Author: Simon Constam
Publisher: Resource Publications (2022)
Characterized by the admission of doubt in God's desire for a better world, and willing to see Jewish tradition as indispensable, Brought Down struggles with daily life as a firm believer and continuing pride in Jewish identity. In the great Jewish tradition of holding God to account, and not relenting in anger towards Him, the themes in this book are universal: faith, religious practice, forgiveness, history, and the relevance of belief. This book also recognizes that religious traditions today weigh even more heavily in our lives than does God.
Here, you'll find people who are confused, frightened, determined to be their own masters, trapped by age-old customs, but never flagging in strength and determination to see clearly, to love God, to honor the best in traditions, to make a better world. The poems here were written over a twelve-year period. They were born from a lifelong, religious inclination, a ten-year period of Orthodox Jewish observance now passed, and a belief that prayer and poetry are not one and the same; that it is poetry which more profoundly addresses our concerns. You will not fail to recognize yourself in these struggles.
"This was a real treat, walking so lightly along the line where the sacred and the profane meet with intelligence, imagination, and lots of charm. I kept being reminded of Ecclesiastes."
"I'm familiar with many of the things Constam's poems plangently evoke. . . . Some of the poems remind me, in the best way, of poems by Yehuda Amichai and Nelly Sachs. . . . From time to time, I also was reminded of some of the later poems of R. S. Thomas."
–Kevin John Hart
"I just love these poems! They are such a wonderful deep dive that pulls me into each experience so evocatively. Overall, what comes through is the wrestling—wrestling with God, with being faithful or not, with being secular yet pulled/tied/anchored to this tradition. . . . It resonated with my understanding of the biblical meaning of 'Israel' as 'he who wrestles with God.'"
"I enjoyed most the combination of a hard, no-nonsense style . . . with restrained lyrical and philosophical flights, passages of insight that are fully poetic and dramatized."
–A. F. Moritz
"In Brought Down, Constam appears as . . . a Seinfeld-mode Job, questioning God about his 'masquerading as the dark.' God is 'arbitrary' and we are fickle; or he is fickle and our intermittent obedience to indecipherably contradictory dicta becomes the real story of each obituary. . . . I thank Simon 'Agonistes' Constam . . . for giving us a newfangled Ecclesiastes. Brought Down delivers the goods!"
–George Elliott Clarke
"There is a great deal of self-knowledge in these poems, and it is all slightly painful, a bit absurd, and touched with a humble grandiosity that the poet relishes. He is irrecoverably entangled in Jewishness, and he brings that into the light. For all the suffering and painful contradictions the poems in this book deal with against the historical background of Jewish suffering, the mind that comes through is invariably gentle."