Review of Tel, S. Karlan

Originally published on Reedsy Discovery. 

“Your body caught in a wave

Turning you over in the thick brine”

In archaeology, a tel (Hebrew for ‘hill’ or ‘mound’) is a mound formed by generations of people living in the same place for hundreds and thousands of years. Whilst, ‘Aviv’ is Hebrew for ‘spring’. Thus, Karlan’s three part poem seeks to interweave the history of the individuals in Tel Aviv and follow the path of renewal.

Karlan moves fluidly between the personal and the public; focusing on the way an individual deals with heartache, loss and the pursuit of happiness. Each part begins with ‘The way forward’ so although Karlan is exploring the past, the driving force behind each line is the future and what it may be like when you get there.

“In the bright morning in Tel Aviv

A woman brings death onto a bus”

The poem does not shy away from honesty either. Tel Aviv promises to be a city of renewal but it has witnessed death and conflict too. Karlan recognises how this forms a part of all the residents’ lives – how life is immeasurably changed by our actions and the actions of others.

“True love appears small

Like a mother’s hand”

Yet, there is hope throughout. Each part is beautifully written with allusions to faith, belief, love and everyday life. Many moments are nostalgic and sweep you up into the cradling arms of excellent poetry.

Karlan has successfully told a story which is limited to a city but embraces the world and humanity at large. The words can find a home in anyone willing to read and listen to ages as they build and fall, and begin again.

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