- Purchase/rental options available:
Hebrew poets Avraham Shlonsky and Rachel Bluvstein have been inscribed in the literary canon in very different manners: Shlonsky as a trailblazing, combative modernist, Rachel as a popular, sentimental poetess. Yet both poets were active contributors to the newpaper Davar's literary supplement in the mid-1920s, which in August 1926 featured Rachel's poem "Like a Fowl in a Butcher's Grasp" and Shlonsky's "On the Smooth Floor" together on its cover. The visual juxtaposition of the poems provides a glimpse of the Yishuv's vibrant literary environment in which two poets with divergent modernist approaches were reading and commenting on each other's work.
This article examines a poetic and critical interchange between Rachel and Shlonsky that took place on the pages of Musaf davar and other literary journals during 1926-1927. Literary scholarship has typically placed Rachel in the context of her female contemporaries and Shlonsky in the male arena of the Hebrew literary center, but a closer look at the work, and specifically, the language, of the poets themselves shows a deft manipulation of gendered rhetoric as part of a veiled exchange about maximalist and minimalist poetics. Their critical conversation demonstrates the versatility of gender as a modernist concept, as well as the importance of reading the work of these two poets together, as joint participants in emergent Hebrew modernism.