Apiary 7 out soon, with 3 of my Shez translations!

Apiary 7 is coming out soon, with 3 of my translations of Shez’s poems. You can get your copy at Big Blue Marble, and many other locations in Philadelphia. APIARY 7: The POWER Issue is unique: our first collaboration with another organization, Decarcerate PA, to feature the work of a specific community (incarcerated authors), and our first themed issue, too.

And if you like to party with poets – read on!

APIARY 7 launches December 7th at Underground Arts with our signature dance extravaganza + high-energy reading. Come celebrate with us and Decarcerate PA! and boogie with writers and readers from all over the city.

The literary/dance extravaganza takes place Saturday, December 7th at Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill Street. We promise music, dancing, refreshments, face-painting, APIARY-artwork-button-making, and most importantly,feeling Philly’s literary love.

At 7pm, local spoken word personalities Jacob Winterstein, Lyrispect, and Vision will be your guide through an all-ages evening of the freshest, most POWERful poetry and prose in Philadelphia. Power-Grooves will be provided by house band The Urban Shamans. After 10pm, everyone 21 and up can let loose as the renowned DJ Precolumbian spins until 2am.

Apiary-7-Poster

A poem for Good Friday

A poem for Good Friday, from Shez, a Jewish Israeli lesbian-feminist poet and one-time punk rocker. The translation is my own.

Only I know what’s in Jesus’ underwear
I was with him just yesterday—
on his last night—
I didn’t laugh
I wasn’t surprised when
I lowered his underwear
I sucked I licked I slid in, pushing
I blew hard I breathed deep and
all shook up I shouted:
“Woman! Bestow upon me your beauty
your compassion, your grace
Dowse me in your passion
your tenderness, your womb”

Back to translating!

I’m trying to ease back into the arduous process of translating. Gently, one poem at a time, which pretty much means one word at a time then one line at a time then one stanza at a time and then, with any luck, one poem.

Here’s a first pass at a literal translation of one of Shez’s poems from “Dance of the Lunatic” that I didn’t have time to include in my MFA manuscript:

The Car

My dead come quietly to the tombstone rocks above my body

Sometimes they take a tea break and sit above my body drinking
in an orderly fashion
Sometimes they deviate from the rules
and one of them kills a cigarette
not during an intermission

For years they’ve promised me a car,
not large, not new, not fast,
and they do so again tonight

I feel already how I through landscapes rocky
am flying at fifty miles an hour

Tiny little review of my Shez translation in the journal “Two Lines”

Every review counts, especially on a web site about international literature. Mai Schwartz found this for me, on the site for “Three Percent”:

The new issue of Two Lines, entitled “Passageways,” has just been released. All in all, it’s a pretty awesome anthology, and includes great pieces by authors like Quim Monzó and Naja Marie Aidt. There’s also a poem by Shez that is particularly touching.

Ok, so it is very small. But it is the first review in English of one of Shez’s poems in translation. And that ain’t nothing to sneeze at!

Find it yourself here.

Catching Up on Big News Events!

I’ve not been blogging much since starting a new job, so all kinds of things have been happening. Here’s the first Big News of the fall:

I was awarded a Leeway Art and Change Grant for my work translating Shez’s poetry! Yeah!

The $2500 I received will go towards funding my retreat at the Vermont Studio Center next summer. Combined with the scholarship I received from them, I’m nearly on track to both go and cover some of my life expenses while I’m on leave from work.

Again, YEAH!!!!!

To find out more about this award, and about Leeway in General, read this

The first Shez translations have been published!

The Spring 2012 Issue of Trivia went live today, including the first four Shez translations to ever appear in English! I’m so happy! And, when I asked that the Hebrew be included, the editors worked hard to find a way to make that happen. Go read ’em, and stay to take in the other great writing and photography in the issue:

Trivia Spring 2012 Shez translations

Shez – every night I will pour out

from The Dance of the Lunatic, page 12


כָּל לַיְלָה אֲנְי אַבְּיעַ לָךְ אֶת אַהֲבָתִי
אַתְּ תַּבְטִיחִי לִי שֶׁלֹּא תַּעַזְבִינִי לנֶצַח
אֲנִי אֲהַרְהֵר מְעַט עַל מַשְׁמָעוּת הַדְּבָרִים
וּבֵינְתַיִם אַחֲלִיק אֶת לֶחְיִי בִּכָרִית בִּטְנֵךְ הָרַכָּה

Shez, The Dance of the Lunatic, page 12
(untitled: every night I will pour out)
translated by Elliott batTzedek

Every night I’ll pour out my love to you
You’ll promise to not ever leave me
I’ll meditate a little on the meaning of these words
and meanwhile slide my cheek across the the pillow of your soft belly

Shez: Literary Alibis

more translating work. There’s an earlier version of this, from when I started in May. I’ve learned a lot in the last few months, and know I have still have so much more to learn. So “Yeah!” for step 2, knowing there’ll be plenty more steps to celebrate along the way…

תירוצים ספרותיים


כְּשֶׁיַּגִּיּעַ יוֹם הַדִּין לָאָבוֹת הָאוֹנְסִים
לֹא תַּגִּידוּ אַף מִלָּה
סוֹפְסוֹף תֵּשְׁבוּ בְּשֶׁקֶט
וְתִתְּנוּ מָקוֹם לְזַוְעוֹת בְּכְיָהּ שֶׁל הַיַּלְדָּה


אֲבָל עַד שֶׁיַּגִּיעַ יוֹם הַדִּין תַּמְשִׁיכוּ לִסְתֹּם לי אֶת הַפֶּה
וּלְחַיֵּךְ אֵלַי בְּנִימוּס
לֹא תַּדְפִּיסוּ אֶת הַשִׁירים שֶׁלִּי בִּמְקוֹמוֹתֵיכֶם
וְתַמְשִׁיכוּ עִם תֵּרוּצֵי סִפְרוּת.

Shez Dance of the Lunatic page 86
Literary Alibis
translated by Elliott batTzedek
July 8 2011

When the day of judgment arrives, none of you—you fathers who rape—
will say even one word
finally you will sit, your silence
making at last the place where the terrorized girl can weep

but until that day of judgment, you’ll continue gagging me,
you’ll go on smiling graciously,
you’ll refuse to allow my words to be printed
      anywhere you are
you’ll go on with the alibi of literary value

Translating: “In his love for me” by Shez

I’m working on an MFA in poetry in translation. My translation project is a book of poems by an Israeli Jewish lesbian who writes as Shez. She says of her own work that she writes about being an incest survivor, and wow, does she. Since this has been an important theme in my own work, I have some layer of callous built up such that I can focus on the language and art and not just be overwhelmed by the content, but sometimes, sometimes, what she’s written is so accurate and powerful and heartbreaking that even I stumble, have to step back and breathe.

This is one of those poems, in my most recent translation draft. I’m new at translating, and am still working on the best way to re-present the last line in English, but I think I’ve found the heart of the poem and now just have to fine tune it.

באהתו אותי


בְּאַהֲבָתוֹ אוֹתִי
הִיטְלֶר מַשְׁחִיל פְּנִינָה רִאשׁוֹנָה מֵהַשַׁרְשֶׁרֶת
אֶל תּוֹךְ גְּרוֹנִי – אַחַר כָּךְ בָּאָה
פְּנִינָה נוֹסֶפֶת, וְעוֹד אַחַת, נָחָשׁ
לָבָן מְאֹרָךְ מִשְׁתַּחֵל פְּנִימָה.

In his love for me
Shez, translated by Elliott batTzedek
July 7 2011

In his love for me
Hitler threads the first pearl of the necklace
down my throat – the second pearl follows
then another and always another, white snake
lengthening, squeezing in