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I live on the ruins of Palestine

Slow to speech thick
       of tongue quick
            in anger       ancient
parched
              fear

       In the ruins on a land
through a night
              ignited

By a single
       singed vision
and another
single spark

Cradled close in a charred palm
       chiseled in a stonedream
   carried across history

Through the dark beneath our bare
        feet

Strangers all

On the ruins of Palestine

RACHEL TZVIA BACK is a poet, translator, peace activist and professor of literature.  Born in the USA to a half-Israeli family, she has lived in Israel for most of her life, though she continues to compose her poetry in English.  Her work includes the poetry collections On Ruins & Return: Poems 1999-2005 (Shearsman Books), Azimuth (Sheep Meadow Press), The Buffalo Poems (Duration Press), and Litany (Meow Press).  She is also the author of the critical work Led by Language: the Poetry and Poetics of Susan Howe (University of Alabama Press, Contemporary & Modern Poetics Series). Her translations of the poetry of pre-eminent Hebrew poet Lea Goldberg – in Lea Goldberg: Selected Poetry and Drama (edited, annotated and introduced by Back, published by Toby Press) – were awarded a 2005 PEN Translation Grant.  A ground-breaking anthology of Hebrew poetry protesting the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and oppression of the Palestinian people – With an Iron Pen: Hebrew Protest Poetry 1984-2004, English version edited, annotated and translated by Back – is forthcoming from SUNY Press. In addition, Rachel Tzvia Back's poetry and translations have appeared in numerous journals in America and abroad, including The American Poetry Review, Sulfur, Bridges, Tikkun and Modern Poetry in Translation, and in several anthologies including the SUNY Press Anthology Dreaming the Actual: Contemporary Fiction and Poetry by Israeli Women Writers and The Defiant Muse: Hebrew Feminist Poems From Antiquity to the Present (The Feminist Press).  In 2005 Back was a recipient of a Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Research Award, and in 1996 she was a recipient of the Israeli Absorption Minister's award for Immigrant writers.  For the past seven years, Rachel Tzvia Back has gone on annual reading tours in the United States.  In February 2002, she participated in a reading series of Israeli poets presenting their work in America entitled "Poetry of a Punished Land." Back toured  with Israel’s preeminent Israeli and Palestinian poets, Meir Weisletier, Aharon Shabtai, Taha Muhammed Ali, and Peter Cole, to various venues, including Wesleyan University, Princeton University, Rutgers University and Barnard College.  Since then, Back has been guest writer and visiting poet at Williams College, Wellesley College, Columbia University, NYU, Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, Union College, Hofstra University, SUNY Buffalo, Lehigh College, Makor (NY), and University of Alabama – in addition to return visits to Wesleyan, Rutgers and Barnard. Rachel Tzvia Back works as a senior lecturer in English literature at Oranim College, Haifa.  She is the mother of three children, and resides in a small village in the Galilee, in the north of Israel.  From the back-blurb on Azimuth: "With grace and gravity, with a gentle, quiet tenacity, Rachel Tzvia Back brings the poetics of indeterminacy to bear on Israel's over-determined landscape.  Her verse hurts as the land itself has been hurt: its rippling music is delicate and achieved, its evocation of intimacy stunning.  As political as it is personal, Azimuth shows us, again, how history and linguistic horizons meet, and who we are or might be before them."   - Peter Cole-

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