Reality Crumbs

Selected Poems

By Raquel Chalfi
Translated by Tsipi Keller
Afterword by Dan Miron

Subjects: Poetry, Literature, Israel Studies, Jewish Studies, Translation
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438457420, 252 pages, September 2015
Hardcover : 9781438457413, 252 pages, September 2015

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Tsipi Keller
From Underwater Poems and Other Poems (1975)
On the Shore, Tel Aviv, Winter 1974
From the Songs of Crazy Dolores
A Brief Love
From Freefall (1979)
Traveling to Jerusalem on a Moon Night
Hair of Night
The Water Queen of Jerusalem
Reckless Love
I Drew My End Near
Handling Pain
Daily Record
A Sex-Mechanic in Berkley
Sitting in the Wall
Going Up and Down the Stairs
The Magical Cat
And the Whiteness Grew Stark
Optimism in an English Meadow
From Chameleon or the Principle of Uncertainty (1986)
Tutti's Seven Energy Balls
Voices Near the Sea
Poem about Sky, Stone, Sea
An Open Letter to Poetry Readers
Relationship,  2
I Went to Work as an Ostrich
From Matter (1990)
Once I Knew
Such Tenderness
A Hat's Architecture
Elegy for a Friend Who Lost Her Mind
Tale about an Inside-Out Dress
Bear Song
Parrot in My Brain
A Hidden Passenger
Blues in a Jar
Reality Crumbs in Café Marsand
Sometimes   At Noon
*(First line: And now what?)
From Love of the Dragon (1995)
The Soul or Possibly
A Moment in the Inner Glass
Scanner (tr. by the poet)
The Love of Trees
German Boot
Internal Gymnastics
Three Women, Strangers, Watch Me by the Sea
From A Hidden Passenger (1999)
Organism,   Chaos
Let Me Have a Bowl
Greenhouse Effect
The Glow of the Child
Pictures from a Diary
Space Pockets
The Objects
From Portrait of Father and Daughter (2004)
To Watch Life
I Put Over My Head
I'm Sitting
And How You're Trying To Make Me Laugh
This Man
*(First line: When I came in here today)
Father Who Comes and Appears
From Secret Details from the Transparent Binder (2007)
The Cute Word-Strollers
More and More They Wrap
When Pain Becomes a Flower
Here   in the Hidden House
In Such a Furnace of Noon
So Why Don't I
Don't Tell Me
Double Exposure in the Black Forest
A Half-Day Off
Love at McDonald's
The Cat Frasier as a Philosophy Major
A Moment Tries to Catch Itself by Its Tail
If Only I Were a Fearless Biker
Sixty-Five Million Years Ago
Short Ones
From the Diary of a Penguinette (tr. by the poet)
Mrs. Darwin (tr. by the poet)
From Witches (2009)
A Witch Bent on Healing
The Witch Who Did Not Cushion Her Life
Mutant Witch
Witch Breaks
Witch in Fact
Hopeful Witch
The Witches' Chorus
Monologue of the Witch Impregnated by the Devil
The Fat Witch's Blues
Witch Discusses the Color Scale
From Portrait of Mother and Daughter (2010)
A Small Prayer
Scar Tissue
Ejection Seat
Life as an Enormous Beast
Back Yard
In the Tiny Speck
From the Notebook
My First Dream about You
The Neighborhood Cats, And Also the Birds
Someone Went Past
And Now
Dan Miron
About Raquel Chalfi
About Tsipi Keller
About Dan Mion
Index of Titles and First Lines

First book-length collection of the work of the celebrated Israeli poet.


Reality Crumbs is the first book-length collection in English of the work of the celebrated Israeli poet, playwright, and filmmaker Raquel Chalfi. Versatile and unpredictable, Chalfi's often visionary and dramatic poetry has been acclaimed for its independence and daring by leading Israeli critics. In the words of poet and critic Eli Hirsch, her work is a "thrilling combination of simplicity and chaos, clarity and mystery."

Ever present in Chalfi's poetry is the need to touch, to feel the tangible and sensuous, as well as a desire to break all boundaries and smash so-called conventional wisdoms, be they social, cultural, or linguistic. Her poems are often anxious, restless, inquisitive, nearly physical in their constant search for, and chasing after, that one element that will help them get a step closer to grasping the mystery at their center. And if she takes on the persona of a wild biker or a witch, it is not merely to travel freely in the land of fancy and so taste another's life, but, more importantly, to measure the extent of her empathy.

Raquel Chalfi is the author of many volumes of poetry, and her work has been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and other languages. She has received numerous literary awards, including the Prime Minister's Prize, the Ashman Prize, the Bialik Prize for Poetry, and the Brenner Prize for Poetry. She is also a playwright and filmmaker, and has taught film at Tel Aviv University. She lives and works in Tel Aviv. The author of nine books, Tsipi Keller is a novelist and translator. Her previous translations include Poets on the Edge: An Anthology of Contemporary Hebrew Poetry (also published by SUNY Press) and Maya Bejerano's The Hymns of Job and Other Poems. She lives and works in West Palm Beach, Florida.


Praise for Raquel Chalfi

"Raquel Chalfi's poems are filled with sharp intelligence, but also passion, gusto, and surprise. You never know where these poems are going, but they are carrying a fully lived life of pleasure and pain with them—and often they will sneak up on you and make you laugh. Or else make you want to dance." — Alicia Ostriker

"This is very wise poetry, insightful, often reminiscent of Wisława Szymborska—in its lucidity, its intellectualism, its new humanism … The range of its subject matter and the consistency of its philosophy are unique and highly impressive." — Ariel Hirschfeld

"Raquel Chalfi electrifies words that are very familiar to us, and makes us see, for the first time, what we have seen many times without seeing. She's a lyrical poet, subtle and precise, whose work radiates warmth, life, and wisdom." — Amos Oz

"Chalfi's poetry is complex, it cannot be defined or labeled as belonging to any particular literary trend—a multifaceted poetry, linguistically rich and daring." — Haaretz

"Chalfi is an important poet. There is independence and risk-taking in her work, and she has broken through several literary fences … You can feel the earth shaking under your feet … Her poetry is unique and remarkable … No one writes like her." — Gabriel Moked

"Chalfi tries to seize nothingness, to peel off the layers of spiritual existence … She spreads her broad poetic wings over all this with great momentum and unimaginable gentleness." — Dimui

Praise for Tsipi Keller's Poets on the Edge: An Anthology of Contemporary Hebrew Poetry

"…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 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 Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse has a volume of such significance been published." — The Jewish Daily Forward

"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

"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