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For immediate release: Dec. 18, 2001

Contact: Marilyn Marks, 609-258-3601,

Media advisory:

Princeton hosts leading Israeli poets

Who: Israeli poets Aharon Shabtai, Meir Wieseltier, Rachel Tzvia Backand Taha Muhammad Ali
What: Readings (in English translation) and discussions of their work
When: Four Wednesdays in February (see below)
Where: Jones Hall on the Princeton campus (see below)

Aharon Shabtai, 4:30 p.m. Feb. 6 in 102 Jones Hall

Aharon Shabtai, born in 1939, is one of Israel's most powerful and provocative writers. He studied Greek and philosophy at the Hebrew University, the Sorbonne and Cambridge University, and from 1972 to 1985 taught theater studies in Jerusalem. He now lectures at Tel Aviv University.

The foremost Hebrew translator of Greek drama, Shabtai was awarded the Prime Minister's Prize for Translation in 1993. He is the author of more than 15 books of poetry, most recently "Politics." His work recently was featured in the American Poetry Review and a large selection of his poems, "Love & Selected Poems, translated by Peter Cole, was published in 1997 by Sheep Meadow Press.

Meir Wieseltier, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 in 202 Jones Hall

Widely regarded as one of the most important contemporary Israeli poets, Meir Wieseltier is known for his strong political poetry and the muscular language of his work. Closely identified with the Tel Aviv school of Israeli poetry, Wieseltier is a master draftsman of that city's harsher landscapes. The author of some 13 books of poetry, he was awarded the Bialik Prize in 1995 and Israel's highest cultural honor, the Israel Prize, in 2000.

Wieseltier was born in Moscow in 1941. From 1946 to 1948 he wandered with his family through Poland and occupied Germany, arriving in Israel in May 1949. Wieseltier studied philosophy, history and English at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has translated novels and plays, including four of Shakespeare's tragedies. In 2002 the University of California Press will publish a selection of his poetry, translated by Shirley Kaufman.

Rachel Tzvia Back, 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20 in 102 Jones Hall

An American-born poet who has lived in Israel since 1981, Rachel Tzvia Back is the author of "Azimuth," which recently appeared in English and in Hebrew translation, and "Led by Language," a ground-breaking monograph on the work of American experimental poet Susan Howe.

Born in 1960, Back was raised in Buffalo, N.Y. She currently resides in the Galilee, where she works as poet, translator and lecturer at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and at Oranim Teachers' Seminar in Kiryat Tivon. Back's poetry and translations of Israeli poets have appeared in numerous journals in Israel and abroad, and her own book of poetry was translated into Hebrew by Israeli poets Aharon Shabtai and Zali Gurevitch and published in Sept. 2000 by HaKibbutz HaMeuchad Press. Her work has appeared in the SUNY Press Anthology "Dreaming the Actual: Israeli Women Poets of the 90s" (2000) and in The Feminist Press anthology "The Defiant Muse: Hebrew Feminist Poems from Antiquity to the Present" (1999).

Taha Muhammad Ali, 4:30 p.m. Feb. 27 in 102 Jones Hall

Born in 1931 in the Galilee village of Saffuriya, Taha Muhammad Ali fled to Lebanon during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. A year later he returned to find his village destroyed. He has lived in Nazareth ever since. The Saffuriya of his childhood has served as the nexus of his poetry and fiction, which is grounded in everyday experience and driven by a storyteller's vivid imagination. Audiences around the world have been powerfully moved by Taha Muhammad Ali's bittersweet humor and heartbreaking portraits of dignity and dispossession.

For many years, Ali supported himself by selling souvenirs in his shop in Nazareth, which is now run by his sons. He has published three volumes of poetry and a collection of short stories in Arabic, and is held in the highest esteem by poets throughout Israel and the West Bank. The first English collection of his work, "Never Mind: Twenty Poems and a Story," was published in 2000 by Ibis Editions.