The Poem and the Place: How Poetry in the Alien Language of English Exists in Israel
Keywords:“Anglo-Saxon” Poets in Israel, Israel Association of Writers in English, Literary and Cultural Identity, Internet Publishing
Literature written in the Hebrew language possessed enormous significance for the establishment of Israeli identity. Yet, in the 1970s, people started questioning the linguistic exclusivity of the Hebrew Association of Writers. In part to counter this criticism, and perhaps also to preserve the purity and the development of the Hebrew language, members of the Hebrew Association of Writers helped to form a Federation of Writers’ Organizations—among others, the Israel Association of Writers in English. This article explores the development of “Anglo-Saxon” poets in Israel and examines their relationship to the local literary and cultural identity. For the first generation of these natives, English poetry was insular, written for the local population or anonymously for a foreign audience. Thus, questions of politics were not often raised, and poets did not have to feel like they were explaining their lives in Israel to others. The opening of the skies and the invention of email and the internet gradually created a generation that could be based in any country and publish elsewhere. As possibilities for publishing from multiple residences became viable, so the occurrence of political and cultural controversies became more frequent, as some of the writing changed its subject and purpose. By comparing some of the poems from the 1970s with poems written today and published everywhere on the internet, the startling distinction of subject matter becomes clear. While some poets write exclusively for their country of origin, others depend on local readership and their subjects vary accordingly.