by Raphael Rubinstein
“A strange mystification:
a book all the more total
for being fragmented”
— Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
A Geniza, subtitled “a poem of fragmented fragments pertaining to Edmond Jabès, Uum Kalsoum, Leila Mourad and other former and current citizens of Cairo, Egypt,” delves into the history of Cairo as a multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan and contested site.
In his introduction, Raphael Rubinstein describes how "the form and process" of the poem was inspired by a reading of Sacred Trash: the Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, wherein they describe how "over the course of some 1,000 years, starting in the 9th century C.E., the geniza (a storage room) in the Ben Ezra Synagogue of Cairo was the repository for thousands of books and documents, mostly written in Hebrew." Relying largely on texts authored by others—his sources range from long out-of-print poetry collections to YouTube postings—Rubinstein employs transcription and translation to create his own geniza from the voices of dozens of witnesses to Cairene life throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.
Inviting its readers to create their own orders, their own itineraries through a textural city, A Geniza proceeds with a deep awareness and respect for the use of fragmented writing in modernist circles, while seamlessly introducing aspects of popular culture. Within this radically fragmented poem, the words of poets and entertainers, philosophers and politicians, Muslims, Jews and Copts, are gathered in a thousand virtual dialogues.
Each copy of the edition includes the 108 fragments individually printed letterpress on more than a dozen different papers accompanied by a 36-page pamphlet containing an introduction, which details the context and compositional process of the poem; biographical and bibliographical notes on the sources of the work; and the first printing of a provisional ordering of the poem based on one reading of the fragments.
A Geniza was produced by Steve Clay and Diane Bertolo with letterpress printing by Philip Gallo at the Hermetic Press and binding by Judith Ivry. It is published in an edition of 30 + 10 hors commerce.