A Legacy of Defeat: Ya'acov Bitton Against Poetic Currency

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My essay sheds light on current Israeli poetry that seeks to negate, resist,
and avoid the currency of “poetic currency,” in three main senses: a poetry that refuses to serve as a valuable element of exchange, resists the current streams of Israeli culture, and avoids being a valid representative of the national economy. I focus on the work of Ya’acov Bitton, one of the leading voices in the new generation of Israeli poets. His statement, in one of his early poems, that he strives to “despise the birthright”, suggests a unique economy of the poetic stance. Bitton’s first book of poetry, Ina Dada (The great mother, 2007), rejects the oedipal heritage of hegemonic Hebrew poetry in favor of a legacy of an “other,” a marginal tradition represented by the disparaged body of a demented old grandmother in a wheelchair, a legacy “with no teeth.” Accompanying
the process of his grandmother’s deterioration, dying, and burial becomes a total rejection of the values of the nation-state and the secular tradition of its poetry. Bitton’s poetry is a fierce indictment against the violence perpetrated by capital and the humiliation of man and exposes “the horror of being human” as the underpinnings of the enlightened face of a developed, technological, and militaristic Israeli society. His next collection of poems, Mahbarot ha-tvusa (Notebooks of defeat, 2013), locates his poetic position in a void, “outside the camp,” where the poet’s voice serves as a soundbox for the forgotten and the far-flung. Bitton’s poetry, I argue, rejects concepts of ownership, paternal mastery, and economic force and creates a “legacy of defeat,” a state in which
“all yesterday’s inheritances are vandalized / fallen.”
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalDibur Literary Journal
StatePublished - 2018


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