Hello and thank you for your interest. My name is Elli Sacks and — as of the start of this blog in May 2014 — I am 45 years old, a husband and father of three, living in Modi’in Israel.
Poetry is one of my passions, translating (Hebrew to English) is my profession, and thus it might seem natural that I would try to combine the two. Yet for many years I shied away from any attempt at translating Hebrew poetry because of the unavoidable and necessary difficulty.
Poetry is many things — exalted language, unusual imagery, the proximity of similar sounds combined in certain rhythms — but the reason that poetry works is because it makes us feel in ways that prose cannot. The successful poet translates his/her own feelings and his/her love of language into a special type of song that plays directly upon the human heartstrings.
Though an author of prose may use similar words to paint a picture no less vivid than that of the poet, only poetry gains direct access to the heart. This is achieved not solely through the visualization of words, but through cadences, the lyricism of the sounds, the music inherent in the way words are strung together. That is poetry, and any attempt at translating poetry must not only reconstruct the poem’s original imagery, but must also attempt to make that image sing and dance as the poet intended.
I’ve encountered extremely competent translations of Hebrew poetry, yet few of them make me want to sing, few of them make me want to dance, few of them make me want to laugh or cry. Few of them hold the keys to my heart.
With this in mind, I’ve embarked on this new blog. Hebrew poetry, for the most part, is lyric poetry. The rule I’ve set for myself in translating these poems is that the product must be singable just as the poet intended it, and still retain all the integrity of the original. If I’ve done damage to the original text in seeking to capture the lyricism within it, I hope the reader (and the poet through the reader) will forgive me…