    groaning, singing, all the way 

    First published in Poetica Magazine: Contemporary Jewish Writing

Origin Stories – Musical Surprise

The klezmer concert this poem responds to occurred at a nearby synagogue which my parents belonged to in their retirement, and which my husband and I have attended, much more sporadically, in recent years. This immersive music—with its interwoven folk and liturgical motifs, its particular instrumentation, and its performance in a place I associated with my long-gone parents, a place where remembering is a constant theme—called out and spoke to my identification with my past, my ancestry, in a way that felt almost mystical. I felt an unusual, poignant, and calm sense of belonging, of closeness, of taking that past into myself. I knew this feeling would lead to a poem, To realize that poem, I later listened to more klezmer music on the internet—still under the enchantment of the concert—searching out the flavors of the instruments I had heard, closing my eyes and letting words come that would describe those instrumental voices. The descriptions summoned by the music wound up suggesting something more—the expressiveness and experiences of a people and a culture as perceived through my ears. “Musical Surprise” became the first poem of my fifth book, Groaning and Singing.


Judy Kronenfeld’s fifth full-length book of poetry, Groaning and Singing  (FutureCycle) came out in 2022. Previous collections include Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017), Shimmer (WordTech, 2012) and Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths (2nd ed. Antrim House, 2012), winner of the 2007 Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in four dozen anthologies (including one textbook) and in such journals as Cider Press Review, Gyroscope Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, New Ohio Review, Offcourse, One, Rattle, Sheila-Na-Gig, Slant, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verdad, and Your Daily Poem. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has also been nominated for Best of the Net. Judy is a more occasional writer of short fiction and nonfiction, and—in another life—published a dozen articles on English Renaissance and other literatures in various scholarly journals, and wrote a book on Shakespeare and Shakespeare criticism –KING LEAR and the Naked Truth (Duke UP, 1998). She is Lecturer Emerita, Department of Creative Writing, UC Riverside, and lives in Riverside, California, with her anthropologist husband. They have two far-flung middle-aged children and four grandchildren.  

WEBSITE: https://judykronenfeld.com


https://www.facebook.com/JKronenfeld/  (page for my fourth book, Bird Flying through the Banquet)

Gyroscope Review Spring 2023 Issue Now Available

Previous Origin Stories

April 1 – Wanda Praisner

April 2 – Howard Lieberman

April 3 – L. Shapley Bassen

April 4 – Sharon Scholl

April 5 – Stellasue Lee

April 6 – Jeanne DeLarm

April 7 – Virginia Smith

April 8 – Patricia Ware

April 9 – Mary Makofske

April 10 – Ann Wallace

April 11 – Jessica Purdy

April 12 – Lakshman Bulusu

April 13 – Kim Malinowski

April 14 – Anita Pulier

April 15 – Martha Bordwell

April 16 – Anastasia Walker

April 17 – Annette Sisson

April 18 – Shaheen Dil

April 19 – Claudia Reder

April 20 – Cathy Thwing

April 21 – Sarah Snyder

April 22 – Susan Barry-Schultz

April 23 – Laurie Kuntz

April 24 – Maryann Hurtt

April 25 – Yvonne Zipter

April 26 – Jess Parker

April 27thKelly Sargent

April 28thRobbi Nester

April 29thLaurie Rosen

April 30thJames Penha

May 1stOisin Breen

May 2ndJennifer Shomburg Kanke

May 3rdKaren Paul Holmes

Previous NPM celebrations from Gyroscope Review

Let the Poet Speak! 2022

Promopalooza 2021

Poet of the Day 2020

Poets Read 2019

National Poetry Month Interview Series 2018

Book Links Party 2017

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