Poetry has always been one of the glories of Persimmon Tree and we have Chana Bloch to thank for that. Chana, our poetry editor from 2007 until Wendy Barker took on the post in the summer of 2012, brought brilliant and famous poets like Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Toi Derricotte, Maxine Kumin, Tess Gallagher, Grace Paley, Sandra Gilbert, and Ruth Stone to our pages. She also guided the poetry contests, from finding judges to working with the winning poets to present their poems in the best light. When a new issue arrived in my mailbox, I either headed first to the poetry section or saved it for last as a treat.
She was a poet, a translator, a scholar, a teacher and, for us, an editor. Warm, witty, erudite, wise, and brave, she taught decades of students, mostly at Mills College where she directed the creative writing program. She published poetry for 35 years, and her sixth and final collection, The Moon Is Almost Full, will come out in September.
Chana died in May.
Wendy Barker says of her predecessor, “To lose Chana Bloch is to lose a wellspring of sparkling wit and powerful honesty and wisdom. Her incisive, brave, resonant poetry, her brilliant translations, her work for peace in our poor world, and her generosity will be missed. And of course Persimmon Tree itself owes much to Chana’s vision and commitment. This was a human being who gave the world what it desperately needed and needs: a commitment to art, to mutual understandings, and to peace. We need more Chana Blochs. Her leaving opens a painful gap.”
Let me leave you with one of her last poems.
It is either serious or it isn’t.
The indeterminate mass, 14.8 cm long,
is either a cyst or a tumor.
If a tumor, either benign or malignant.
If malignant, either slow-growing
or aggressive, in which case
they may contain it. If not,
no one else will recall
this unseasonable day of waiting
exactly as you felt it, from the inside out
–the way the heat of your mind
dropped a few degrees
and grew very quiet. The sediment
settled. You managed to divert
yourself with words. Then
you consulted the uncommon
clarity of the sky. A mild
translucent blue: a sign,
perhaps. The leaves held still
in the almost imperceptible breeze,
though at the tips of the branches
the first buds of spring
were so closefisted
you couldn’t be sure
whether you saw them, or not.
Good bye, Chana, from all of us at Persimmon Tree.
Sue Leonard, Editor