Pre-order your copy of T’shuvah before October 17 and receive a free gift!
T’shuvah (תשובה) means repentance in Hebrew. Etymologically, it comes from the root meaning “to return.”
One way to understand the logic of that etymology is this: if sin alienates you from both God and yourself, then atoning for sin means returning to yourself as a starting point for deepening your commitment to the life God wants you to lead. The poems in T’shuvah apply this framing to the question of what it means to “return” from the alienation that is inherent in surviving sexual violence, with the caveat, of course, that a survivor of sexual violence has committed no sin and that neither the moralizing nature nor the implicit politics of the phrase “the life God wants you to lead” need by definition to be part of that process.
What does the interior journey of a man who survives sexual violence feel like? Open Richard Jeffrey Newman’s book, let him gently take your hand, enter a world of image, of sound, of pain and redemption, of wonder. When he lets go of your hand, he will leave you with salve for your wounded heart, like this:
“What draws you forward
through the faith you’ve lost will not desert you.”
David Lisak, Ph.D.
Vice Chair, 1in6 Board of Directors
Leader of The Bristlecone Project
For a book with such heavy themes, Richard Jeffrey Newman’s T’shuvah is notable for the lightness of its touch. Bringing into focus atrocity, desire, sexuality, cruelty, and love by turns, Newman shows us a way to let the teachings of Judaism resonate across our lives without having to pin those teachings down or make those teaching restrictive or reductive. These poems helped me see the ways in which the mind, body, spirit, and community might be able to resonate against each other, forming harmonies and dissonances that are instructive, discomforting, and ineluctable. In reading these poems, I felt myself returning to something I didn’t even know I’d strayed from.
Jason Schneiderman, author of Hold Me Tight
T’shuvah searches, with relentless beauty, for the truth of what we feel most deeply, pulsing with an awareness of loss as tangible as its celebration of faith, and of love — reminding us that “deceit begins when touch fails.” Sensual, visceral, yet warmly conversational, these poems reunite us with our own yearnings, paying tender tribute to all that can be touched and lived and remembered.
Nandana Dev Sen
Richard Jeffrey Newman’s T’shuvah, once again, provides us with haunting images of our multi-faceted, complex world. Vacillating between a close first-person point of view, an expansive omniscient perspective, and every take of the world in between, Newman steers the reader on the interior journeys of speakers with incessant questions for our consideration. This is extraordinary work that propels us to think of the world in alternate takes, in meaningful possibility, and ultimately, in the context of redemption. A brilliant addition to the canon.
Jacqueline Jones LaMon, author of What Water Knows
Richard Jeffrey Newman’s moving new poetry collection, T’shuvah, takes us on a journey simultaneously near and far, through present and past, edging ever closer to difficult memories that continue to haunt. Impressively crafted, with a delicacy of observation that invites the reader in, the poems migrate between “you” and “I,” providing the distance necessary to confront these stories. Repeating words and varying phrases brilliantly, the poet achieves an earned, aphoristic wisdom. With survival comes shame but also the possibility of connection and beauty. While Newman explores in this book the underpinnings of t’shuvah, the Jewish tradition of acceptance, reconciliation, and forgiveness, the impulse transcends a specific spiritual experience and speaks to us all. Follow him on his path, and it will become yours.
Andrea Carter Brown, author of September 12
Richard Jeffrey Newman
is the author of Words for What Those Men Have Done (Guernica Editions 2017) and The Silence of Men (CavanKerry Press 2006), as well as the translation, The Teller of Tales: Stories from Ferdowsi’s Shahameh (Junction Press 2011). He curates the First Tuesdays reading series and is Professor of English at Nassau Community College.