Poetry and Translation


As a poet and translator, Dr. Back, discusses how her own poetic sensibility enables her to inhabit and translate the work of Israeli poet, Tuvia Ruebner.

Rachel Tzvia Back is a poet, a translator of Hebrew poetry, a scholar and an educator. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a PEN Translation grant, a Dora Maar Brown Foundation Fellowship, and a Hadassah-Brandeis Research grant. In addition to five volumes of her own poetry (English) and a study of the poetics of the American poet Susan Howe (1999), Back has published important collections of Israeli poetry in translation. Her collection In the Illuminated Dark: Selected Poems of Tuvia Ruebner (Hebrew Union College Press and University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014) won the triennial Risa Domb/Porjes Prize in 2016, and was a finalist for both the National Translation Award in Poetry and the Jewish Book Council Award in Poetry in 2015.

Her new translation collection On the Surface of Silence: The Last Poems of Lea Goldberg is forthcoming from Hebrew Union College Press and the University of Pittsburgh Press in Spring 2017. Her other acclaimed translation works include Lea Goldberg: Selected Poetry and Drama (2006), With an Iron Pen: Twenty Years of Hebrew Protest Poetry (2009) and Night, Morning: Selected Poems of Hamutal Bar-Yosef (2008).

Back lives in the Galilee, where her great-great-great grandfather settled in the 1830s; she teaches at Oranim College, in the foothills of the Carmel Mountains. Her classes include students from Jewish, Muslim and Christian backgrounds; thus, the classroom becomes a laboratory for inter-ethnic and religious dialogue through literature among people dwelling in a political, religious, and ethnic conflict zone.

Photo courtesy of David H. Aaron.