Rachel, Poet of the Second Aliyah

Rachel, Poet of the Second Aliyah

Talk
Sun, Feb 23, 1:30pm
Jewish Cultural and Community
Center of San Miguel de Allende
Las Moras 47

By Carole Stone

Rachel Bluwstein (1890–1931) is rightfully considered the “founding mother” of modern Hebrew poetry by women. Between the biblical poetry of Deborah the Prophet and contemporary times, virtually no Hebrew poetry that we know of was composed by women. It was only in the 1920s that women began to write serious poetry in Hebrew. Bluwstein, along with the other women poets who began to write and publish at this time, started a trend that introduced new stylistic, linguistic, and figurative possibilities into Hebrew poetry.

Of the few pioneering women poets of that era, Bluwstein was the most admired, although her success came late in her short life and sadly, after her death. Bluwstein’s writing had a clear impact on future generations of both men and women poets. More than 20 different editions of her collected writings have been published since her death and new editions continue to join the library of Hebrew literature. Many of her poems have been set to music and have become an integral part of Hebrew culture. Thanks to them, Bluwstein has achieved the status of an eminent, beloved, national poet.

Bluwstein’s poetry was unencumbered by flowery language. She invented poetic language that reflected the Hebrew spoken language free of the pompous stylistic residue of European religious education. Her writings reveal a clear awareness of the fact that she was operating in a patriarchal culture that diminished and excluded women. She often wrote of her longing to be understood, of the feeling of insignificance of a sick woman in a world that revered strength and power, and of the constant tension between her desire to be loved and her fear of the destructive emotional and poetic price of love fulfilled.

Bluwstein’s affiliation with the avant-garde group of Second Aliyah pioneers, her dedication to Zionist ideals, and her agonizing death from tuberculosis made her a symbol in the eyes of the Israeli public—and her mythic status persists to this day. Her poems are sung by one and all, but literary criticism and academic research have diminished Bluwstein as a poet of limited abilities. The pursuit of simplicity that stood at the center of Bluwestein’s poetic oeuvre was considered by the critics as feminine weakness. It is only in recent decades that the academic world has begun to recognize the power of Bluwstein’s poetry with its elements of a relentless quest and the exploration of the tension between her simplicity of expression and the complex meanings conveyed by this simplicity.

Long-time San Miguel de Allende resident Nancy Weber is offering this event focusing on Prominent Women in Jewish History. Weber is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with an MA degree in Jewish History. Each talk in the series focuses on a different noteworthy Jewish woman. These are Jewish women from biblical times to the present, who have made their mark in various endeavors and fields. They are not presented in chronological order.

These talks take place on the last Sunday of every month at 1:30pm at the JC3. All are welcomed. The first talk will be held on Sunday, February 23.