Jack’s guest is the distinguished poet, translator and scholar, Chana Bloch, whose latest book is “Swimming in the Rain: New and Selected Poems, 1980-2015.” Of it Dorianne Laux writes, “Chana Bloch has spent her life writing the poems of a grown woman, loving the world as she interrogates it mercilessly, speaking a truth that hurts as it heals…A thrilling collection.” In addition to “Swimming in the Rain,” Chana Bloch has published four collections of poetry: “The Secrets of the Tribe” (1980), “The Past Keeps Changing” (1992), “Mrs. Dumpty” (1998) and “Blood Honey” (2009). She is co-translator with Ariel Bloch of “The Song of Songs.” She co-translated with Stephen Mitchell “The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai” and Amichai’s “Open Closed Open.” With Chana Kronfeld she translated “Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch.” Her critical study, “Spelling the Word: George Herbert and the Bible” appeared in 1985. Born in the Bronx, she has lived in Berkeley since 1967. She is professor emerita of English at Mills College.
In “Swimming in the Rain”’s title poem Chana Bloch writes, “Half the stories / I used to believe are false.” In “Chiaroscuro” she writes, “My feelings know more than I do, / and what do they know?” In “Furniture” she insists, “I haven’t got a God to stand on.” This is from the sequence, “In the Land of the Body”:
The good children eat what I set before them,
lick the plate clean
for an answer. Their feet
dangle above the linoleum.
The big one is doodling a whale,
Are you going to die? He adds
gray spotted wings.
The little one draws my face on a beanpole
in a garden
of green nails. He gives me
a loopy skirt, shoes
and a few stiff flowers.
When he bends over to color me in,
I see how careful he is
to keep the colors from spilling
over the lines.
Part One of two.