Yona Wallach was born in 1944 in Tel Aviv and never travelled outside Israel’s borders. Eleven collections of her poetry have been published during her lifetime and posthumously, and many of her songs have been put to music. She also wrote for and joined a rock band. Though she died in 1985 of breast cancer at the age of 41, she is still very much present in Tel Aviv.
Never one to shy away from controversy, her provocative (some would say pornographic) poem ‘Tefillin’ created a public storm and ruined her close friendship with fellow poet Zelda. Wallach certainly made an astonishing impact on Hebrew literature during her short life, ushering in a feminist revolution in Israeli poetry and revolutionizing literary Hebrew to include the sounds of the twentieth century.
In her poem ‘Hebrew,’ from which host Marcela Sulak reads, she calls the Hebrew language a “sex maniac” because all nouns have a gender: “She wants to know who’s speaking / almost a vision almost an image / what’s forbidden in the whole Torah / or at least to see the sex / Hebrew peeks through they keyhole.”
Yona Wallach, Let the Words: Selected Poems, translated by Linda Stern Zisquit. The Sheep Meadow Press, 2006.
‘Ayala’ by Yona Wallach. Performed by Alma.
‘I couldn’t do anything with it’ by Yona Wallach. Performed by Ninet Tayeb.