In 2016, Rivka Basman Ben-Haim put out a dual-language, Yiddish-Hebrew book of poetry, entitled Der Shmeykhl fun a Boym, The Smile of a Tree. The translators into Hebrew were Hamutal Bar Yosef, Yehuda Gur-Arye, Asher Gal, Roy Greenvald, Ruty Zakowitz, Benny Mer and the late Shalom Lurie.
For the poet, the past is ever-present. She recalls her days in a labor camp, when “a good word” was “bread”, but she also recalls how, in the curious eyes of the youngsters she taught at kibbutz Ha-Ma’apil, she found “the path that leads to the land of the living.”
Some of her poems are pure ars poetica; others are portraits of the living and those who live on in her memory. In a sly tone of self-mockery, she sees herself as her neighbors see her: “the quiet old lady/who writes Yiddish poems for herself…” She lives fully in the moment and enjoys “the smile of a tree” and “the beauty and glory” of Hebrew, even as she breathes “Yiddish/in its loneliness”.
All of Basman Ben-Haim’s previous books had in them reproductions of pictures painted by her late husband, Mula Ben-Haim. This book is no exception. Inside the cover is a full-color reproduction entitled” “Figure of a Sitting Woman”, and its cover has a full-color reproduction of a vase with blue flowers. To see the photo reproduction of the cover,, click on the link below:
Appropriately, the book is dedicated to the poet’s late husband. The dedication says:
“mit dir in otem fun lid“, with you in the breath of a poem.