For the first time in the history of PI's Israeli domain, we are publishing a poet who translates herself from her mother tongue (Russian) into the language of the country she adopted more than 40 years ago (Hebrew), as well as into English.
Julia Wiener’s description of herself is a poem in itself, as spare and clear as the rest of her verse:
Born in Moscow, the former USSR. It was so long ago
that it’s not worth remembering.
Graduate of the State Film School, a scriptwriter.
Immigrated to Israel in 1971.
Earns her living alternately
as a scriptwriter and a literary translator.
Publishes verse and prose in Moscow
and in Russian-language magazines in Israel;
some poetry has been translated and published in Hebrew.
Lives in Jerusalem.
Wiener is best known for a long poem about money that she asked us not to upload here. It is, however, so universally appealing that we cannot resist sharing the opening stanza:
I think all the time about money
that I don’t have enough money
that I have very little money
that I’ll be left without money
I don’t know where the money will come from
I don’t know where the money goes
how I spend it
how I spend my days
I spend them trying to get some money
Can poetry have an effect on Israeli society? It would seem that Julia Wiener’s does.
Her money poem was first published in an edition of the Israeli journal Eretz Aheret on the subject of Israeli poverty. Tali Goldshmid, reviewing the journal in Haaretz, noted that “The Russian-born poet Julia Weiner’s provocative voice describes her world as crushed under the steamroller of poverty. The delicate distaste for dealing openly with money because there are more important things in the world is presented by Weiner as the hypocrisy typical of those whose pockets are not pinched:
your country your family all that is sacred
god love freedom the future of the mankind
(at the store they won’t give me credit of any kind)
love thy neighbor give him the shirt off your back
(all my postdated cheques are coming back)
from Zion will come forth a heavenly light
(I can’t live with a blocked toilet another night)
[Trans. Julia Wiener]
“Because as we all well know, only if one has money ‘does that give [you] the right to look people straight in the eye / and to take an equal part in the fate of the State of Israel,’” Goldshmid wrote.
The poem had wide-reaching effects, in particular on women. According to blogger Hanna Beit Halahmi, “I first encountered Julia Weiner’s poetry when I was finally prepared to talk to myself about money. Ever since, I make a point of reading aloud passages from her ‘Money Poem’ at the end of every money workshop I give in coaching courses and courses about initiatives by and the advancement of women. There I teach both myself (over and over) and others, men and women, that money is an essential item not a means, that money is one of two essentials of the patriarchal society in which we live (the other is sex) [. . .]
“As a woman, I add to this the text [Deuteronomy 17:17] proscribing kings of Israel from taking too many wives, horses and silver and gold [. . .] When I ask [course participants] whether love equals money, they answer: Of course not. [Love is] pure feeling. But is it? I ask, how many cross-class marriages do you know? [. . .] I’m still far from convincing them. I know. But thinking is at least a start.”
Julia Wiener reads her poems in Hebrew.
Blog post on The Marker Café about Julia Wiener
An excerpt on Haaretz of an issue of the magazine Eretz Aheret on the subject of poverty, where Wiener’s poem ‘Money’ first appeared.
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