What makes a given poet a Jewish poet? It may be stories about Hebrew school and holidays, memories of the shtetl or the Lower East Side. It may be a focus on ethics rooted in the prophetic tradition, or mysticism rooted in the Kabbalah. It may be an engagement with political issues pertaining to Israel and the peace process. Whatever it is, read a selection of a poet’s work and the Jewish aspects usually cohere into some kind of pattern.

But what constitutes Jewish poetry? Round up a large enough sample of different writers, and any of the above elements may start to cancel or contradict one another. Any observation you can make, the opposite is also likely to be true. Factor in a scattered set of allegiances to different schools of poetry or different styles of writing, and it becomes almost impossible to...

You do not currently have access to this content.