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Dahlia Ravikovitch
Hovering at a
Low Altitude

Translated in collaboration with
Chana Kronfeld.

New York: W.W. Norton, 2009.

This book can be puchased on

listenChana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld on Translating Ravikovitch, Center for the Art of Translation, San Francisco, April 13, 2010

listenDahlia Ravikovitch reading her poem "The Dress" in Hebrew

listenChana Bloch reading her translation of "The Dress" in English

The Dress

for Yitzhak Livni

You know, she said, they made you a dress of fire.
Remember how Jason's wife burned in her dress?
It was Medea, she said, Medea did that to her.
You've got to be careful, she said,
they made you a dress that glows like an ember,
that burns like coals of fire.

Are you going to wear it, she said, don't wear it.
It's not the wind whistling, it's the poison seething.
You're not even a princess, what can you do to Medea?
Can't you tell one sound from another, she said,
it's not the wind whistling.

Remember, I told her, that time when I was six?
They shampooed my hair and I went out into the street.
The scent of shampoo trailed after me like a cloud.
Then the wind and the rain made me ill.
I didn't know yet how to read Greek tragedies,
but that fragrance filled the air and I was very ill.
Now I can tell that perfume was unnatural.

What will become of you, she said, they made you a burning dress.
They made me a burning dress, I said. I know.
So why are you standing there, she said, you ought to beware.
Don't you know what that means, a burning dress?

I know, I said, but not to beware.
The scent of that perfume confuses me.
I said to her: No one has to agree with me,
I don't put my trust in Greek tragedy.

But the dress, she said, the dress is on fire.
What are you saying, I shouted, what are you saying?
I'm not wearing a dress at all, can't you see
what's burning is me.

The life-work of a magnificent poet, devotedly translated and edited by Bloch and Kronfeld. Ravikovitch's range of means, musical, pictorial, learned, vernacular, her tough self-confrontations, her extraordinary physical empathy, her use of wryly embedded traditional Hebrew texts, her fierce creative indignation, can be seen building throughout this book. Ravikovitch rarely hovers without swooping; here is poetry of high attainment brought under a lens of insightful translation. -- Adrienne Rich

Among Israel's most powerful contemporary poets, the late Dahlia Ravikovitch produced a body of extraordinarily accomplished and passionate work that has never before been fully collected in English. Now the brilliant translators Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld introduce us to her in all her aesthetic incarnations -- lover, mother, mourner, activist, Biblical commentator, and witty polemicist. Fierce and fiery, Hovering at a Low Altitude comes to us as a special gift, to stand in this marvelous writer's stead. -- Sandra M. Gilbert

The poetry of Dahlia Ravikovich resonates beyond any one language and culture. Her poems, like those of Akhmatova or Darwish, embody resistance in their synthesis of observation and imagination, and assert the power of poetry to confront injustice. Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld bring a major poet's work to anglophone readers, perceptively prefaced and memorably translated. -- Marilyn Hacker

These strong and vivid translations manage to convey both the biblical resonances and the contemporary urgency of Dahlia Ravikovitch's poetry. They make accessible to American readers a major twentieth-century poet whose work is a unique fusion of the personal and the political. -- Robert Alter

Ferocious, hard, sharp, eloquent, elegant. Injustice drives [Ravikovitch] and burdens her. The language of the Bible surges through her voice, mixing with street talk -- a voice of defiance, irony and passion. The translations by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld will create a new audience for this great poet. -- Alicia Ostriker