Agi Mishol


Agi Mishol is one of Israel's greatest and most beloved poets of our generation. Her writing forges a rare balance between literal and poetic precision and accessibility to the readers, combining everyday language and slang with inventive linguistics. Infused with irony and humor, hers are very personal poems, which, at the same time, provide extensive human insight. For her, "Poetry is swimming against the current of all the noise and commotion, the political events and the wars. It is being in an underground stream. It is seeing what everyone sees, but differently."

She was born in Transylvania and came to Israel with her family at the age of four. The family settled in the town of Gedera, where Mishol grew up and was educated. She pursued literature studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where she completed a master's degree in Hebrew literature.

In 1968, Mishol published her first book, and, over the next decade, three poetry collections. Yoman Mata ("Plantation Notes"), a collection published in 1986, positioned her at the epicenter of the Hebrew cultural arena, and her popularity and critical acclaim has only grown since. She has so far published 16 poetry collections, including two retrospectives of her work, in 2003 and in 2015.

Several of her poems were composed and she has collaborated with artists from other creative areas (plastic arts and theater). Her poems have been widely translated and published in various anthologies around the world, and in 2006, a selection was translated into English and published as a volume titled Look There (Graywolf Press). Additional books were published in France, England, China, Romania, and Argentina.

Mishol's writing comprises, on the one hand, intimate exposure, and, on the other hand, a somewhat painful reflection on contemporary Israeli society. As the daughter of Holocaust survivors and immigrants to Israel, her work resonates the phobias, anxieties, and pains the Jewish past brings upon the chosen land and offers a distinct link to Jewish and Israeli history. At the same time, her poetry celebrates the wonders of nature, with poems that are centered on the bonds between man and environment, the changing seasons, circles of nature and of life, abundance and need. She is also a poet of love, whose bold and free-forming expression of sentiment is intertwined with human understanding and life experience.

Beyond her poetry, Mishol has greatly contributed to Israeli society through her teaching, in schools and academia. For many years (until 2001), she taught literature at a regional school in Be'er Tuvia and has since lectured on creative writing at Ben-Gurion University, Tel Aviv University and The Hebrew University, where she also served as Poet-in-Residence after winning the Dolitsky Prize (2007). She was a teacher and a mentor at the Alma Home for Hebrew Culture in Tel Aviv for a decade, and, in recent years, served as director of the Helicon School of Poetry. For many years, she has also been involved in the Shirat Hamada (the Poetry of Science) program at the Weizmann Institute, in memory of the late Prof. Ofer Lider.

Mishol is the recipient of the Israeli Prime Minister's Prize (1995); the Kugel Award for Hebrew literature (2001); and the Yehuda Amichai Prize (2002). In 2014, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University, as well as the Italian prestigious LericiPea Award, previously awarded to Seamus Heaney, Adunis, Yevgeny Yevtushenko and others.