Poet, dramatist and director Nano Shabtai was born in the small, secular center of Jerusalem to a large family (she is one of six children), where she attended the High School of the Arts, majoring in theatre. She studied acting and directing at the Kibbutz College in Tel Aviv, and completed the screenwriting track (with honours) at the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School. She has adapted works by Kundera, Ionesco and Chekhov for the stage, directing them at her college and at the avant-garde Performance Art Arena (HaZira). Since 2005 she has worked as a fiction reader for an Israeli publishing house, and as a book editor and reviewer. Her first book of poems, The Iron Girl, was published in 2006, supported in part by the ACUM Prize to encourage young writers. This is her first appearance in English.
Shabtai’s book, very personal in theme and individualistic-idiosyncratic in style, has been termed “crass, kicking and commanding” by poet Dorit Weisman. “There are almost no poems that lack a curse word. At the same time, the book is refined, refreshing and lyrical,” Weisman writes. “It’s possible,” she continues, “to classify Shabtai in many ways: as a confessional poet, or as a prose poet. But it seems to me that she is in a class by herself.”
Familial relationships are in focus. For Shabtai, this subject includes her parents’ divorce and her relationship with her parents: her mother, an Alexander Technique teacher and painter, and her father, a much-acclaimed and sometimes controversial Israeli poet who is also a translator of classic Greek theatre, Aharon Shabtai.
As to her form, it is free and conversational, an original answer, according to poet Maya Bejerano, to a current formalist poetic movement in Israel “proclaiming the superiority of classic forms, of rhyme and metre . . . In this book, Shabtai declares her equality with language. She feels that . . . everything that will happen or has happened to her . . . will undergo a personal linguistic transformation, for good or bad. She isn’t at all disturbed about whether [her work] meets the criteria of [someone else’s] poetics, because, in light of the overwhelming existential situation, there’s no need to be concerned with the aesthetics of poetry.”