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translated by Rachel Tzvia Back
In late 2013, preeminent Hebrew poet Tuvia Ruebner published his fifteenth poetry collection, which he titled Last Ones. But it was not his last; he continued writing and publishing, even into the summer of his death in 2019. The translated poems in Now at the Threshold: The Late Poems of Tuvia Ruebner are from Ruebner’s final three collections, poems all written from 2014 onward, after the poet’s 90th birthday. Translated into English by award-winning translator Rachel Tzvia Back, these late and last poems both celebrate life’s enduring small graces and converse quietly-even negotiate- with death. With love and loss ever intertwined, and a protesting voice still fierce, this collection offers the reader illuminating and beautiful poetry from a great humanist and a great poet.
There is suffering and rage, disappointment and regret in Tuvia Ruebner’s late poems written at the threshold of death, but there is also something else, something moving and unexpected—a deep and abiding sense of wonder and amazement. These last poems, excellently translated by Rachel Tzvia Black, face the world with a marvelous feeling of awe.
Rachel Tzvia Back’s wise and attentive translations of Tuvia Ruebner’s late poems present us with a poet as curious and contemporary in his nineties as in his earlier work. In these poems, death is an approaching horizon, but Ruebner’s present carries far more than the memories and ghosts of his past. For Ruebner, the present is time that must not be taken for granted, a deep well from which he draws his dynamic poetry of desire, inquiry, and critique. “How many nearing ninety still write/ love poems?” he writes in a poem that—filling the page before us—answers its own question.
-Adriana X. Jacobs
I’ve been intensely and intimately engaged with the poetry of Tuvia Ruebner as his English language translator for almost a decade, a profoundly rewarding and also humbling role. During this decade, much more than during my earlier verse translation projects, I’ve thought extensively about the translator’s role, specifically with regard to Ruebner’s poetry and the various challenges of bringing Hebrew verse into English, and also with regard to verse translation more generally.
-Rachel Tzvia Back on Tuvia Ruebner