Swimming in the Rain: New & Selected Poems, 1980-2015
Pittsburgh: Autumn House Press, 2015.
Poems from this collection have appeared in The Beloit Poetry Review, Catamaran, Connotation Press, The Cortland Review, Field, The Kenyon Review, Literary Imagination, The Manhattan Review, The New Republic, Pleiades, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, Southern Review, Southern Poetry Review, Spillway, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Women's Review of Books, and other journals.
Listen to Chana Bloch reading "The Joins," which appeared in Best American Poetry, 2015, ed. Sherman Alexie, and Pushcart Prize XL, ed. Bill Henderson.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending precious pottery with gold.
What's between us
seems flexible as the webbing
between forefinger and thumb.
Seems flexible but isn’t;
what's between us
is made of clay
like any cup on the shelf.
It shatters easily. Repair
becomes the task.
We glue the wounded edges
with tentative fingers.
Scar tissue is visible history
and the cup is precious to us
we saved it.
a potter repairing a broken cup
would sprinkle the resin
with powdered gold.
Sometimes the joins
are so exquisite
they say the potter
may have broken the cup
just so he could mend it.
“Bloch brings to her art an observant eye and ear, a sharp intelligence, sly wit, and a humane frankness. Humor often duets with wisdom. ‘He called everything good, in the beginning.’ That’s God, that’s us. Ready and not ready. Aware and blind. ‘You’ll see, said the elders, speaking in riddles.’… Bloch navigates those paradoxical truths—life is meaningful, life is pointless—with rigor and verve. She finds relief in affection, lust, humor, art and words, each an act of defiance on the side of meaning. We ‘scoop sweetness from the belly of death/—honey from the lion’s carcass.’”
— Rick Larios, The Manhattan Review
“[Bloch’s] poems court emotion, yet she seems immune to nostalgia. She maintains her allegiance to clarity and frank statement, but she also elaborates with imagery. Her plain speech could be mistaken for simplicity, except that her work is remarkable for its wisdom. She’s both earnest and humorous, often amusing and wrenching in the same poem.… This volume demonstrates why Bloch’s work rewards rereading. Her language brings pleasure. Her confusions are wise ones. Her poems resemble clear water: You may think you can see straight down to the sand, until you dive in and discover the deception. The water is deep. The bottom lies farther away than you thought, and Bloch swims beside you, still trying to reach it too.”
— Susan Cohen, Prairie Schooner
“A Bloch poem is like a stone thrown deep into the well of experience. The strong, contained sound it makes as it sinks below the surface takes its place inside the silences of real poetry…. The poems in Swimming in the Rain focus on family, sensuality, the Bible, Jewish history, and mortality…. Like Amichai’s love poems, Bloch’s can be both joyous and jaundiced in the same poem.... Given Bloch’s deep exposure as a translator to various poetic styles, it is remarkable that her own style has over the years remained so singularly her own. It is a style supple enough to embrace the lyrical and reflective strains in her poetry, and the emotion that runs through all of it.”
— Robert Hirschfield, Jewish Review of Books
"[Bloch has] a unique poetic voice that modulates from the homespun to the literary and shifts from wit and humor to a pull-no-punches toughness. Spare and musical, intimate while open to history, intelligent and emotionally rich in the details of divisions and connections, Bloch’s poetry negotiates the complexities of her identity as a first-generation Jew, a woman, a child, a parent, a wife, a lover, and a citizen. . . . Bloch’s Swimming in the Rain: New and Selected Poems is an epic compendium of one Jewish American woman’s poetic journey that reaches back to the Bible and into the present moment. . . . Ambitious in scope, wide-ranging in subject, and attentive to the fault lines of history and the human heart, Swimming in the Rain is an essential contribution to American poetry."
— Philip Terman, Tikkun
"The candor of these poems is matched only by the steady, precise craftsmanship that makes them not only memorable but gratifying, like nails hammered into hardwood. . . . Chana Bloch is a translator as well as a poet. Her co-translations of the Israeli poets Dahlia Ravikovitch and Yehuda Amichai are classics. Her translation, with her first husband, of the biblical Song of Songs is the best there is in English since the King James Version. ‘Love is as fierce as death,’ the Song says in her translation. So it is in her own poems."
— Alicia Ostriker, The Women’s Review of Books
"Chana Bloch has spent her life writing the poems of a grown woman, loving the world as she interrogates it mercilessly, speaking a truth that hurts as it heals. “Half the stories/ I used to believe are false,” she confesses. “Thank God/ I’ve got the good sense at last/ not to come in out of the rain.” A thrilling collection."
"Chana Bloch is an absolutely essential poet, with a breathtaking gift for spanning, linking and leaping—unforgettable images, wonderments, and wisdom. Her words travel with me at the center of my compass. This collection is a triumph, not to be missed."
—Naomi Shihab Nye
"Chana Bloch is writing the best poems of her life. Death is the Great Master hovering in the distance, but this pleasure-loving poet will not be deterred. Chana Bloch is like a Japanese potter mending the cracked and dinged pottery of experience with gold powder sprinkled from her fingers."
"[Chana Bloch] deserves to be more widely read. Neither experimental nor abstract, and not confessional,... she writes almost-stories and quasi-arguments—with herself—with precisely the right amount of concrete detail to draw the reader in and flesh out the larger questions that lurk under the surface.... Irreverent humor and sensuality (“We’d drowse.../ till your cock-crow under the covers / awakened us both") remind us that she is a noted translator of such Hebrew poets as Yehuda Amichai. Swimming in the Rain is a terrific introduction to Bloch’s poetry; and for her admirers, a finely orchestrated body of new work.”
— Beverley Bie Brahic, The Times Literary Supplement
"Chana Bloch’s distinguished oeuvre spans decades.... Swimming in the Rain allows readers to trace Bloch’s concerns backwards, forwards, and across time. She revisits love and sensuality, bearing and raising children, family life (warm and fraught), gender, divorce, physical and mental illness, death, Jewish texts and traditions, and memory.... Swimming in the Rain splendidly represents Bloch’s intellect, depth, sensuality, and wit. At the core of her work, Bloch accepts that truth is not found but created, and her poetry honors this creation.... Truth may be elusive, but the act of telling is brave."
— Dara Barnat, Los Angeles Review of Books
Swimming in the Rain brings together almost forty years of work by the distinguished poet and translator Chana Bloch.... Her subject matter is what is ineluctable, intractably complex in life: parents and children; loves and marriages; the inevitable approach of aging, and of death. Her work isn’t “confessional” in the usual sense, since these entanglements are universal, and are treated as such.... Rooted in the body (notably in an extraordinary erotic poem like “Beaux Arts”), and skeptical of easy spiritual promises, the poetry finds its affirmation in a willingness to stick with whatever arrives."
— Alan Williamson, On the Seawall (April 2015)
“[Bloch’s Swimming in the Rain] offers a welcome retrospective of her distinctive poetic voice.... While many of the poems deal with autobiographical material, these offer far more than “confessional” narrative. Informed by a philosophical view of human interconnection, compassion and self-awareness, the poems speak of clear-eyed observation unblurred by sentimentality.... Bloch is a poet of unflinching insight into the dynamics of personal grief and anger, her own as well as others’.... The new poems of Swimming in the Rain show Bloch at the top of her form, in fearless control of emotion and language.”
— Charlotte Mandel, Poets’ Quarterly (Spring 2015)
"A personal, domestic narrative unifies much of Swimming in the Rain, including the selections from earlier books as well as the new poems with which the volume begins.... The body that fights fatigue [in “Self-Portrait at 11:30 PM”] appears elsewhere in Bloch’s intensely dramatic collection as a vessel fierce with desire, voracious with appetite.... Bloch’s work focuses with intensity, even at times ferocity, on the vicissitudes of the past that haunt domestic interiors.... The daring with which Bloch confronts the history that she has swum away from permeates her collection."
— Sandra Gilbert, Poet Lore
"Chana Bloch renders [the] transformation from the unfamiliar to the familiar and back again with extraordinary aplomb in her collection of selected and new poems, Swimming in the Rain. Bloch’s gift in this collection is her deft hand at capturing the moment of human discovery through transformation.... Divisions permeate these poems. All divisions become a moment for examination; all fissure exposed for celebration or repair.... Collectively, these poems remind readers of the fragility of our words, of the precarious relationship between intentions and actions. Bloch appreciates the fragility but continually reaffirms the significance of the words we say, of the promises we make to one another as humans."
— Julie Enszer, The Rumpus
"Great anticipation and much pleasure always accompany the release of a new book of poetry by a major poet. This is certainly the case for Chana Bloch’s Swimming in the Rain.... These poems are never afraid of danger or honesty, of examining stories and myths, whether biblical, historical or personal.... Her ear for language is always sharp, her imagery is always fresh."
— Carol V. Davis, Jewish Journal