While these poems deal in ordinary life – summer and a parent waking up in the middle of the night – I found some elements puzzling because apparently contradictory and therefore hard to translate. Or I resisted translating apparently contradictory thoughts, assuming that they reduced the poem’s value. Finally I concluded that the poems are, perhaps beyond their writer’s conscious thoughts, political. I realized that as domestic and universal as they are, they are also of their place and time, where the poet lives: in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood/settlement in southern East Jerusalem, built after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and named for the British Mandate governor’s palace which still stands there. So, in the first poem below, “the news/ has a long tongue, discharging the burnt and dusty smell/ of parched buildings.” And in the second, the air in the neighborhood is “deceptive.”Lyor-Shternberg_an-Israeli-poet-on-home-1
Lyor Shternberg (b. 1967, Petah Tikvah) is the prize-winning author of seven volumes of poetry, and the translator into Hebrew of five books of verse by iconic Irish poets including Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland and Patrick Kavanagh. His work “deflects attention to the dark stains of reality, not only those issues subject to public debate”, according to a compatriot critic. One might argue along these lines that Shternberg walks the fine line between belonging to his own society (and its ills) and belonging as well to the larger universe of poetry where each individual poet uses the imagery of his own place to describe these “dark stains.”
Translator 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 Shikzur/Reconstruction, poetry in Hebrew translation, by the Am Oved Press.