Zelda (Mishkovsky)

views updated


ZELDA (MISHKOVSKY) (née Schneurson ; 1914–1984), Israeli poet. Born in Chernigov, Ukraine, where her father was a rabbi, Zelda was brought to Ereẓ Israel in 1925 and settled in Jerusalem, where she received a religious education. In 1950 she married Ḥayyim Mishkovsky, who died in 1970.

Zelda Mishkovsky published poems in various periodicals over the years, but her first collection in book form appeared in 1967 (Pena'i). Her second volume (Ha-Karmel hai-Nir'eh, 1971) consists of poems written in a relatively short period and are mostly connected with her husband's death. Her Al Tirḥak (1974) contains 25 poems, followed by She-Nivdelu mi-Kol Merḥak (1984). The collected poems (Shirei Zelda) were published in 1985.

Zelda's poems aroused considerable interest and surprise on account of her integration of religious verse rooted in the traditional Jewish world with a completely modern sensitivity. Many of the poems describe her relationship with God and details of religious life. In her poems, which are in no way dogmatic, themes dealing with details of religious observance, appear side by side with more universal themes, such as death, immortality, and man's place in the universe. Some of them reveal occasional clashes between the traditional Jewish world and the secular environment, manifested in the juxtaposition of religious symbols and modern objects. In their tone the poems combine naiveté and sophistication.

Some of the characteristics of her poetry establish an interesting connection between her and the Hebrew poetry of the 1960s and 1970s. Thus, like the modern Hebrew poets, she emphasizes the importance of sense perception in the structuring of her inner world: colors, smells, and tastes are factors determining her emotions and moods. These colors and tastes generally pertain to the natural world (smell of flowers, taste of fruit), and in this, too, she is part of the modern school, with its inclination toward nature and the primal in the midst of busy modern life. This is related to a longing for a magic, visionary world which is sometimes identified with the world of childhood. Another common characteristic is the unusual tendency toward the wild and the asocial.

Her books have been hailed by critics and have achieved great popularity. She was the recipient of a number of literary prizes, including the Bialik Prize for literature in 1978. Individual poems have been translated into diverse languages. For information see the ithl website at www.ithl.org.il.


H. Barzel, in: Moznayim, 2 (July, 1972) 121–32. add. bibliography: Y. Kamer, notes, in: Leket mi-Shirei Zeldah (1983); A. Wineman, "Zelda's Poem on Shabbat," in: Conservative Judaism, 37:3 (1984), 32–37; idem, "Death, Redeeming Moments, and God in Zelda's Later Poems," ibid., 56:2 (2004), 60–69; A. Zwi, "The Poetry of Zelda," in: Ariel, 65 (1986), 58–70; H. Bar-Yosef, Al Shirat Zeldah (1988); N. Kobler, "Zelda's Poetry," in: Journal of Semitics, 3:2 (1991), 202–9; N. Kobler, "A Touch of Imagination." Zelda's Poetry of Love," in: J ewish Affairs, 48:2 (1993), 116–19.

[Abraham Balaban]