Moshe Dor, a Founding Father of Israeli Poetry, Dies at 83

Winner of the Bialik Prize in 1987, Dor published 18 poetry books for adults and was translated into some 30 languages.

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Moshe Dor
Moshe Dor.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yair Ashkenazi
Yair Ashkenazi

Poet, translator and writer Moshe Dor died on Sunday at 83. He was one of the founding fathers of Israeli poetry, alongside Aryeh Sivan and Moshe Ben-Shaul.

A prolific writer, Dor published 18 poetry books for adults and another five for children. He was also a noted translator of American poetry.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1932, Dor served in the Haganah (the pre-independence army of Palestine’s Jews) before pursuing university studies in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In the early 1950s, he helped found the literary group Likrat (Toward), which included Sivan, Ben-Shaul, Natan Zach, Yehuda Amichai and Benjamin Harshav. The group published a journal of the same name for two years.

Dor published his first book of Hebrew poetry, “White Cypresses,” in 1954.

After the group’s breakup, Dor worked for the LaMerhav newspaper before joining Maariv in the late 1950s. He published poetry, literary reviews and opinion pieces there; he also served as editor of Maariv’s books supplement.

During this period, he wrote the lyrics to one of his most famous songs, “Erev Shel Shoshanim” (“Evening of Roses”), for which Yosef Hadar composed the music.

He served as Israel’s cultural attaché in London in the 1970s.

Dor won many awards over the years, including the 1987 Bialik Prize, the Prime Minister’s Award for Literature in 1986 and 2008, and Holon’s Kugel Prize. His books have been translated into some 30 languages, including English, French and Dutch.

His anthologies in English include “Maps of Time” (1978), “Crossing the River” (1989) and “Scorched by the Sun” (2012).

During his career, he translated poetry by artists such as Denise Levertov, Seymour Mayne, Gregory Corso and Charles Simic. He also translated prose works, such as books by Robert Graves, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jack London.

His life partner after a previous divorce was the American poet Barbara Goldberg, who lived with him both in the United States and Israel. They translated two anthologies of Hebrew poetry into English: the first, “After the First Rain” – which included songs about war and peace – came out after the assassination of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. The second, “The Stones Remember,” contains children’s poetry.

Prof. Gabriel Moked, editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Review and a longtime acquaintance of Dor, told Haaretz he would be publishing a poem by Dor, alongside a tribute to the poet, in the next edition.

“Dor will be remembered for his outstanding, lyrical poetry,” said Moked. “He was strongly influenced by the Canaanite poetry of Yonatan Ratosh,” he added, referring to the movement that peaked in pre-state Israel in the 1940s, “but his poetry was more native and touched on Israel’s landscape. He was an independent leftist.”

“He was one of the key poets of the state’s founding generation, and his literary contribution was expressed in his many poetry books that demonstrated an affinity to the land,” said poet and translator Rafi Weichert, who cofounded a publishing house with Dor.

Dor is survived by his two sons.

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