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Preface: Ten Seven - The Two Look Straight in Our Eyes

Published on 
January 28, 2024

Helit Yeshurun and Lilach Lachman

This selection touches the margins of the catastrophe that convulsed our existence Saturday morning, the 7th of October. Despite the inundation of media dispatches, we haven’t yet found the word or the right perspective that will allow us to grasp the unbearably difficult reality in which we have been living ever since: citizens of Israel and of Gaza as one. From within this experience, which has opened a primeval wound, we have turned to the poem, not unlike a shaman might dress the wound.
The poets presented here are known to the Israeli reader, but we have no idea how they will be read in a foreign tongue and by readers who haven’t witnessed in their own flesh and blood the scenes that keep unreeling before our eyes. In the limited selection before you are poems and a few prose pieces, some of which were written in the wake of October 7, as a direct or indirect response to the calamity. Other poems are like those of Avot Yeshurun, Dalia Ravikovitch, Yitzhak Laor, and Mahmud Darwish, whose political writings do not distinguish between the ethical and the humane; one may also add the poems of Shva Salhov, Shimon Adaf, Amichai Chasson, and Marzuq Al-Halaby, which are read today not only as testimonies but also prophetically, as indices to actual history in the making.
We have no pretenses of setting a standard, specifying a political direction, or revealing a new poetics. The question of poetry’s relevancy in such times has not escaped our attention. On the contrary, it is called upon to take a moral stand. Yes, it too has such an obligation.
Chiefly, we sought to test its power of resistance and its standpoint, its action as the conductor of the human voice in its attempt to reach out of the darkness when it is suffocated by the flurry of times, forces, and human relations. We are aware of the scarcity of poems by Palestinian poets, but to our dismay more than one or two poets refused to publish with us, which is their prerogative.
If we follow in Avot Yeshurun’s footsteps, it appears that we find ourselves caught between two radical approaches to poetry: “I don’t have now,” and “I don’t have now, only the poetry.” On the one hand, there are no adequate words for the cries and voices that have been resounding ever since that Shabbat. Hence, we have included pieces of prose, even if by lyricists (excerpts from interviews, comments to poetics, a meditative essay by Haviva Pedaya that combines a chronicle and a midrash), constituting the amalgam that is so essential to memory and thought—like glimmers of light that wash over the moment from above. And on the other hand, “Only the poetry.” Indeed, the poems we have included don’t have a clear subject-matter. Their very recourse to poetry is their subject matter. Most of the poems grope between the struggle to speak and the need to be heard, between utter silence and the possibilities of obligatory speech, between an intimate address and a public modus. As such, the poem bears witness to the crisis that has ensnared the individual in a timeless shard, while at the same time operating within time, seeking to know the face and language of the other. In this selection, the speech-act (opposition and refusal as expressed in the poem “Revenge” by Taha Muhammad Ali, by way of adjuration in the poems “Love Days” by Yitzhak Laor and “Prayer” by Ya’erah Schori, and concealment and prayer in “Names” by Bacol Serloi, and up to “Tikkun” of Aharon Shabtai) is directed to or from the heart of hell; a gesture endeavoring to cut across other times and realms, toward those who are embraced, but also separated from you, here, or within the shaft, and perhaps beyond it.

From Hebrew: Gabriel Levin


To see the collection of poems in the original and the translation, please click here.


Avot Yeshurun (1904-1992) Hanmaka (1958)
1. Shva Salhoov (b.1963), Inflamed Nerve (Jaffa, 2011)
From Hebrew: Lilach Lachman, Helit Yeshurun
2. Mahmoud Darwish (from an interview by Helit Yeshurun)
(1996, Amman) From Hebrew: Lilach Lachman, Helit Yeshurun
3. Bacol Serlui (b. 1983), Names (October 19, 2023)
From Hebrew: Linda Zisquit, Lilach Lachman, Helit Yeshurun
4. Sami Shalom Chetrit, That Debate About Beheadings (25 November 2023)
From Hebrew: Dena Shunra
5. Taha Muhammad Ali, (1931-2011), Revenge (2006)
From Arabic: Peter Cole and Gabriel Levin, Yahya Hijazi
6. Aharon Shabtai (b. 1939), Tikkun (Tel-Aviv, 14 October, 2023)
From Hebrew: Lilach Lachman, Helit Yeshurun
7. Mahmoud Darwish, A River Dying of Thirst (poem) (2008)
From Arabic: Daniel Behar
8. Lilian Bishara-Mansour (b.1962), War (Haifa, October 14, 2023) 7
From Arabic: Daniel Behar
9. Avot Yeshurun (1904-1992), from an interview by Helit Yeshurun (Tel-Aviv, 1982)
From Hebrew: Ariel Resnikoff & Rivka Weinstock
10. Amichai Chasson (b. 1987), Pogrom (2022)
From Hebrew: Vivian Eden
11. Yitzhak Laor (b.1948), He that Loveth Many Days (Tel-Aviv, 1996)
From Hebrew: Joshua Cohen
12. Dahlia Ravikovitch (1936-2005), Lullaby (Tel-Aviv, 1992)
From Hebrew: Chana Block and Chana Kronfeld (2009)
13. Haviva Pedaya (b. 1957), from: Genesis here and now (Beer Sheva, October 7-14)
From Hebrew: Ami Asher.
14. Shimon Adaf (b.1972), from Aviva-No (Sderot-Tel-Aviv, 2009)
From Hebrew: Yael Segalowitz
15. Marzuq el Halabi
From Arabic: Rafael Cohen
16. Nurit Zarchi (b. 1941), Map (Tel-Aviv, 2022)
From Hebrew: Mirjam Meerschwam Hadar
17. Yaara Shehori (b.1977), Prayer (November, 2023)
From Hebrew: Ariel Resnikoff and Rivka Weinstock
18. Mahmoud Darwish from truce with the Mongols
From Arabic: Fady Joudah