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Tehila Hakimi

Tehila Hakimi

Tehila Hakimi

(Israel, 1982)
“Despite the initial, almost automatic identification of Israeli poet Tehila Hakimi with the social Ars-Poetica movement”, writes poet-critic Shira Stav, “it seems that she may be located – both feet firmly on the ground – with the more amorphous but nonetheless fully present group of working women poets, in a world in which human beings have long been commodified.”

Hakimi, who also writes prose and is the author of a graphic novel, is the recipient of: in 2015 –  the Israeli Culture Ministry Prize for Emerging Poets and the Bernstein Prize for her first volume of poetry; in 2018 – a Fulbright grant to the University of Iowa International Writing Program and a Levi Eshkol Hebrew Writers Award; and, in 2019 – a Jewish National Library Grant, and an AKUM Prize.
About Hakimi's debut book, Stav writes:

Perhaps every poet has a poem that attempts to depict how it came into being, or one dedicated to a person with a special interest in poetry, in Tehila Hakimi’s words, to someone “awake/ to the existential situation/ of the word”. The poem on the back of the inviting red cover of Tomorrow We’ll Work (one of the loveliest seen here recently, designed by Avi Buchbut and featuring art by Liron Cohen) attracts attention to such a moment:

As a girl I was scolded
stand tall
speak clearly
don’t swallow your words
and in the shocking heat of summer
a sinkhole gaped on the Jordanian border.

The emergence of the poem is recorded as an exciting and violent moment, a sudden burst of energy after years of self-restraint, with double and contradictory meaning: a sinkhole, which may engulf everything, is created when it releases the forces once held back. This happens on a border, threatening to destroy it.

Decisive moments like this appear often in Hakimi’s book, moments when mechanisms enter into difficulties, become stuck or disintegrate… Hakimi is a mechanical engineer by profession. The intriguing connection she creates between machine and language processes gives the book a special flavor…

Hakimi spreads before us a gray and depressing array of office towers, interview rooms, reception desks, banks, employment agencies, airports, alienating hotels and factories. These are spaces to which the individual is dispatched and which swallow her up; individuals themselves serve as mechanical units, although they have the power to sabotage machines at any given moment…

While the poet deals in important and painful materials, [nonetheless] her first book is contagiously cheerful, joyful about the very act sof writing, expressing, doing, discovering, [having] freedom of speech out loud, neither concealed nor minimized. Entering [the world of] poetry is like joining a party already at its height. Readers sense the energy, intoxication and pride of someone who belongs to the Arts-Poetica group, which has created its particular sound and space. At the same time, Hakimi searches for her location in this literary field, which explains why so many of her poems deal in poetry, the way it is written, and with the poet’s identity:

In your world I’m in fifth place
after the one in power
after the generation that is sorta new                                  
after the Mizrahi who enters the fucking pantheon
after the radicals who come after.
You sit in circles
and never shut up.
Fifth place my ass,
Mizrahi women will write a million poems.

[In her review, Stav compares Hakimi with four Israeli women poets who also treat economic matters. They are featured on Poetry International Archives : Yudit Shahar, Dorit Weisman, Tahel Frosh, Sigal Ben Yair. See Ben Yair’s CHECKOUT GIRL, who is almost indistinguishable from supermarket goods. About Ars Poetica, see the work of Adi Keissar]
© Lisa Katz, translated excerpts from Shira Stav Haaretz 31.12.2014
Tomorrow We'll Work (poetry) Tangier, Haifa, 2014
In the Water (graphic novel) self-published, 2016
Company (prose) Resling, Tel Aviv, 2018

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