About Alisha Kaplan
I am a poet and practitioner of narrative medicine. I have an MFA in Poetry from New York University and a BA in English and Creative Writing from Barnard College. Currently, I am in the Narrative Medicine Program at Columbia University. Honours I have received include the Hippocrates Prize in Poetry and Medicine, a Rona Jaffe Fellowship, and a Lenore Marshall Barnard Poetry Prize. I am also a winner of the W. B. Yeats Society of New York Poetry Competition and the Eden Mills Writers Festival Literary Contest. My writing has appeared in Fence, Lilith, DIAGRAM, PRISM International, Carousel, and elsewhere. My debut collection of poems, Qorbanot: Offerings, a collaboration with artist Tobi Kahn, was published in April 2021 by SUNY Press. I split my time between downtown Toronto and Bela Farm in Hillsburgh, Ontario, where I grow garlic and flowers, harvest honey and wild plant medicine, and host barn dances.
This lyric essay, “Avodah,” is the final section of my book, Qorbanot: Offerings. The piece describes a ritual I did when I turned thirty: I dug myself a grave and lay in it that night. There is the first part of the ritual, the work, and then the second part, the rest, and then the inevitable waking, continuing the cycle. The process of digging the earth and the subsequent rest allowed me to meditate on sacrifice, pain, loss, liberation, what is sacred, and what it truly means to rest. In the piece, I talk about farmers literally working the land, speaking to the agricultural roots of shmita. More than that, the experience I describe was a symbolic way of closing one chapter of my life, my twenties, and all the struggles it contained, taking a moment to lay still in the earth, before entering into the next decade. (Note: there are a few sections in this piece and for the purposes of this project, they can be divided, with only one or two sections used.)