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Poet Profile: Rachel Bluwstein

Rachel Bluwstein was born on September 20, 1890 in Russia. She lived in Ukraine, Palestine, France, and Israel. She was a Zionist pioneer and a Renaissance woman of sorts. She drew, painted, worked in agriculture, taught school, and is remembered for her lyrical, yet right-to-the-point poetry.

With with friend, Avraham Cahanowitz

With friend, Avraham Cahanowitz

For thousands of years, Hebrew poetry was dominated by males. The last known Hebrew woman poet was Deborah, a judge in ancient Israel.  Due to illness, Rachel lived in isolation toward the end of her life. She kept some correspondence and saw people here and there, but for the most part felt very lonely.  She died in 1931 at age 40 and is considered the “founding mother” of Hebrew poetry written by women. Many of her poems have been set to songs.  Her Michal poem will be in my book:

“Michal”

“And Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David

And she despised him in her heart”

Michal, distant sister, time’s thread has not been severed,

time’s thorns in your sad vineyard have not prevailed.

Still in my ear I hear the tinkling of your gold anklet,

the stripes in your silk garment have not paled.

Often I have seen you standing by your small window

pride and tenderness mingling in your eyes.

Like you I am sad, O Michal, distant sister, and like you doomed to

love a man whom I despise.

(1927, Israel. Translated by Robert Friend; taken from her book Flowers of Perhaps.)

 

It’s somewhat poetic justice that Rachel the Poetess, the founding mother of modern Israeli poetry, identified with the woman who married the sweet psalmist of Israel.

What do you think of that, David?

 

Photos gathered by deror_avi on wiki commons

 

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