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Anne Blonstein, 1958–2011

By Harriet Staff

We’d like to note the passing of British poet and translator Anne Blonstein, who wrote from her home in Basel, Switzerland, up until her death in late April. Blonstein was known for work, in books like correspondence with nobody and worked on screen, that made use of the ancient Rabbinical device, the notariqon. As Blonstein said in an interview regarding spiritual elements in her writing and translation: “To the right of my writing desk there is one shelf devoted to books by and about Paul Celan. Above this is a shelf of bibles and related reference works. There are four German translations (from Luther to Buber and Rosenzweig), four English translations (ranging from the King James to the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh), three in French, and the standard Hebrew Masoretic text. No Septuagint (Greek) or Vulgate (Latin)—at least not yet…There is also a Koran.”

As poet Maria Damon wrote of Blonstein’s work in Jacket, “The project is heir to Benjamin’s ‘Theses on the History of Philosophy,’ capturing the courage and intelligence of history’s forgotten ones, rendering them anew, under the aegis of a Jewish woman’s language experiments. This is a fascinating and, for many of us, compelling development in contemporary poetry and deserves far richer exegetical attention…”

Blonstein’s books also included the blue pearl (Salt 2003) and memory’s morning (Shearsman 2008), as well as the butterflies and the burnings, out from Dusie in 2009. Recent poems can also be found at word for word and Cambridge Literary Review, issue 3. Our thoughts go out to her friends and family.

As Anne herself said of her poems: “I don’t know how they will evolve, where they will take me, and as the writing emerges it nearly always also sends me away from my writing table again in directions I never envisaged at the start, following up ideas, clues, persons or whatever, be it in libraries, museums or, for example, thinking of a sequence I wrote last year, rose gardens. I love the surprises of this process. I am reluctant, though, to describe expectations I might have of potential readers. In all honesty, none perhaps. Or: I just hope my books reach the hands, eyes and minds of open and curious individuals.”


Posted in Uncategorized on Thursday, May 5th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.