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Winner of both the Israel Prize and the Bialik Prize, among many other honors, Israeli poet Dahlia Ravikovitch, the only widely recognized woman poet writing in Hebrew in the 1950s, was born in Ramat Gan on this date (some sources say November 18th) in 1936. Ravikovitch published some twenty volumes, including two poetry books for kids and three short story collections, and earned her livelihood translating classical English-language poets into Hebrew and working intermittently as a journalist. She was, writes Zafrira Lidovsky Cohen at the Jewish Women’s Archive, “an instant success in a male-dominated field of Hebrew poetry even though her works,” lyrical and abstract, “were antithetical to those of her contemporaries and to the poetic ideals” of her day. Her poetry has been translated into 23 languages and set to music, and is widely taught in Israeli schools. Ravikovitch was active in the Israeli peace movement and collaborated with many Tel Aviv artists, musicians and public figures seeking peace and social justice. Married and divorced three times, she suffered from depression and her death at 69 in 2005 was suspected to be a suicide, although the autopsy suggested heart failure. Three of her books are available in English translation: Dress Of Fire, The Window, and Hovering at a Low Altitude. To see her reading her poem “calculated 040409” (in Hebrew), look below.
“She never seems to offer any real solutions to the atrophies of human lives. But in her subversive linkages to traditionally male Jewish texts, such as the Mishnah and the Midrash, and to universal myths, legends and fairy tales, Ravikovitch was the first woman poet in Hebrew to confront a world dominated by ancient texts and by the power of their words. Through her writings on victimization one hears the voices of those oppressed and depressed by tyranny and violence and begins to recognize the injustices that are built into our lives, our society and our culture.” — Zafrira Lidovsky Cohen