(We're hosting Chana Bloch and Chana Kroenfeld next Tuesday for Lit&Lunch, discussing Israeli poet Dahlia Ravikovitch. RSVP with Facebook if you plan on attending! Here we offer an overview of some of the review coverage of their co-translation of Ravikovitch's collected verse, Hovering at a Low Altitude.)
Tsipi Keller in Words Without Borders:
If Israel had a Mount Rushmore-type memorial for poets, the late Dahlia Ravikovitch would be part of the monument. Although little known to American readers, she is admired in Israel as much, if not more, than Yehuda Amichai and viewed as a canon unto herself.
Intentional or not, the title Hovering at a Low Altitude evokes the English idiom flying under the radar, a metaphor for living one's life against the grain. Ravikovitch (1936–2005) clearly witnessed the aftershock of the Holocaust, and so her stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict alone is enough to understand how, for a Jewish poet living in Israel, she might be among the minority for her almost prophet-like admonition of atrocities committed by her own countrymen in the years that followed. Ravikovitch's first two books, which read like poetic rabbinical responses, would not seem out of place in the Old Testament, somewhere between Psalms and Ezekiel, two books that provided her early inspiration.
To move through Hovering At A Low Altitude is to follow Ravikovitch's exquisitely painful trek through years of grief – and the victories of the poetry over circumstance. The poet is less than a garlic peel, but the poems are as tough as Golan tank commanders.
Dahlia Ravikovitch, who died in 2005 at the age of sixty-nine, was one of Israel's most beloved writers. No other Hebrew poet, Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld remark in their introduction to Hovering at a Low Altitude, with the exception of the late Yehuda Amichai, has been so universally embraced by Israelis, whatever their ideological leanings. Her fame was not only literary; she had a kind of celebrity status, so that even the color of the coat and shoes she wore to some reception or other were considered worthy of notice in the gossip columns.