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Not all literature published in Hebrew in Israel is written by Israelis. Today, host Marcela Sulak reads the poetry of Annabelle Farmelant, an American poet born and raised in Boston who writes in Hebrew. She was living in Tel Aviv when her books appeared with Kiryat Sefer in Jerusalem in 1960 and 1961. Not surprisingly, much of Farmelant’s poetry focuses on language and identity. Here is her poem “Builder”:

“Though you swam in the sea, you’re not like a fish,
though you took off in flight, you’re not like a bird—
The towers of Babel you built wrecked
over the man dwelling in the poet’s wings.
The eagle is proud, the dove is weak
and he gropes without a chisel
or a brush
for the light in the dark.”

Farmelant claims that Hebrew came naturally to her as the language of her poetry. However, the Hebraic world of East European Jewish immigrants, among which Farmelant studied, was male dominated. So her only model as a female Hebrew-language poet was Rachel. Sometimes Farmelant appropriated the Greek lyric poet Sappho as a “poetic mother,” as Marcela demonstrates in this week’s podcast.

Text:
Women’s Hebrew Poetry on American Shores: Poems by Anne Kleiman and Annabelle Farmelant. Translated by Adriana X. Jacobs and Yosefa Raz. Edited by Schachar Pinsker. Wayne State University Press, 2016.

Music:
Joni Mitchell (instrumentals) – Blue; Little Green Instrumental; I Had A King
HaGevatron – Shneinu Meoto Hakfar
Susanne Sundfør – The Brothel; Reincarnation

Producer: Laragh Widdess
Technical producer: Alex Benish

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