Basman-Ben Haim’s books

I am pleased to announce that three of Basman Ben-Haim’s books can now be ordered at this site. What follows are the 3 such payment options. The first is for the Yiddish only book, recently published, entitled “Eybike Vegn”; the second is for her previous book, entitled “Der Shmeykhl fun a Boym”; the third is for a dual-language, Hebrew-Yiddish book, entitled “Al Meytar Ha-Geshem”.  Here are the links:

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an as-yet unpublished poem

What follows is my translation of an as-yet unpublished poem. When I asked the poet why this poem was not included in her new book, she told me it was not intentional. It simply got left out.

This poem is just one example of Basman Ben-Haim’s profound exploration of the nature of time. It comes to my mind when I think of my parents, no longer alive, but very much still with me.  Here is my English translation:

About That Refrain

I’m reminded of the song’s refrain:

“What was, is past and is gone”-

And I don’t agree.

What was, is with us still.

It’s clothed differently,

has a different look

in a different venue.

And yet, in the depths

of feelings and words,

in the most concealed spot,

the gentle touch courses on

as a drop of elixir does with life

which encourages a step

and forgets a tear.

In the deepest reach­ –

All that was,

still breathes in me.

 

28/04/2016

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Your First Painting- the second poem in Basman Ben-Haim’s new book

Below is my translation of the second poem in Basman Ben-Haim’s new book. It is an account of the time when the couple lived on kibbutz Ha-Ma’apil and the poet brought home a bunch of flowers for her husband to immortalize.

Your First Painting

I’ve just come from the field

And I bring you a bunch of flowers.

And you, brush in hand

Smooth colors, preserve

The sunset in each flower-

I see the flowers

Bloom once again

In your hand

As though nothing at all

Ever vanished on land.

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Eternal Paths- the opening poem of the poet’s new book

Below is my translation of the title poem of Basman Ben-Haim’s new book. Like the book, the poem is entitled “Eternal Paths”.  Unquestionably, the addressee in this poem is Mula, the poet’s deceased husband.

Eternal paths –

You’ll find me

Alive and young

With a white sheet of paper

And a pencil

Gently dreaming

Still writing to you –

 

You will take me then

Over hills and valleys

I, light as a feather,

Will implore:

Paint, keep painting!

And you will respond:

Sing! –

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Rivka Basman’s New Book: Eybike Vegen, Eternal Paths

It’s always a joy when Rivka Basman Ben-Haim puts out a new book. Her newest book, entitled “Eybike Vegn”, Eternal Paths, contains sixty-four new poems. Like every other book that Basman Ben-Haim has written, this book contains the art work of Mula Ben-Haim, the poet’s late husband.

One of the poems in this new book appeared earlier on this blog in its English translation.  At that time, the Yiddish original was only available in hand-written form. Now that the poem has been printed, I will attach a printed copy to the post containing the English translation.  Other translations will appear here from time to time, always accompanied by the original Yiddish.

 

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another recent poem

The following poem is entitled Baym Doktor, At the Doctor. It can be found on page 54 of Basman Ben-Haim’s newest book (published June, 2018) Eybike Vegn, Eternal Paths.  Below is the hand-written (not altogether clear) version of the poem, as well as the Yiddish original.

In it, the poet slyly complains that she cannot possibly use a walking cane because the (wood of the) cane is yet older than she is. While there is clearly an element of whimsy here, behind it there is a serious message: for the poet, it is crucial to remember that the seemingly inanimate wood was once a part of the natural world. And that part of nature was tampered with for human use.

What follows is the hand-written poem followed by the Yiddish as it appears in Basman Ben-Haim’s latest book.   Beneath it is my English translation:

,”דער דאקטאר זאגט מיר: “נעם א שטעקן

,זאג איך אים: דער שטעקן איז עלטער פון מיר

,ער טראגט נאך אין זיך דעם צעשייד מיטן בוים

די ווונד פון דער זעג האט אים פארווארפן

,פון בלעטערדיק בלייקע טעג

,געלאזט אויף דער ערד קאלט און אליין

ווילסטו, דאקטאר

?דער שטעקן זאל העלפן מיר גיין

ווען איך נעם אים אין האנט

פיל איך זיין טרער

,וואס קען זיך אפילו ניט אויסוויינען מער

– דאקטאר

The doctor said:

Get yourself a cane.

I said to him:

The cane is older than I am;

It carries within it the split from the tree,

the wound of the ax

which tore it from its leafy flowering days

and left it on the earth, cold, just one stalk.

And is this, doctor,

what’s supposed to help me walk?

When I take it in my hand

I feel it cry,

and now it can’t even do that- or try,

oh, doctor.

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one of the poet’s new(er) poems

The poem below, entitled “Arum dem refreyn”, “About that refrain”, is another one of Basman Ben-Haim’s musings on the nature of time. This is a subject that has preoccupied her over the years; this poem is only one of many of hers on that theme.

The poem has two sections. the first, entitled “About that refrain”, and given an א in the manuscript, is the general observation that events time do not (as the popular song would have us believe) roll away: they stay with us in our memory and are ever present in our psyches. The second section, entitled “The first painting” and given a ב in the manuscript, is a retelling of the first painting that Mula Ben-Haim, the poet’s late husband, made while the couple lived in Kibbutz Ha-Ma’apil.

The PDF you see here is what I received from the poet. It is a photo-copy of the hand-written original. Written in April of 2016,  it has not yet been published. The PDF below is followed by my English translation:

arum dem refreyn

About that Refrain

A

I remember the refrain of the song

“What was, was and is gone”.

And I don’t agree.

What was is with us still.

It’s there clothed differently

With a different face

In a different place

And yet in the depths

Of feelings and words

In the most concealed earth

The gentle touch infuses

As a drop of elixir does with life.

It encourages a step

And represses a tear.

In the deepest sense –

All that was

Still breathes in me.

 

The First Painting

B

I’ve just come from the field

I bring you a bunch of flowers

And you, brush in hand

Smooth over colors,

Preserve the sunset

In each flower –

I see how the flowers

Bloom once again in your hand

As though nothing at all

Ever vanished on land.

28.4. 2016

 

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French and English translations of the poetry of Rivka Basman Ben-Haim

The French-language poet and translator, Sabine Huynh has put on the Internet her own translations of Basman Ben-Haim’s poetry alongside my English translations. This is the link to her site:

https://www.terreaciel.net/Rivka-Basman-Ben-Hayim-traduite-par-Zelda-Kahan-Newman-anglais-et-Sabine-Huynh#.WbmOxLIjHIU

 

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The Thirteenth Hour

2016 saw the publication of yet another dual-language collection of Basman Ben-Haim’s poetry.  This time it was a Yiddish-English collection entitled, “The Thirteenth Hour”. The book’s publisher is MayApple Press, and the English translations are mine. The title of the book was taken from one of the poet’s Yiddish books, a book  written after the death of the poet’s husband. The expression is used to mean “not timely”. However the poet intended it, my own feeling was for all that the English-speaking world waited a long time for a book of Basman Ben-Haim’s poetry in English, I was delighted that the poet lived to see the publication of a book that could reach a wider audience.

Here is a link to the web-page for that book:

The Thirteenth Hour – Rivka Basman Ben-Haim, translated from the Yiddish by Zelda Kahan Newman

I was invited to speak at the Library of Congress about the poet, her work and my book. Here is a link to the web-cast of that talk:

http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=7758&loclr=eanw

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The Smile of a Tree

The Smile of a Tree

In 2016, Rivka Basman Ben-Haim put out a dual-language, Yiddish-Hebrew book entitled Der Shmeykhl fun a Boym,  The Smile of a Tree. Its Hebrew translators were Hamutal Bar Yosef, Yehudah Gur-Aryeh, Asher Gal, Roy Greenvald, Benny Mer and the late Shalom Lurie.

For the poet, the past is ever-present. She recalls the days in a labor camp, when “a good word” was “bread”, but also how, in the eyes of the curious youngsters she taught in kibbutz Ha-Ma’apil, she found “the path to the land of the living”. Some of the poems in this book are pure ars poetica.  Others are portraits of the now living as well as those who live on in her memory. In a sly tone of self-mockery, she sees herself as others see her: “the silent old lady/who writes Yiddish poems for herself”.  She lives very much in the moment, enjoying “the smile of a tree”, living “in the beauty and glory” of Hebrew, even as she totally breathes “in the loneliness of Yiddish”.

Every one of the poets’s books had in them illustrations of the work of her late husband, the artist Mula Ben-Haim.  This book is no exception. Immediately after the front cover there is a full-color reproduction of a painting entitled “Figure of a Sitting Woman”, and the front cover itself has a photo reproduction of a vase of blue flowers. To see the front cover, click on the link below:

scan of Der Shmeykhl fun a Boym

Appropriately, the poet dedicates her book to her husband, The dedication reads: “To Mula, with you in the breath of a poem”.

Here is the title poem in the Yiddish:

Der Shmeykhl fun a Boym

And here is my English translation of that poem:

The Smile of a Tree

The smile of a tree –

its fruit

which sweetens my mood.

I taste its juice

and thank it with a poem.

 

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