Where to read/hear poetry in Be’er-Sheva?
The southern region branch of “Voices Israel” – the English poetry society – meets about once a month in Be’er-Sheva at someone’s home. At each intimate meeting, the poets in attendance take turns reading their works-in-progress to their fellow poets, who try to provide constructive criticism; these are informal, friendly workshops. More members are always welcome. Sometimes, certain poems are unanimously chosen for publication in the monthly national Voices Newsletter. Occasionally, public English poetry-reading evenings are planned and held at various venues. Members are also invited to submit their best poems to various national or international contests, anthologies, or publications. Several of our local members have garnered prestigious national and international prizes – http://www.voicesisrael.com. The AACI and poet Mark Elliott Shapiro have also occasionally organized several evenings of English poetry reading.
There are 2 main regional Hebrew poetry clubs active in Be’er-Sheva. One is the Hebrew Poets Club headed by Eliazar Grinshpoun. It usually meets on the first Thursday of each month at 19:00 at the Public Library on ha-Meshahrerim Way. Some of its members who live in Be’er-Sheva are: Nissan Abadi, Perla Aharoni, Sophia Barg, David Kahiri, Leah Katzenell, Uri Meir and Rivka Reuven-Gavrieli. At each meeting, the poets in attendance take turns reading their works-in-progress to their fellow poets, who try to provide constructive criticism; these are informal, friendly workshops. More members are always welcome – firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second is a poetry group that holds poetry evenings a number of times per year at the student pub “Coca Brewpub” at 50 Arlozorov St. in the Gimel neighborhood. These are emceed evenings, run by Ilana Gorodissky, at which the invited poets take the stage in turn and present their finished works to the audience. Each one of these poetry evenings has a particular predetermined theme and the relevant poems to be read must be submitted in advance for approval and inclusion in the program. A printed brochure of the poetry being read at each evening is usually provided at the event to the attendees. A few of the regular, Be’er-Shevan participants are: Daniel Lachish, Irit Lev, Racheli Madar, Adam Ratzon, Yaron Ruso and Iftach Zilka.
Some published resident Be’er-Sheva poets
Michael Adam was born in 1939 in Paris, France. He survived the Drancy Concentration Camp as a small child during WWII. He immigrated to Israel in 1958 and reached Be’er-Sheva in 1965. He has been writing French poetry for decades and working with his wife as French/Hebrew translators.
Talma Alyagon-Roz is a prolific Hebrew poet and songwriter who wrote a Hebrew poem entitled “Be’er-Sheva, my city” set to music and sung in 1969 by Yosi Moustaki (b.1939), “Singer of the Negev” and Be’er-Sheva‘s first song writer – www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd1pXTMhMVA.
Zohar Arbel resided in Be’er-Sheva until the late 1980s and published a book of his Hebrew poetry in 1988, before leaving for the United States. Eventually, I lost touch, but I had the privilege of translating several of his poems into English before he went. My favorite one follows:
I didn’t want to stay in your memories./ Too soon to put away the sounds and the sights./ Still want to touch, to tread the same paths, to go astray/ Coming back to you tired, dusty./ Head on shoulder lay, dangling like a cloak on your body.
[Translation c1988 Ethelea (Pinhas) Katzenell]
who immigrated to Be’er-Sheva from Romania, published a book of Hebrew poems and short-stories in 2007.
Albert Ben Yitshak immigrated from the former Soviet Union in 1993. He has published 7 books of his Hebrew poetry from 1999-2017.
Ruthi Ben Yitshak Galkin Sabo (“Rutibi,” 1946-2009) was born in Israel to two Holocaust survivors. She settled in Be’er-Sheva in 1968. From 1977-1983, she published 3 books of her Hebrew poetry.
Meir Cherniak (1923-2003) immigrated from Russia to Israel and served in the Palmah from 1941-1949, receiving an “Award for Bravery” in 1973. In 1993, he published a book of his Hebrew poems on the Negev Desert, and the last poem in the collection was entitled “Be’er-Sheva.”
Moti Davidi, a former Director of the Be’er-Sheva Public Library, published a book of his Hebrew poetry. Some of his poems have been set to music and sung by various singers.
Miriam Green immigrated to Israel from the USA in 1991 and, in 2001 in Be’er-Sheva, she became the AACI Counselor for New Immigrants and, by default, the also Southern Region Coordinator for all the English-speakers in the Negev. She has published a number of her English poems in international journals and has won several prestigious awards, such as the “2013 Reuben Rose Poetry Prize.” She also coordinates the Southern Region Branch of “Voices Israel.”
Dr. Eliazar Grinshpoun, the founder and Chairman of the Hebrew Poetry Club of Be’er-Sheva, has published books of his own Hebrew and English poems and also anthologies of the Hebrew poetry of various club members. He is active in local politics, literary education and social improvement.
David Kahiri published a collection of his Hebrew poems in 2013.
Ethelea Katzenell immigrated to Be’er-Sheva in 1972 from Philadelphia, PA. She’s a Be’er-Sheva local-patriot and even wrote a Hebrew anthem for the City of Be’er-Sheva that was accepted by Mayor Ijo Rager in 1996. She writes English and Hebrew poetry; several of her poems in both languages have been published in Israel. She has also done Hebrew/English and English/Hebrew poetry translations for 6 published poets.
Rinat Matsliah, a Be’ershevan educator and writer of 5 children’s books since 2011, published her first book of Hebrew poems in 2019.
Dr. Sasha Paz (1927-2017) left Europe and made Be’er-Sheva his home. He was not only a professional psychologist and a lover of life, but a prolific writer of Hebrew novels and Hebrew poetry (although sadly most of his novels and all of his poems will have to be published posthumously).
Rivka Reuven-Gavriel published a collection of her Hebrew poetry in 2017.
Mark Elliott Shapiro immigrated from Toronto to Be’er-Sheva in 1970. He’s a freelance translator/editor and works for the Haaretz newspaper’s English edition. His Masters’ thesis at BGU was a comparison of Holocaust poetry by Israeli poet Dan Pagis and Canadian-Jewish poet A. M. Klein. He’s been writing English and Hebrew poetry for many years. He publishes his Hebrew and/or English poems weekly in Congregation “Eshel Avraham”s weekly pre-Sabbath synagogue bulletin.
Tamar (“Tammy Tut”) Talmon (b.1994-) arrived on the Be’er-Sheva scene in 2014 as a practitioner of the ‘spoken word’ (a cross-breed between poetry & rap) and a participant in ‘poetry slams’ (I suggest watching the 2017 movie: “Love beats rhymes”).
Prof. Adi Wolfson is a senior lecturer at SCE and a leading eco-activist. Thus far, he has published 4 books of his Hebrew poetry. Many of his poems have been translated into English (some by Ethelea Katzenell) and some have been published in German. Quite a few of his poems deal with Be’er-Sheva and the Negev desert environment.