by Marcia Falk

Translating Zelda

Poet Marcia Falk spotlights a noted Israeli poet whose surprisingly sensual lyrics we can finally read in English.

Translation is an art of intimacy—even passion—but the story of my engagement with Zelda’s poetry had a less than romantic beginning. it was early 1974; I was living in Jerusalem on a grant to complete my doctoral thesis, a new translation of the biblical Song of Songs. But the Yom Kippur war, which had erupted in Israel a few months earlier, had put the country into turmoil; all resources, including academic ones, were at an ebb. By the time the almond trees were blossoming in the countryside and the strawberries were tumbling from the greengrocers’ shelves, I found myself no longer able to make ends meet. And so, when I was approached by the editor of the international literary journal Ariel to translate the poems of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman known to her readers simply as Zelda (and not yet known to me at all), I did not stop to consider whether I would like these poems—and certainly not whether I would feel close enough to them to give them a new life in English. I accepted the commission and paid my rent the same day.

Continue reading this article…

Already a subscriber? Log in above to keep reading. Or subscribe now for immediate access to the complete digital and print editions, plus exclusive online access to Lilith's back issues.