Ayana Erdal — A Portfolio of Poetry — translated by Lisa Katz


Five years ago Israeli poet and educator Ayana Erdal moved with her family into an apartment in a house on the Hebron Road in West Jerusalem. The building was erected in the 1940s and expropriated in 1948 by the Israeli government when the state was founded. Erdal bought the apartment from Jews living there, and was able to discover the original owners via a project listing prior ownership of West Jerusalem property. A search led to the name Huslop Simonian, an Armenian and, so it happens, a great-uncle of one of Erdal’s students at the bilingual (Hebrew-Arabic) Hand-in-Hand School in Jerusalem. The poem depicts the house and the neighborhood, including some of the real people who live there now, and imagines the way the very building itself – walls, floor tiles – reflect its history. It also imagines how the Armenian owner felt or feels, and some of the apartment’s contents. The speaker is disturbed by this recovered history:

...it’s impossible to kill

the feeling of guilt that pulses like a snake

on the neck of existence.

The house isn’t mine...          


Writer and teacher Ayana Erdal was born (prematurely) in 1973 in Copenhagen, where her Israeli parents were studying. Her mother, whose parents were Polish, had immigrated to Israel from Paraguay, and her father from Istanbul; from these diverse backgrounds she grew up in Jerusalem with a listening comprehension of Spanish and German. Twice a winner of the Israeli President’s Prize in Literature, Erdal studied comparative literature at Hebrew University, and teaches at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual (Arabic-Hebrew) junior-senior high school in Jerusalem. The author of four books, she is a treasured blogger (in Hebrew) on Facebook. https://www.poetryinternational.com/en/poets-poems/poets/poet/102-23465_Erdal https://www.poetryinternational.com/en/poets-poems/article/104-23467_The-poet-looks-for-a-job

Lisa Katz (b. New York, in Jerusalem since 1983) is, most recently, translator of So Many Things Are Yours, a bilingual selection of the poetry of Admiel Kosman, (Zephyr Press, 2023) and The Absolute Reader, a chapbook of verse by Miri Ben Simhon (Toad Press 2020) A chapbook of her own work, Are You With Me, was published by Finishing Line and Shihzur/Reconstruction, poetry in Hebrew translation, by the Am Oved Press.