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Rita Kogan

Rita Kogan

Rita Kogan

(Russian Federation, 1976)
Rita Kogan is part of a global literary phenomenon, immigrant poets writing seamlessly in acquired, non-native languages. An Israeli whose work often deals with her experience as a woman, she is direct about the way her Russian background elicits sexist responses: 

- You don’t look like you’re from here.
- You don’t look like you’re from there.
- Why are you cold? Aren’t you Russian?!
- Why are you hot? Aren’t you Israeli?!
- Wow! You don’t have an accent.
- Actually, you do have an accent.
- Are you Jewish? On both sides?
- How long have you been in Israel?
- Twenty years and you still haven’t got used to it?
- Where are you from?
- (I mean, from here)
- (I mean, from there)
- You’re leftist? Weird. You’re Russian!
- Do you have a boyfriend? No? Weird. You’re Russian!
- You won’t fuck me? No? But you’re Russian.
- You fucked him? Already? Sure, you’re Russian.

                                                                                   [Tr. A. Moshkin]

At a launch for Kogan’s second book, noted critic and scholar Nissim Calderon cited a claim by Natan Zach, a major influence on Israeli poetry as it developed in the mid-20th century: when emotion wanes, the true poem speaks. “I feel,” Calderon said, "that one of assets [immigrant] Russian poets bring with them is a stirring up of emotion. Rita burrows inside Hebrew poetry’s problematic restraint and anti-pathos.”   

Born in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) to a teacher of literature and a theater director, Kogan immigrated to Israel with her mother at the age of 14. About her place in the late twentieth century mass migration of Jews from the former USSR to Israel she told a reporter earlier this year: “Suddenly you understand that you, an individual, a rare and unique flake of snow, are part of a huge historic happening. It’s hard to grasp and it shook me at the time.”

 Yet, the poet says, “in some ways it was inevitable. When regimes fall, things happen that aren’t necessarily in your hands. Especially when you are a child. Many people, my age and also younger, were simply taken [abroad].”

About her relations to prior Israeli women poets, she says she thinks about them while sailing, “about each one and her difficult situation: Dalia Ravikovitch, who lost her father... Lea Goldberg longing for a male partner….and Rachel who wished for a child. And I thought about the way they are presented as martyred saints in academic and semi-academic writing, drawn as ultimate sufferers. And then I [cursed], coos emek to all three of you! Come sail with me. Yes there’s a lot of shit but I’m sailing....It’s a cliche but 90% of the earth is water so why suffer on the 10% that is land? Many [women writers] like to think to themselves, ‘I’m Sylvia Plath! I’m Lea Goldberg, and now I’ll don a hat to be exactly like Rachel.’ … But I don’t want to be anything like a martyr.”

Kogan's second book, A Horse in a Skirt, received a commendation from the Israeli government and a 10,000 shekel prize (about 2,500 Euros). This amount covered only part of the publication costs of producing the book, which in Israel often falls on the poet. Funds earmarked for culture by the Israeli lottery Mifal Hapais made up the difference, so that Kogan did not have to foot the bill herself. Her first book was independently funded via the Israeli crowdsourcing engine Headstart.
 Kogan is a computer engineer.

Literary awards
First Prize in the 2016 Haaretz short story competition; Third Place in the 2017 Ofra Eligon fiction competition; Honorable Mention for A Horse in a Skirt in 2018, Presidential First Lady/Gardner Simon commendations for Hebrew poetry.
© Lisa Katz, translated excerpts from an interview with Racheli Malek-Buda Mekor Rishon 22.1.2019; interview with Masha Averbuch Haaretz 11.7.2018

Poetry in Hebrew
Suss beh-hatsa-eet/A Horse in a Skirt  ed. Efrat Mishori, Tel Aviv, Iton 77, 2018
Rishion leh-shgi-ote ktiv/A License to Misspell  ed. Dorit Zilberman, Tel Aviv, Elrom, 2015

Translations into Hebrew
Bat ha-tsar veh-sheevat ha-abirim/Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights by Alexander Pushkin, Tel Aviv, Kadima, 2018.

LINKS in Hebrew
Two short stories
More poems
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Prins Bernhard cultuurfonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Gefinancierd door de Europese Unie
Elise Mathilde Fonds
Stichting Verzameling van Wijngaarden-Boot
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère