Dalia Ravikovitch

Rebellious poet with 'bare nerves'


Dalia Ravikovitch, poet: born Ramat Gan, Palestine 1936; married (one son); died Tel Aviv, Israel 21 August 2005.

Dalia Ravikovitch was the best-known female poet of the "State Generation", a group of poets who came of age in the years after the establishment of Israel in 1948. The members of this group, which included Natan Zach and Yehuda Amichai, felt that they could afford to rebel against the national agenda in two ways. First, by celebrating the personal, the lyric, and placing it at the centre of their poetry - hence defying the rules of the former generation of Zionist poets who dedicated their writing to the state-building ethos; second, with often pungent political criticism of the state and its wrong-doing.

Ravikovitch demonstrated exceptional courage on both counts. Her friends used to refer to her as "a woman with no skin and bare nerves". Her personal writing was unforgiving and dealt with depression and self-loathing, but also with vanity and egoism. Her poetry deals with womanhood, motherhood, love and the lack of it, emotion and alienation. Her rich language and the combination of high, even biblical Hebrew, and colloquial speech was her trademark.

Born in 1936 near Tel Aviv, Dalia Ravikovitch lived on a kibbutz after the death of her father. She was educated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and then worked as a journalist and teacher. She began writing poetry in the 1950s, and went on to publish 10 volumes of poetry and a number of children's books, as well as translating W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot into Hebrew. Two volumes of her poetry have been translated into English by Chana Bloch, A Dress of Fire (1978) and The Window (1989, with Ariel Bloch).

Ravikovitch was prompted to become politically involved by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. She took part in demonstrations and protest activities, and wrote some of the most powerful cutting-edge political poetry of that time. After the massacre of Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatila, carried out by the Christian Lebanese phalanges unleashed in the camps by the Israeli army, she wrote:

Over the sewage ponds of Sabra and Shatila

there you passed a considerable number of people on

from the land of the living to the land of the dead

night after night

first shots

then hangings

and then slaughter with knives

. . . and our sweet soldiers

they have asked nothing for themselves

they wanted so badly

to go home in peace.

This poem, whose title translates as "You Can't Kill a Baby Twice" appears in her 1995 collection Col Ha-Shirim Ad Co ("All the Poems So Far").

Ravikovitch obtained a canonical status in her lifetime. Her poems were taught in Israeli schools, and she was awarded the Bialik Prize in 1987 and the Israel Prize, the country's highest award, in 1998. Following these moments of triumph, there always came devastating mental crushes. In a newspaper interview, Ravikovitch spoke of her depression and of the time she spent in psychiatric hospitals. She was found dead in her apartment in Tel Aviv; it is assumed she committed suicide.

Ravikovitch's last book, a collection of short stories, was published in March this year. Despite her fear - "I know they'll write that my prose was not as good as my poetry", she said - it was favourably reviewed. Its title, which now seems disturbingly appropriate, is Baa Ve-Halcha, or "She Came and Then She Left".

Daphna Baram

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test