"Loosen the Fetters of They Tongue, Woman"

"Loosen the Fetters of They Tongue, Woman": The Poetry and Poetics of Yona Wallach

Zafrira Lidovsky Cohen
Volume: 30
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 280
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    "Loosen the Fetters of They Tongue, Woman"
    Book Description:

    Maverick Israeli poet Yona Wallach (1944-1985) is often remembered for her outrageous and unconventional personality and the controversies engendered by her sometimes shamelessly erotic verse. But she is regarded by many of her friends and colleagues as the most important among the Israeli poets of her generation, perhaps even the greatest Hebrew poet of modern times, and has had a profound effect on Israel’s cultural life ever since her works began to appear in periodicals in the early 1960s. Zafrira Lidovsky Cohen presents the first full-length critical analysis in English of her works, exposing the roots of her poetry in the poetic revolution in Israel during the 1950s and explain how she epitomizes the literary climate of her time. Wallach’s poetry reflects the cultural crises that shook the academic world of the 1960s and the intellectual battles many artists fought with the prison-house of semiotic systems in which the human mind, they felt, was entrapped. Mysticism, religion and prophecy, passion, genius, sex, and madness are only some of the terms associated with this woman and her poetic art, which one critic has called a “unique combination of elements of rock and roll, Jungian psychology and street slang, break-neck pace and insistent sexuality.” Cohen paints a background for Yona Wallach’s poetry by outlining her short life and surveying her critical reputation. Drawing on her own rich and varied background in Bible, mythology, Hebrew language, and Poststructuralist and Postmodernist literary and linguistic theory, Cohen traces Wallach’s poetic corpus, translates and interprets representative examples of her works, and situates them within a variety of historical and literary contexts.

    eISBN: 978-0-87820-094-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Zafrira Lidovsky Cohen
  4. Introduction: I Get a Picture of a Most Powerful Person
    (pp. 1-5)

    To all who knew her, Yona Wallach passed through this world like a “living thunderholt.”² Regarded by many of her friends and colleagues as the most important among the young Israeli poets of the 1960s,³ perhaps the greatest Hebrew poet of modern times, or even since biblical times,⁴ she has had a profound effect on Israel’s cultural life ever since her works began to appear in periodicals in the early 1960s.Mysticism, religion and prophecy, passion, genius, sexandmadnessare only some of the terms associated with this woman and her poetic art. A leading female voice in male-dominated...

  5. 1 The Rise of an Israeli Cultural Legend
    (pp. 6-23)

    Yona Wallach was born on June 10, 1944 in Palestine, where her Zionist parents had arrived as young pioneers in the early 1930s. Together with other immigrant comrades, they built their home on abandoned Arab land now known as Kefar ana, a small farming village in central Israel, where Wallach lived for most of her life until her death in 1985. Having grown up in a rural area, she considered herself a child of nature. “I grew up in a natural setting, some kind of a virgin land,” n Wallach said in a 1979 radio interview, “and I was one...

  6. 2 On Language and Signification: Wallach’s Self-Reflexive Poems
    (pp. 24-43)

    Since the rise of modern Hebrew poetry at the turn of the twentieth century, Hebrew poets have proclaimed their frustration with language and words. Following the beliefs of Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik, the architect of modern Hebrew poetry, poets generally perceive their “working tools,” namely words, as nothing but “husks of meaning,” and language is but a “sheet of ice” covering the nothingness that is in the heart of human existence.¹ “My poem is like investigating the abyss,” exclaims Y.Z. Rimon (1881–1958), “it is a zero and nothingness, not real.”² Yearning to experience the essence of things or, in Eliyahu...

  7. 3 From Direct Observation to Indirect Evocation: Wallach’s Early Work
    (pp. 44-71)

    The poetic revolution in Hebrew poetics that took place prior to Yona Wallach’s generation of the 1960s was essentially a rejection of Symbolism and its clairvoyant overtones. Repudiating all reference to a subliminal, transcendental, wholesome world beyond temporal earthly existence, the leading poets of the 1950s disdained the symbolic expression of their predecessors, its esoteric vagueness, and its tendency to attain emotional suggestiveness at the expense of lucidity and sensory vividness. Avoiding boundless sentimentality in favor of bare emotions and brevity of expression, they preferred the clarity and precision of “images” to evocative “symbols” and required poetic expression to provide...

  8. 4 Testing the Boundaries of the Self: Wallach’s Confessional Poetry
    (pp. 72-104)

    The 1960s were years of remarkable developments in Hebrew poetry, perhaps even a “new beginning.”¹ As both Israeli society and its artists became more and more allied with Western norms, the affinity for national identification and the ever romantic world-view of its founding fathers became all but obsolete. Mired in a dreary reality and an all-pervasive sense of existential doom, the poets that lay the foundations for a new Hebrew poetics in the 1950s (Nathan Zach, Yehuda Amichai, and David Avidan), each in his own way, dazzled his readers with a highly personal, matter-of-fact approach to everyday life and an...

  9. 5 Masking and Unmasking: Female Images in Wallach’s Early Poetry
    (pp. 105-131)

    The title of Dan Miron’sFounding Mothers, Stepsisters,first published as an essay subtitled “On the Emergence of Women’s Poetry in Hebrew,” and then as a book subtitled “On Two Beginnings in Modern Poetry inErets Yisrael,”² is a telling tale: women’s poetry in Israel, “as in America and as elsewhere,” in Alicia Ostriker’s words, “from its inception has been ghettoized, confined as a special case within a pale of limitations.”³ Victims of a “polities of exclusion,” as Michael Gluzman argues, major women poets have been marginalized and excluded from the Hehrew canon even as the traditional barriers on women’s...

  10. 6 The Poetics and Politics of Wallach’s Erotic Verse
    (pp. 132-172)

    The question of women’s sexuality and its relation to authority and domination has occupied women’s literary works since the publication of Kate MilletsSexual Politicsin 1969.¹ After centuries of being “theobjectsof male desires and representations, the quest for liberation,” as Susan Rubin Suleiman explains, requires women to “discover and reappropriate themselves assubjectsand invent both a new poetics and a new polities, based on their reclaiming what has always been theirs but had been usurped from them–that is to say, control over their bodies and a voice with which to speak about it." This desideratum,...

  11. 7 Whose Voice Is It Anyway: The Dismantling of Mental and Social Systems in Wallach’s Later Work
    (pp. 173-216)

    Echoing some of the major dissenting voices that swept the academic world in the 1970s, this small poem illuminates what French Poststructuralist thinkers identified as mankinds main predicament: the individual’s alienation from his or her authentic self.² Alienation, Wallach suggests in this poem, is embedded in society and in all forms of authority that seek to shape and control our consciousness from the day we are born, turning us into a submissively conforming zombies (hypnotized “medium”).

    The years of Wallach’s personal awakening and alleged recovery of an authentic self, a distinctive “I who is”[אני שש] she writes in one of...

  12. 8 Yona Wallach Pulled By Her Own Strings
    (pp. 217-246)

    Much of Wallach’s last poetry, collected inTsurotandMofa(1985), appears at first glance to echo well known Postmodernist arguments regarding the “death or loss of self” in modern times, the “alienation from the self,” the “displacement of the ego,” the “the dissolution of self identity.”² In its focus on the role of common language structures in determining one’s perception of self and others, Wallach’s poetic style, characterized by “gaps, discontinuities and suspension of dictated meanings,” seems to follow the French Poststructuralists’ quest to present “non-deterministic and non-determining structures as alternatives to the deterministic and determining structures inherent in...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-258)
  14. Index
    (pp. 259-272)