Poem of the Week |

Finding Yitzhak Rabin Readymade

Vivian Eden
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'This is my mother.' Rosa Rabin with Yitzhak and his sister Rachel. Credit: Wikipedia
Vivian Eden


Tova Gannana

I believe we are here naturally   it came to me as a result   the way my parents acted, behaved   we talked only Hebrew   The Bible a religious book   happened to the Jewish People   independent   I was born in Jerusalem   every mountain has a meaning   rooted   3,000 years   a new meaning   

I believe to which they belong   every generation comes to Israel   life is changing all the time   look at the essence   the most important part   I have seen

Tradition   one can experience   generation’s   experience   the basic question   to continue   in mind   young generation   exists

Other places in this world   nuclear weapons   between   selves   interrelations   between nuclear war result of confrontation   between   total destruction   nuclear means

This is the story   30 years   balance of terror   I believe   purpose

We trained our pilots to fly low   they flew over the sea   sea level   almost hovering   than flying

We built a model of every type

To hit the points   once you hit   we trained ourselves time and again   eventuality   we found   unless in three hours   in three waves   call   our  planes   vis a vis I would say   put out   prolonged

This is my sister my father myself   this is my mother   this is when I was   this is when I served

In a way the entrance   somebody else participated in   talk between myself   Nasser phoned King Hussein   dare to believe to do what we did   

Mr. Begin   Dayan, Weizman   reluctance   tell the Saudis who are fearful weakest country richest regime   I believe we maintain dialogue   free elections   as long as   only speak   we have nothing   what will happen in Jerusalem   I believe   Jordan today  

Dayan was   twofold   lines   against   terrorism from within   advisable   gestures in our pockets   they are not ready   not   to become a prophet peace between themselves   let’s hope   long


Tova Gannana writes: “This is part of a longer project called "The Rabin Poems".” This particular poem comes from an interview Rabin had with Bill Boggs done in English. I was struck by how beautiful Rabin's English was because when you are self-translating on the spot you are getting across information and emotion, not necessarily trying to be eloquent. Rabin spoke all these lines but I edited them. So in the end it is my memory of Rabin and who I need him to be, what I need to hear. The lines follow the chronology of the interview.”

This text is in the genre of “found poetry” – a word collage or re-casting of an existing piece of prose. Just as in the 20th century visual artists became interested in putting “readymade” objects into new contexts, reconstituting them as art, so poets have taken the freedom to reimagine and reshape existing prose texts.  Here, much of the reimagining has to do with the lacunae – on the page, the long spaces -- between the phrases taken from the interview, which are indicative of Rabin’s idiosyncratic cadences.

If you listen carefully to the music of his speech in both Hebrew and English you will find that Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister of Israel who was assassinated 20 years ago in Tel Aviv for trying to lead a peace process, had a pattern of speaking his thoughts in complete sentences chunked into phrases in slightly unexpected ways.

Rabin knew English well but his heart was Hebrew. As he said, in an ideological decision, his parents Rosa and Nehemiah spoke Hebrew with Yitzhak and his sister Rachel at home – not Russian or Yiddish or English (though his father spent much of his youth in the United States). English, however, was of course the official language of Palestine under the British Mandate and he honed it in his schooling, his military career and his stint as ambassador in Washington. When he spoke, he was articulate in a thoughtful, plainspoken (sometimes blunt, sometimes diplomatic) way; he did not generate self-mesmerizing slick slogans but rather tried to find the best way to express substance.

Tova Gannana identifies as both Israeli and American. She currently lives in the Seattle area, has published one book of poetry, is the poetry editor of The Arava Review and a film curator.

Tova Gannana. Credit: Eon Smith

*Try this at home, at work or in your neighborhood: See if you can “find” a poem.

*Bonus: Rabin ‘s last speech