Shez on screen at Cannes!

shez film 1Maayan Turjeman as Tami

Shez, the Israeli poet and novelist whose poetry collection “Dance of the Lunatic” I’ve been translating, has had her newest novel turned into the film That Lovely Girl which just premiered at Cannes. The novel, Far From His Absence, is harrowing in print, the story of a daughter in her 20s who has had a violent sexual relationship with her father since she was little.

Director Keren Yedaya, who won a Camera d’Or at Cannes a decade ago for her neatly titled debut “Or”, pulled together some of Israel’s most highly-regarded actors to create this tightly-controlled, nearly claustrophobic “kitchen sink” horror story.
shez film 2
Will this make my translation of her poems easier to get published? No clue. The novel behind the film is being translated into French and published by Harper Collins, so that’s some clout the name didn’t carry before.

Below are links to various reviews in English.
That Lovely Girl

Hollywood Reporter: That Lovely Girl

Hitfix: A Solemn Game of Unhappy Families




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.


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

understanding my connection to Shez’s poetry

As I’ve been doing final (for now) edits on my translations of Shez’s poems, I keep feeling a kind of haunting—some of her words could be my own; I could definitely interweave the translations and my poems into a single, unified text. Sometimes I even dream about having my work translated into Hebrew and then doing a combined work in both languages, of letting our voices flow together like that.

The project, after all, is definitely the same—to replace the silence of the terrified girl with words that are strong, forceful, even violent enough to break the choke hold that sexual terrorism imposed on her. Which is why, even as I struggle with most of the subtleties of her Hebrew, I understand the poems, feel them deeply inside of myself, and know how to give them new voice in English.

With this always in my thoughts these days, I started reading Edith Grossman’s why translation matters, and came upon this quotation from a letter William Carlos Williams wrote to Nicolas Calas:

If I do original work all well and good. But if I can say it (the matter of form I mean) by translating the work of others that also is valuable. What difference does it make?

There is a silence that must be ended. At the end of my long sequence of poems called “Wanting a Gun” I declare: “I am writing, writing, writing.” In a poem addressed to her father, Shez declares, “You will not erase me off the page.”

The difference that is made is that now I know Shez. And soon all of you can know her, too. And hey, my hard work has made that difference. Rare enough that I let myself celebrate my own work, but today, after a couple of weeks of being trapped in some dank and musty emotional cave, I’m feeling celebratory.

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