Adi Assis
(Israel, 1967)   
Adi Assis

Adi Assis, a poet of both social parody and personal pain, earns his living as a computer programmer. Born in Tel Aviv, Assis studied philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a graduate of the Helicon School of Poetry. His second manuscript of verse, Child, was awarded the 2012 ACUM Natan Yonatan Prize and was published in 2013, when he was the recipient of the Teva Prize for his poetry.

Parody, first. In a review of Assis’ first book in 2009, poet and scholar Gilad Meiri points to:

four main themes, all of which are presented humoristically: anti-militarism; love, primarily erotic; a dispute with God and his representatives on earth; and ars poetica . . .

The short poem “Jesus,” which appears on the book’s back cover, is a demythologizing of the crucifixion story:
           Jesus invented breadth
           when he spread out his arms.
           The crucifier whispered in his ears:
           ‘Make like a bird’.
. . . The beauty of the poem may be found in its surprising, ironic switch between the two parts. The first two lines offer a positive and apparently lyric portrait of Jesus and his ability to create a breadth of space. The last two lines provide an illustration of the nonsensicalness of this ability when he is nailed on a cross and being tortured. Thanks to parody and the liberation supplied by humor, one may identify anew with the suffering of other subjects of abuse symbolized by Jesus.

When Assis approaches the art of poetry, Meiri writes, the poet uses self deprecating humor in writing about the war over the source of literary authority - the struggle for a place in the Tel Aviv literary arena. For example, in ‘I am a revolutionary poet’:

   I gather souls for an uprising
   write manifestos
   lust for fire.
   Confuse a lovely ass
   with a proletarian.
   Rise at noon
   sit in a café till evening
   quarreling with anything that moves
   promise redemption
   to every passing woman.
   I go home alone,
   roll some weed
   in paper torn from a rightwing rag,
   and with the smoke
   a poem rises:

   Once I worked
   in a rolled paper factory
   three days running.

And yet. The failure to conceive a child with his wife led Assis to write a series of heart rending poems in his second book, Child. According to critic Amir Becker in Poetry, the most exhibitionist of the arts, here Assis ‘injects us with the distress that consumes his days and nights. His laments madden us as we find ourselves rare witness to circumstances usually hidden from view, and even more profoundly, witness to the hidden reaches of the poet’s heart’.

Assis is married to poet Anat Levin, who has also written about the experience of infertility and whose work first appeared on Poetry International in 2013.

© Lisa Katz, (Gilad Meiri's article appeared in Mekor Rishon 5 June 2010)


Haneshek Haham (Firearms) Helicon, Tel Aviv, 2009.
Yeled (Child) Helicon, Tel Aviv, 2013


In Hebrew
Three poems from CHILD
’I like to surprise myself’: an interview with Einat Yakir
An essay by Mati Shemoelof ‘On infertility in the poetry of Anat Levin and Adi Assis’
Video of the poet reading ‘I donated my body to the office’

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