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Reflections: Poems, Lyrics, and Stories

PREFACE By Judith Weinshall Liberman
Return to Reflections: Poems, Lyrics, and Stories

My materials included in this collection were written or adapted from works created over a period of more than half a century, from 1949, when I was a student at the University of California at Berkeley, until the present time (2012).

Although I spent the bulk of my adult life creating visual art, I did, over the years, take time out to write, and had six books published. These ranged from a textbook on international law (INTRODUCTION TO PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW, 1955), which I wrote in Hebrew for use by my law students in Israel, to a children's book (THE BIRD'S LAST SONG, Addison-Wesley, 1976), to a book about one of my most important series of artworks (HOLOCAUST WALL HANGINGS, 2002), to my autobiography (MY LIFE INTO ART, 2007), to two books of plays (LOOKING BACK, 2010, and ON BEING AN ARTIST, 2012). During this half century and more, I also wrote many unpublished poems, stories, plays, and short novels.

Having shifted my focus to playwriting after reaching my eighties, I developed one of my plays - GOOD OLD ABRAHAM - into a musical play. While doing so, I wrote 18 lyrics and collaborated with a gifted young composer on the music. Working on my first musical whetted my appetite for that theatrical genre, so I wrote the libretto for my second musical, TO BE AN ARTIST, which included 20 lyrics. Again I collaborated with the same gifted young composer on the music.

I so enjoyed writing lyrics for my two musicals and collaborating with my gifted young composer, that I decided, at the completion of my second musical, to try my hand at writing lyrics independently of any musical play. This creative endeavor I started in 2012, and sent each lyric to my composer for his composition. On each occasion, I was delighted to hear his voice recording of the song.

While writing lyrics, I found myself also writing poems which may or may not be suitable to be set to music. Out of curiosity, I searched among my papers to find some old poems I had written during various periods of my life, some in Hebrew (my mother tongue) and some in English. After studying my old poems, I translated and/or rewrote several of them, leaving some as poems and structuring others as lyrics.

I find it strange that in my old age, after spending my life pursuing so many other creative outlets, I ended up becoming a poet, as my mother was. During her youth in Russia, my mother wrote and publicly recited her poetry and had many of her poems published in the press. After immigrating to Israel (then called "Palestine") in 1920 and mastering the Hebrew language, she wrote poetry in Hebrew and recited it in public. She also published a couple of books of her poetry. Although I was familiar with her poetry, it never occurred to me that some day, when I reached old age, I would myself so enjoy writing poems.

While writing my poems and lyrics, I decided to publish these as a collection. To round out the picture, I thought it would be good to include in the book some of the lyrics I wrote for my two musicals as well as some of my more "poetic" short stories, which were originally intended as children's stories.

The idea of collaborating on this book with my daughter, Dr. Laura Liberman, came to us during one of our many phone conversations in which I read my newly-written poems and lyrics to Laura and she responded to them with great insight. Although Laura is a medical doctor who has spent many years caring for patients, writing medical papers, and writing and editing medical books, she has a passion for literature and music. She was always a gifted writer. From her childhood through college and medical school, she wrote poems and stories. More recently, she wrote a memoir about her experience as a cancer doctor surviving cancer (I SIGNED AS THE DOCTOR, 2009). We thought it would enhance the quality of the book if we could not only include some of her writing but also have her serve as the editor.

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