An Introduction to Aviya Kushner by Tiffany Troy

Aviya Kushner’s folio of Ibn Ezra’s travels from Spain to Baghdad over 28 years is as startling as it is historically accurate. The poems are driven by Kushner’s five research trips tracing Ibn Ezra’s footsteps. Kushner’s Ibn Ezra seeks after poems and stars as a lone traveler and in his solitude we find how time will weather bone and stone but not before exhalation giving grace to disappointments, yearnings and questionings towards the holy.

Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking home in New York. She is the author of Wolf Lamb Bomb (Orison Books), winner of The Chicago Review of Books Award in Poetry, a New York Times “New and Noteworthy” selection, and a Foreword INDIES Finalist, and The Grammar of God (Spiegel & Grau)a National Jewish Book Award Finalist and Sami Rohr Finalist in nonfiction. She is The Forward’s language columnist and a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts fellow in translation. 

Notes on the Poems:

“These poems were made by walking. I retraced the steps of Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (c. 1092-1167) through Spain, France, Italy, and England, following his path from 1140-1167.  

During those years of travel, Ibn Ezra wrote his brilliant commentary on the entire Torah, which is part of the mikraot gedolot, or “great readers” that are widely used today. Ibn Ezra was also a tremendous poet who was part of the golden age of Hebrew poetry in Spain, and his vast interests included math, astronomy, grammar, and the calendar. 

Ibn Ezra’s only son Yitzchak, also known as Abū Saʿῑd, is believed to have converted to Islam; he left Spain around the year 1140 and lived the rest of his life in Baghdad. I have spent years thinking about this father and son, in poetry and in prose.”