Hamutal Bar-Yosef

Hamutal Bar-Yosef

Hamutal Bar-Yosef is a well known Israeli born poet, the recipient of the AKUM Prize, The Tel-Aviv Prize, The Jerusalem Prize for Poetry, The WIZO Prize for the Creative Woman, The President of Israel Prize for Poetry and the Brenner Prize. Her poems have been translated into English, French, German, Russian, Ukraine, Hungarian, Italian, Turkish, Arabic and Yiddish.

She published 9 poetry collections, 6 books of literary research, short stories, a children’s book and two collections of poetry translated from Russian. A book of selected poems in Russian translation was published in St. Petersburg in 2004. Her poems in English translation (Night, Morning The Sheep Meadow Press, NY 2008) have won great success. Books of poems in Arabic, Spanish and Hungarian translation are in press.

The poetry below from Hamutal Bar-Yosef’s Night, Morning (The Sheep Meadow Press, NY 2008) in Rachel Tzvia Back’s translation.

On the Tel-Aviv Beach

On the Tel-Aviv beach I see
them and more of them.
A faceless crowded moan
pulled to the narrow pier.
Look, you say, how nice –
the sea is washing their face
and their soul straightens in the wind.
Feel how they are drawn to that rocking
deck, sniffing the distance and height,
you say and say again and you
are more beautiful than the sea
your eyes much wider.

Hamutal Bar-Yosef
© translation Rachel Tzvia Back

The Goat

On the bench in the cheap, foreign butcher shop
sat the head, not-very-large, a little curly,
of a black goat –
the kind that jumps on thin ankles
over the desert’s stone walls.
Her eye was open
and very
Her eye was open
and tired
to death.
Her eye was open
and in it, the world
of killers.

Hamutal Bar-Yosef
© translation Rachel Tzvia Back


I betrayed the tree that held the first cradle.
I abandoned the narrow river, abused its glory.
I uprooted the black oyster shells
that understood the water’s sweetness.
I erased the blue-shadowed hills, how
I forgot
their departing song fragrant with za’tar and wild thorns.
I denied the stone that holds
the world from above
I betrayed the basalt rock
and it rolls on and on.

Hamutal Bar-Yosef
© translation Rachel Tzvia Back

A Mediterranean Love Song

I’ll marry you, clever man
of twelve breasts
and one good eye.
I’ll marry you, your voice
tasting of dates
and your palms spread to catch
my head’s hard-shelled nuts as they fall.

By chance we met under the bridal canopy
thirty years ago. They took pictures of us
and we sat down at once to grind up
yellow and red spices,
to peck at each other’s coxcomb.

Now that my heart is soft and fragrant
and doughnuts swell up in my cheeks
I say in my heart, I’ll marry you
though you never properly asked for my hand.

Hamutal Bar-Yosef
© translation Rachel Tzvia Back


Yes, with real delicacy, anonymous city,
you raped me.

You saw a large stone, sniffed it, were unimpressed.
Yes, every evening the sea held up, with Don Juan gallantry,
a revolving glass door,
never closing, opening
onto a beautiful beach, filled with people and air like beer
in a large glass absorbed into the promenade’s blood,
ringing from a public phone booth, as though
a desperate teenager is declaring his love with a rough stubbornness,
a beach becoming a dance hall, pressing one to another
all kinds of glances –

No! A small dog just jumped from a car
stopped at the traffic light
wagging her tail with desire.

How and when did you strip me of my grief –
Rapist city of balmy winds, whore?

Hamutal Bar-Yosef
© translation Rachel Tzvia Back

Like Dates

Like dates brown and swollen
bursting when pressed
at summer’s end
sucked clean
in a complete claiming
of longed for things
sweet kisses, soft and sticky.

Hamutal Bar-Yosef
© translation Rachel Tzvia Back

Published with the permission of Hamutal Bar-Yosef