Daniel Oz
(Israel, 1978)   
Daniel Oz

Poet and musician “Daniel Oz has a charming awkwardness about him”, according to an Israeli interviewer, that “of someone who isn’t endowed with sharp elbows [...] It took some time [five years] until he managed to publish his first book”. 

Born on a kibbutz, the 38-year-old Oz was raised in the southern city of Arad. He received his BA in philosophy from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, studied in a graduate program at Tel Aviv University, as well as briefly studying music at the Rimon School. The author of two books of poetry and one of what he calls “flash fables”, Oz currently resides in New York City.

Poet Shahar Mario Mordechai, in a review of Oz’s second book, Love Poems, writes that “Oz engages with language and burrows within it. Of course each poet does this in one way or another, but in his [first] book Oz emphasized the difficulty of language by clarifying the places where it seems to fail in the task at hand (at tongue?): the creation of simple communication. If in the earlier book, Oz [...] shifted between clarity and blockage, in [his second] he shuttles between 21st century language and that of the 12th.[...]

“Why [the 12th century]? Oz turns to the linguistic expanses and emotions of the earlier century [to] restore to the 21st the love of Heloise and Abelard (considered a sin as he was a priest). This love travels […] a distance of a thousand years”.

In his third book, Further up the Path, Oz writes short fables and reaches back even longer. Haaretz critic Ilan Berkowitz terms Further’s at-times archaic language “Mishnaic”, for its resemblance to the 3rd century C.E.redaction of Jewish oral law, the Mishna. (He finds it also redolent of the language of the famous Hebrew fiction writer S. A. Agnon,1888-1970). Berkowitz suggests that Oz’s neo-symbolism reaches a peak in the following example:

Behind a frothing waterfall is the gaping maw of a labyrinthine cave in the bottomless depths of a subterranean lake. In the middle of the lake is a desert island with a towering pinnacle in its center, into which is carved a spiral staircase of a thousand steps. From its peak, at a leap’s distance away, one can glimpse the edge of an aperture that opens onto a small hidden valley. There lies the village of Allapua, comprising five huts. The village is shaded by the five enormous leaves of a tall, spindly tree laden with ruddy fruit. Allapua is home to the love of my life, whom I have never met, since we do not know how to reach one another. Every half-moon she sends me a ruddy fruit from Allapua in the beak of a pelican. I eat it, then dispatch the pelican back to her with the fruit’s pit, on which I engrave my letters to her.

                              [tr. Jessica Cohen]

According to the Haaretz critic, in its abstraction, Oz's third book emerges in opposition to the latest hot trend in Israeli poetry, the Arspoetica group, deeply grounded in the particulars of daily Israeli experience.. Abstractions such as these abound:

Imagine that I reached you in a state of fatigue, after a feverish sprint to deliver an urgent message, so breathless that I could not produce even a monosyllable. All I can offer is panting. 

The Watchmaker
How long will it take to repair my watch? I asked the watchmaker. He replied: You will never know.

The Bureau of Quiet
- Hello. Is this the Bureau of Quiet?
- Shhhhh!

[tr. Jessica Cohen]

To read more, see                    
Further up the Path  

© Lisa Katz, citing Hebrew articles by Maya Sela in City Mouse online 16.7.2010, Shahar Mario Mordechai in Iton 77, vol. 371-372, Nov-Dec 2013, and Ilan Berkowitz, Haaretz 8.11.2015.


In Hebrew
Hi-yay hahol/The Earthly Life Keter Jerusalem 2010
Shiiray ahava/Remnants of Love Even Hoshen Raanana 2013
Madua lo tiruny beh-drakhim/Further up the Path Keter Jerusalem 2015


VIDEO: The poet on his work
The poet’s messy desk
Interview with the Book Reader blogger
Daniel Oz and the Shadow: an interview
3 more poems

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