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Blood Honey

Pittsburgh: Autumn House Press, 2009.

Winner of the Alice di Castagnola Award of the Poetry Society of America for a manuscript-in-progress, selected by Jane Hirshfield.
Poems from this collection have appeared in Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry, Salmagundi, Southern Poetry Review, Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly and other journals, and are reprinted in Jewish in America, When She Named Fire, The Pushcart Prize, The Face of Poetry, and other anthologies.

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listenListen to Chana Bloch reading "Brothers"

listenListen to Chana Bloch reading "The Discipline of Marriage"

listen Listen to Chana Bloch reading "Reprieve"

Reprieve

We were drinking coffee in her pre-war flat,
four walls, Pompeiian gray
to match her complexion.
An old Jewish woman in Prague.
Her dead husband laughing in a dapper suit,
fedora, cigarette, one arm around a life
flash-frozen and set at the table
beside the Czech pastries.

She held me with her skinny hand.
"I could have left after the war with my baby
and started over." And then,
half to herself: "Did I make a mistake?"
Her baby was translating
into a broken German I could manage.

What a question to ask a green girl like me,
still too married to regret a marriage
I thought I chose.
Still three or four wars away from knowing
when a question
isn't a question, just a gasp of loss --
but mine to translate.

She poured coffee, passed the kolacky, awaited
my verdict. Yes, you should have left.
No, you did the right thing.

As if one could reprieve a life even now
by pointing a finger
left or right.

"These poems of intimate memory and sure-handed imagination survey the human condition with a tender, compassionate, and unflinching gaze. They take place in the world of the daily -- they eat, dress, make love, ponder, remember, mourn, and observe. They know some things about life that are hard to put into words, and for those things, they find words, and more. Chana Bloch's poems carry their reader into a hard-won, music-ripened wisdom."
-- Jane Hirshfield, citation for Poetry Society of America's
Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for a manuscript-in-progress

"Chana Bloch's poems are earthy, sceptical and grave, even as they prompt the reader, brought up short by the aptness of a phrase, to laugh aloud. . . . Like Yehuda Amichai (whom Bloch has translated), Bloch favours a diction at once plain and pithy. . . . In Chana Bloch's compressed work, a great deal goes on between the lines, including shifts in tonality as the seemingly light-hearted gives way to something much darker; still, its appetite for life is more than equal to the tragic underside of both the personal and the historical." -- Beverley Bie Brahic, The Times Literary Supplement

"The poet delves into her Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and its folkloric store of imagery. . . . [A]rt criticism, death, aging, and, most prominently, sexuality are engaged in the collection as well. . . . Bloch, in her frankness and willingess to discuss female sexuality after 'Sixty O'Clock,' is generous and fearless, shrewd. . . . Bloch's Blood Honey is a journey through the formation of the American Jewish consciousness and an examination of its crucial elements. Throughout, the author's tone is mischievously irreverent and tender at the same time." -- Jake Marmer, The Jewish Daily Forward

"Everything we expect from the poet who tells our lives is here -- and so much more. Documenting the decades, each of Chana Bloch's four volumes of poetry seems dedicated to another passage. . . . The poems in these volumes are informed by an economy of texts and emotions. Like recombinant DNA, new couplings send jolts of surprise and recognition that bind languages, continents, generations. . . . Who is the pilgrim who brings back 'something' from the 'brink of nothing'? Who indeed has helped us into words at the speechless wonder we all feel. . . .?" -- Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Tikkun