Poets on the Edge

An Anthology of Contemporary Hebrew Poetry

Edited and translated by Tsipi Keller
Introduction by Aminadav Dykman

Subjects: Poetry, Jewish Studies, Israel Studies, Hebrew Language And Literature
Series: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture
Paperback : 9780791476864, 376 pages, September 2008
Hardcover : 9780791476857, 376 pages, September 2008

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Table of contents

Aminadav Dykman

YEHUDA AMICHAI (from Open Shut Open, 1998)
I Was Not One of the Six Million. And What is the Span of My Life?
  Open Shut Open
    The Precision of Pain and the Blurring of Bliss
    A Touch of Yearning in Everything (third section)
    My Parents’ Motel
    The Jewish Time Bomb

T. CARMI (from Monologues and Other Poems, 1988; Truth & Consequence, 1993)
And Until When?
If It So Pleases
A Time for Everything
Monologue of the Deserted (II)
In Memory of Dan Pagis (1930–1986)
Monologue in the Twilight of His Life
Lonely Woman’s Monologue
Chess at the Seashore
An Explosion in Jerusalem
Mortification of the Soul
The Mouth
From the Diary of a Divorcé
DAN PAGIS (from Late Leisure, 1964; Transformation, 1970; Synonyms, 1982; Last Poems, 1987)
Tempt the Devil
Ein Leben
Wall Calendar
The End of Winter
Memorial Night
*(First line: You arrive slightly late)
A Linguistic Problem
Browsing through the Album

NATAN ZACH (from Hard to Remember, 1984; Since I’m in the Neighborhood, 1996)
A Belated Poem
To Rise from Ashes
Self-portrait at Night
As Agreed
Three Poems That Weren’t Written
Comrade Poet
A Small Error in the Machine
Goodbye Berlin
Confession: Gentle
And Then We Had 

SHIN SHIFRA (from Woman’s Song, 1962; The Next Step, 1968; Poems 1973–1985 (1987); A Woman Who Practices How To Live, Poems 1986–1999 (2001)
That Made Me Woman
The Spider of Sin
On Rain
A Stranger
In This Split Second
Sabbath Prayer
This Evening
A Woman Who Practices How to Live

ISRAEL HAR (from Edge of Darkness and Bread, 1994)
Morning in a Foreign Place
Grave in the Sun
A Cradle Story
A Sour Pickle the Angel of Death
Dust Instead of Glory
Australian Story
Pauper’s Talk
And Tomorrow I Too to Die Like This

DAVID AVIDAN (from Something for Somebody—Selected Poems 1952–1964)
The Stain Remained on the Wall
Interim Summation
Power of Attorney
Personal Problems
Dance Music
Will Power
Safe Distance
Experiments in Hysterics

DAHLIA RAVIKOVITCH (from Mother With Child, 1992)
An Exceptional Autumn
An Attempt to Express an Opinion
On Life and on Death
The Cat
Ready Alert
Lying Upon the Water
But She Had a Son
Grand Days Have Gone By Her
A Mother Goes About
The Tale about the Arab Who Died in the Fire
Train of Thought
Rina Slavin
The Greenness of Leaves
A Private History
A Beetle’s Life

ASHER REICH (from Selected Poems, 1986; Works on Paper, 1988; Fictitious Facts, 1993; Winter Music, 1996)
The History of My Heart
New York: First Swim
New York: Second Swim
Requiem to a Dog in the Rain
The Music of the Cosmos
A Recurring Memory
A Different Sensation

HEDVA HARECHAVI (from I Only Want To Tell You, 1985)
Tonight I Saw
When She Goes Out Alone
Imagine, Carving the Sky
When the Music Subsided
Like Back Then, When I Was Escorted
Like in the Passing Year
Like a Binging Preying Beast
A Very Cheerful Girl
Go, Go Wherever You Go, But Go
Already Night, Already Day
For Ruth
Here Everything

NURIT ZARHI (from The Fish, 1987; Village of Spirits, 1994; Hypnodrom Hotel, 1998)
*(First line: For they are at the center of my life)
*(First line: The rain reveals the hidden names of leaves)
*(First line: Forgive my outburst, Sir)
Baby Blues
The Marked Ship
Convincing Herself She’s a Picture

MEIR WIESELTIER (from Exit to the Sea, 1981; The Concise Sixties, 1984; Warehouse, 1995)
A Naive Painting
To Be Continued
A Moving Electric Message
Only in Hebrew
My Wisdom
The Bible in Pictures II
Burning Holy Books
The 19th Century: Nohant, June ’76
The Lost Uncles
The Fowl of the Air
The Flower of Anarchy
Not A Poem
A Childish Farewell Song to a Prime Minister
The Wheel of the Century

RUTH BLUMERT (from Exiles on a Strange Planet, 1991; Acquaintance from Another Age, 1996)
The Combination
In Time
The Departure from the Garden of Eden
Jerusalem, Bus #18, 1986
Waves of Love
Silent Film
Additional Dimensions
Lost in the Alleys of the Flat
*(First line: Most of the time I doze)

YONA WALLACH (from Appearance, 1985)
All the Trees
House Said the House
Come to Me Like a Capitalist
Sleep With Me Like a Journalist
Come to Me Like a Jew
Let’s Make a Little Philosophy
All at Once Everything Seems Dear
Woman Becomes Tree
When You Come Lie With Me Come Like My Father

RAQUEL CHALFI (from Free Fall, 1979; Matter, 1990; Love of the Dragon, 1995)
Travelling to Jerusalem On a Moon Night
Hair of Night
The Water Queen of Jerusalem
Reckless Love
I Drew My End Near
Sitting in the Wall
Monologue of the Witch Impregnated by the Devil
And the Whiteness Grew Stark
Elegy For a Friend Who Lost Her Mind
A Concealed Passenger
Blues in a Jar
German Boot

MORDECHAI GELDMAN (from Eye, 1993; The Book of Asking, 1997)
Friendly Dragon
Porno 2
Porno 3
The Hottentot Venus (Porno 7)
Holy Ground
Tonight I Yield
I Won’t Travel This Summer
Abused Neighbor
Why a Frog
Almost Flowers

RUTH RAMOT (from Slices of Heaven, 1994; Sealed Waves, 1998)
Blue Prince
*(First line: I leave, taking with me)
They Assault Me the Flowers
*(First line: Quiet and an evening breeze)
In the Soft Curve
The Scent of Wind
*(First line: The moon doesn’t fit here)
Toward Evening
Hot in the Corner Café
Love Song
Room Number forty
*(First line: Yesterday, when I sat in the café)

AGI MISHOL (from Fax Pigeon, 1991; The Interior Plain, 1995; Look There, 1999; New and Collected Poems, 2003)
So Overbearing Had Become
*(First line: I remember a short speech)
It Seems Miraculous to Her
Turning to Rest in Sappho’s Poems
Afternoon Nap
The Interior Plain
Like a Bird Tagged
In Her Bed
The Sacred Cow of Hardship
The Irritating Manner in Which I Exist in Your Fancy
From the Depth I Called Hey
When Soft Angel Plumage
Morning and She Pees
Woman With Pitchfork
Nocturnal I
Nocturnal II

DAN ARMON (from Duration, 1986; Footprints, 1989)
The Squash Watchman
The Apple the Cucumber and the Plum
Midas of Sugar
*(First line: In a temporary shelter
Play in the Kitchen
*(First line: In a gesture of argument)
Eight Short Ones
*(First line: a dark back yard)
*(First line: The wondrous wilting of a flower)
Song of the Valley
*(First line: We’ve stabilized the emotion)

YITZHAK LAOR (from Night in a Foreign Hotel, 1992; And Loveth Many Days, 1996)
A Note
Sleeping in Another Place
The Narrator’s Death

MAYA BEJERANO (from Selected Poems, 1972–1986; Voice, 1987; Beauty Is Rage, 2001)
Data Processing #10
Data Processing #12
Data Processing # 14
Don’t Stop the Motion
The Hands of Autumn
A Galilean Landscape, Important to Note
The Pecan Leaves

RONNY SOMECK (from Rice Paradise—Selected Poems 1976–1996)
Dog After Dog
Greek Music
A Soldier in the Desert. A Romance in Photos
From A Distance the Tombstones Look Like a Flock of Storks
Handcuffs. Street Poem
Poverty Line
Jasmine. A Poem on Sandpaper
Autumn. A French Movie
Tear Comptroller Report
Thirty Seconds to Charge the Nipple
Lions’ Milk
Poem to a Girl Already Born
In Answer to a Question: When Did Your Peace Begin?
A Pound of Child
Blues on the Life That Was Almost Mine
Rice Paradise

HAVA PINHAS-COHEN (from The Passage of the Doe, 1994; A River and Forgetfulness, 1998)
Explicitly Named
On the Eve of the Holiday
A Variable Texture
The Way to the River
A Hand Empty of Body

AMIR OR (from Face, 1991; Ransoming the Dead, 1994; Poem, 1996)
A Pint of Beer
From the White Dictionary
No Trail Markers
Poem (six sections)

TAMIR GREENBERG (from Self-Portrait with Quantum and a Dead Cat, 1993; The Thirsty Soul, 2002)
My Grandma Rachel Age Fifteen
Annabel Lee
Poetics 1
Poetics 2
Poetics 3
Journey 1
Journey 2

SHARRON HASS (from The Mountain Mother Is Gone, 1997; The Stranger and the Everyday Woman, 2001)
Our Life is the Life of Beasts
To the Fox
The Stranger
The Great Illusion
The Flutist
I Stand in the Circle and Look Around Me
Afternoon Slumber
Smooth Boys
The Sun’s Mooring
The Girl Fumbles
Beyond The Forest

The Poems of Irit Katzir


Selections from twenty-seven Hebrew poets, many of whose poems appear here in English for the first time.


Poets on the Edge introduces four decades of Israel's most vigorous poetic voices. Selected and translated by author Tsipi Keller, the collection showcases a generous sampling of work from twenty-seven established and emerging poets, bringing many to readers of English for the first time. Thematically and stylistically innovative, the poems chart the evolution of new currents in Hebrew poetry that emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s and, in breaking from traditional structures of line, rhyme, and meter, have become as liberated as any contemporary American verse. Writing on politics, sexual identity, skepticism, intellectualism, community, country, love, fear, and death, these poets are daring, original, and direct, and their poems are matched by the freshness and precision of Keller's translations.

Tsipi Keller was born in Prague, raised in Israel, and has been living in the United States since 1974. Her short fiction and her poetry translations have appeared in many journals and anthologies, and her novels include Jackpot; Retelling; and The Prophet of Tenth Street. Keller has also translated several poetry collections, including Dan Pagis's Last Poems and Irit Katzir's And I Wrote Poems. She lives in West Palm Beach, Florida.


"For English-speaking readers (and writers), both Jewish and non-Jewish, the book will explode whatever lingering stereotypes there may be about Israeli culture. More broadly, it will confirm Israel's place in world literature today as a cornucopia of poetry. You won't want to miss out on Poets on the Edge. " — phati'tude Literary Magazine

"Tsipi Keller … put together the perfect combination of twenty-seven established and emerging Hebrew poets bringing many to readers of English for the first time … In the end, it's the writing that shines through. The poets touch on politics, sexual identity, skepticism, intellectualism, community, country, love, fear, and death, with much of the work daring, original and direct; and are matched by the freshness and precision of Keller's translations. " — phati'tude Literary Magazine

"…an introduction for an English-speaking audience to the wealth of contemporary poets writing in Israel today … The careful translations are sensitive to both Hebrew cadence and English idiom. Covering a wide range of themes including love, politics, doubt, death, identity, and even poetry itself, these poems are a carefully curated collection. " — Jewish Book World

"This poetry from Israel reveals a culture far more diverse than American stereotypes would suggest … [The poets] share … a precision of language and feeling that should seem both familiar and fresh to non-Israeli readers of poetry. " — HeadButler. com

"This new anthology of Hebrew poetry in translation has two special strengths—tremendous depth and a personal touch … It's clear that [Keller] has strong feelings on which poets matter, and wants to explain why they matter. " — Jerusalem Post

"Poets on the Edge deserves to be in every poetry lover's library, and should be on every Jewish bookshelf. Not since Carmi's 1981 The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse has a volume of such significance been published. " — The Jewish Daily Forward

"…a feast of a book … brilliantly translated by a gifted poet. For American readers, who are likely to know much more about Israeli fiction than its poetry, … Poets on the Edge will be a revelation. " — Alicia Suskin Ostriker, JBooks. com

"This commendable project casts a wide net, demonstrating the impressive range of urgencies and preoccupations in the contemporary literary landscape of Israel. " — Critical Mass, the blog of the national book critics circle board of directors

"This comprehensive and amazing anthology is a great read best taken slowly, savoring each page of outstanding poetry. Tsipi Keller has had the patience and intelligence to select a stimulating and powerful group of poems, with accurate and very readable translations. " — Shirley Kaufman

"Poets on the Edge is a true masterpiece. The translations are sensitive, wise, graceful, and insightful; the selection is rich and inviting. What a brilliant achievement!" — Miriyam Glazer, American Jewish University

"Keller's breathtaking anthology, some twenty years in the making, shows that voices of contemporary Israeli poetry can be compellingly narrative, elegantly lyrical, elegiac, passionate, eccentric, and even phantasmagoric. Her translations convey the skepticism, wit, and energy of these poets who speak of loves and breakups, query their places in Jewish history, contemplate metaphysical questions, and paint pictures of everyday life in Israel. " — Lynn Levin, Drexel University and The University of Pennsylvania