Yona Wallach, who was born in Tel Aviv in 1944 and died of breast cancer in 1985, is well-known in Israel not only for her idiosyncratic, groundbreaking poetry, but also for her eccentric personality and daring behavior. She was raised in the town of Kiryat Ono of which her father was a founder, near Tel Aviv. He died in Israel's War of Independence when she was a young child.
Wallach was active in the Tel Aviv Poets circle which emerged around the journals Akhshav and Siman Qri'a in the 1960s, and she was a frequent contributor to Israeli literary periodicals. In 1978, she won the Israeli Prime Minister’s Literary Prize for her poetry. Wallach also wrote lyrics for rock bands who appeared with her at poetry readings/musical performances. In 1982 a record featuring these performances was issued. During her life she published four books. In 1997, Wild Light, a selection of her poems translated into English by Linda Zisquit, was published by the Sheep Meadow Press of New York. Individual poems of Wallach have been published in Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English, Estonian, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Yiddish.
Practically from the first, Yona Wallach attracted notice, interest and mixed feelings: her life and writings were free, wild, bold and unbridled. Wallach is an example of a poet who didn’t bother to be cautious, and didn’t manage to protect herself from the dangers inherent in a life devoted to creativity and come-what-may. Her sexually permissive behavior, experimentation with drugs and bohemian lifestyle went hand-in-hand with her willingness to transgress borders and slaughter sacred cows in the areas of language and poetry. Her difficult, colorful and rough personality caused not just admiration of her poetry, but also public scandals. In 1982, when the Israeli literary journal Iton 77 published a controversial poem called ‘Tefillin’ (involving sex and phylacteries, a kind of amulet strapped to men's arms during morning prayers), the vice-minister of the Israeli Department of Education called Wallach “an animal in heat.” Wallach’s poetry mixed high registers with street talk, rock and roll with Jungian psychology, manifest sexuality with provocative feminism. Writing with a particular fluidity, refusing to be limited by conventional poetic structures, Wallach took the feminine revolution in Hebrew poetry upon herself. A blatantly sexual female figure, she became a model for many Israeli poets.
WHEN YOU COME TO SLEEP WITH ME COME LIKE MY FATHER
A review of Wild light: Selected Poems of Yona Wallach
On translating Yona Wallach
On Yona Wallach
Selected Poems 1963-1985, Hakibbutz Hameuchad/Siman Qri'a, 1992.
Mofa' (Appearance), Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1985.
Tsurot (Forms), Hakibbutz Hameuchad/Siman Qri'a, 1985.
Or Pere (Wild Light), Ekhut, 1983.
Shirim (Collected Poems), Siman Qri'a, 1976.
Shne Ganim (Two Gardens), Daga, 1969.
Dvarim (Things), Akhshav, 1966.
Websites on Wallach
Wallach's page on the web site of The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature
Rachel Giora's article on Irony and its discontents with reference to two of Wallach's poems
An article by Zafrira Lidovsky Cohen on the nature of the 'word' in Yona Wallach's poetry
An article by Jeffrey Green, A survey of Israeli literature, from Ottoman-era Palestine to today, with reference to Yona Wallach
A site dedicated to poems written by other poets on Yona Wallach (Dalia Ravikovich, Meir Wieseltier, Roni Somek and Rachel Chalfi)
An interesting article by Michael Gluzman on two poems by Dalia Ravikovitch concerning Yona Wallach and her death
A web site dedicated to the memory of Wallach
A poem of Wallach with some reactions of readers
A page dedicated to Wallach on the Anonymous Fish web-site
Biographic details about Wallach
Biographic details concerning Wallach
An article by Asher Weill on fifty years of Israeli culture, with reference to Yona Wallach