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With an Iron Pen: Twenty Years of Hebrew Protest Poetry

Edited by Tal Nitzan and Rachel Tzvia Back

The eighty-eight poems in With an Iron Pen, all originally written in Hebrew, offer a collective protest to the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Palestinian territories—“the sin of Judah,” which is written “with an iron pen, engraved with the point of a diamond on the tablet of their hearts” (Jeremiah 17:1). Including such preeminent voices as Yehuda Amichai, Aharon Shabtai, Dahlia Ravikovitch, Meir Wieseltier, and Natan Zach, the forty-two poets in this groundbreaking anthology represent the full range of contemporary Hebrew poetry. Together, they turn an unforgiving gaze on the occupation, speaking with rage, shame, sorrow, and despair at the continuing violence that has defined the lives of Palestinians and Israelis over the years and the hopelessness that has permeated both societies. The result is a collection of poems that are as important for their compelling poetic beauty as for their significant political accomplishment. The original Hebrew edition, published in 2005, received accolades in the Israeli press for its comprehensive collection of dissenting voices and for its daring and beautiful poetry. With an Iron Pen is a must read for all who seek a better understanding of the occupation and the wider conflict in the Middle East.


“These dissident Israeli voices, recognized and new, prophetic, raging, heartbroken, challenging, public and intimate, from the moral core of Jewish tradition,  have gone almost unheard in America until now. The lyrical range is impressive, the edition scholarly; this is a historic collection.”

Adrienne Rich

“Bearing the shame, grief, anger, and hopelessness over the seemingly endless brutality and disproportionate violence of the occupation, the poems assemble a collective protest in a stylistically diverse and beautiful manner … With an Iron Pen is a culmination of the evocative works of a growing minority demanding a serious examination of the moral core of Jewish tradition. It is in these works that poetry becomes a rebellious act that asserts the right of readers and writers to question, protest and rise up.”


With an Iron Pen … contains 88 poems by 42 poets, and only one or two offerings failed to enchant … [it] comes with a thoughtful introduction, in which the editors argue that it took 20 years after the ‘awful victory’ of the Six Day War for such protest poetry to become an identifiable genre.”

Jerusalem Report

“…a significant collection of protest poetry … This collection presents poetry as prophecy, in the sense of giving voice to counter-cultural ideas and crying out against injustice … the tone of the poems vary, but they work together as a whole, calling attention to questions, pain, and injustice.”

Jewish Book World

“…confronts profound literary questions for political poetry … With an Iron Pen is replete with powerful works by Israel’s finest poets.”


With an Iron Pen: Twenty Years of Hebrew
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