Translator’s Note

Joanna Chen

Hadassa Tal’s poetry defies definition. It is delicate yet powerful, intensely personal yet open in a way that draws the reader into the heart of the words. One thing I am sure of: It is poetry with a great and endearing soul.

Emily Dickinson urged the writer to tell it slant. Translating these poems was a great challenge for me for this very reason: untangling the Hebrew words into English, illuminating associations, transforming idioms and references into the target language.

I could not have done it without Hadassa Tal’s active input. We discussed each poem, I sent a draft, she returned the draft with comments. We found the meaning anew together—this time in English. We reinvented the musicality of each poem as it gradually shifted into shape. While working on these poems, I recalled Cynthia Ozick’s wise words, that “translation can serve as a lens into the underground life of another culture.” My wish while translating was to create this lens for readers in English.

I have never collaborated with a poet so closely before. I am grateful to Hadassa Tal for opening her world both to me and her readers. The result, I believe, is a collection of poems with a definitive voice that pierces through each and every word.


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