Sunday, May 26, 2013

Book Review: The Tiferet Talk Interviews

I knew nothing about the Tiferet Talks when I was asked to review this book as part of Sage's Blog Tour. So, let's start at the beginning. The word Tiferet refers to the meeting point between the spiritual and the practical realms, where creativity arises. Visit the wiki link to read more about its meaning. The Tiferet Journal is a platform for literature, art, creativity and spirituality. On these themes it hosts writing contests, courses, interviews and is a publisher of prose and poetry. See their Facebook page for updates.


The Tiferet Talk Interviews is a fascinating collection of twelve interviews transcribed from the Tiferet Talk Radio show, hosted by Melissa Studdard. Some of the world's most notable writers and spiritual leaders share their thoughts on writing, tolerance, and the world we live in today. Gain incredible insight into their perspective on ways to tell the truth of our lives, access creativity, and balance magic and craft. The Tiferet Talk Interviews includes a special introduction by Donna Baier Stein and interviews with Julia Cameron, Edward Hirsch, Jude Rittenhouse, Marc Allen, Arielle Ford, Robert Pinsky, Dr. Bernie Siegel, Robin Rice, Jeffrey Davis, Floyd Skloot, Anthony Lawlor, and Lois P. Jones.      

To review this collection of interviews as a writer, a reader or a reviewer is a difficult choice. As a writer, I got the message that being in touch with one's spirituality - or emotional needs and sense of empowerment, if you like - nurtures creativity. This is explored through the experiences of writers and poets, some who practise yoga, some who offer practical exercises for tapping into creativity, some who have been through tragedy and sickness and have responded in their creative voice. There are recurring themes such as whether or not creativity can be taught and the effect it has on people's lives when it comes. I liked how each chapter focused on the story of how the artist developed their craft and I thought Melissa Studdard's welcoming and generous style created a rapport where she got to the heart of each interviewee's philosophy, with in-depth, well prepared questions.

It was a pleasure to read these conversations, which never felt rushed, so as a reader I was relaxed too. Each one with so many references I want to follow up: poems, websites and further reading. I loved Julia Cameron's fun idea of the Artist's date and Edward Hirsch's interview with a reading of his poem A Chinese Vase, and a memorable quote: "The spiritual life wants articulation", meaning to me that poetry expresses what plain language cannot. I also enjoyed Floyd Skloot's explanation of the title Toomey's Diner and his line that he plagiarizes himself, turning a poem into a story and a story into a novel. With every interviewee prolific and accomplished in their field, some offered mostly wisdom and probing questions - shifting the theme from creativity to philosophy.

I would have preferred the theme to be less fluid, as it moved from artists' creative journeys into the area of life-coaching. I struggled for context here, trying to understand who the audience of this book ought to be. Although the self-help area does have a connection with spirituality, so in that sense it fit. I also would have preferred a more coherent arc to the collection, feeling the order of interviews was a little haphazard. But that did not take away from my enjoyment of the individual interviews. As with a well-written autobiography, it was like sitting down and having a good conversation.


Melissa Studdard is the author of the bestselling novel Six Weeks to Yehi­dah, and its companion journal, My Yehidah. Since its August 2011 release, Six Weeks to Yehidah has been the recipient of many accolades, including the Forward National Literature Award,  the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award and January Magazine's best children's books of 2011. Her poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in numerous magazines, journals, and anthologies. Melissa currently serves as a Reviewer-at-Large for The National Poetry Review, an editorial advisor for The Criterion, and an editor for Tiferet Journal, where she hosts the journal's radio interview program, Tiferet Talk. To learn more, please visit 

Donna Baier Stein’s writing has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Kansas Quarterly, New York Stories, Prairie Schooner, Washingtonian, many other journals and anthologies from Simon & Schuster and The Spirit That Moves us Press. Her short story collection was a Finalist in the Iowa Fiction Awards and will be published, as Sympathetic People, in 2013 by Serving House Books. She has received the PEN/New England Discovery Award for Fiction, a Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars Fellowship, Bread Loaf Scholarship, a grant from the New Jersey Council of the Arts, prizes from the Poetry Council of Virginia, two Pushcart nominations, and an Honorable Mention in the 2013 Allen E. Ginsberg Poetry Awards. Her poetry chapbook Sometimes You Sense the Difference was published in 2012 by Finishing Line Press. Donna founded and currently publishes Tiferet: A Journal of Spiritual Literature ( Her website is