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Lali Tsipi Michaeli
(Georgia, 1964)   
 
 
 
Lali Tsipi Michaeli

Lali Tsipi Michaeli, the author of five books of verse, has been termed an urban-erotic writer by critic and scholar Gabriel Moked. She once caused a stir when a video of her reading poetry, including this one, to unsuspecting beachgoers – from a lifeguard tower on a Tel Aviv beach – was posted on a popular online news outlet:

Life is a brothel she says
zipping ten centimeters up the crotch
of her Diesel jeans.
How many jobs do you have to take to remove your nose
from the rotten-egg stench... 
  
[tr. Alexa Christopher-Daniels]

Michaeli is also the editor of a poetry anthology called Opposition. Opposition to what? “To oppressive dictates”, she told Haaretz interviewer Eli Eliahu. “Opposition to death, which is inevitable, to a god who allows people to suffer, to the inability to reach divinity. To people who don’t realize their potential. To the bourgeois status quo, to the existential-economic difficulties of poets, consumed by themselves.”

Her video project began in 2008, Michaeli told Eliahu,

when Amichai Shalev, Ynet's literary editor, heard me at a poetry reading. He approached me and we decided to attempt a joint poetry project. The idea arose of filming poetry. We didn't know where it would lead. It was summer and we decided to film the first episode at the beach. Half the video is improvised. They simply pinned a microphone on me and I started to walk, reciting 'Life is a Brothel'...There was a strong element of self-deprecating humor...The goal was to bring poetry outside. To present it to a wider audience, which might not have an interest in it. To observe reactions.

…I didn't use a simple poem, [but] a challenging one…not a poem written for this purpose…I wanted to bring the language of poetry to an audience. Via humor, self-humor, even provocation. Poetry is communication. It can't be accessible only to scholars. The goal was to create that magic between writer and reader.

So it is not surprising that Michaeli has also writen a poem entitled 'TO REMAIN SILENT IS A PROBLEMATIC OPTION':

but to be blind when necessary
this is greatness
this way you get through life
this way feelings get through
like this you cross the abyss without seeing   
[tr. Michael Simkin]

About Michaeli's work, Yonatan Berg notes:

Humanity develops over time through conflict, which creates energy. Constant friction between the familiar and the new, the conservative and revolutionary, between that which safeguards us and that which seeks to break us down and undermine our security in order to allow for change. This conflict is necessary, perhaps with even greater force, in poetry…Michaeli's poetry may be called undisciplined, its motivating drive the search to express the free movement of consciousness. 

The poet was born in the Georgian republic and immigrated to Israel with her parents at the age of seven. She studied comparative literature at Bar-Ilan University, and returned to Georgia in the early 1990s as a Hebrew teacher for the Jewish Agency. From 2005-2007, she worked in Denmark, editing human rights texts. She teaches Hebrew language at Ben Gurion University.

© Lisa Katz , translated excerpts from Eliahu/Haaretz 10.6.2013 & Berg/Walla 15.5.2015

BOOKS in Hebrew
Lali's Poems, Tel Aviv, Eked 1990
Paint Me Ablaze, Jerusalem, Carmel, 2008
Frontwoman, Tel Aviv, Ahshav, 2013
Face Tractate, Tel Aviv, Ahshav, 2015
Madhouse, Raanana, Even Hoshen, 2018
Opposition: an anthology (editor) self-published 2011

LINKS in Hebrew
Ynet poetry video 



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