Bluvshtain (Sela), Rachel (1890–1931) By Segal, Miryam
Rachel Bluvshtain was the most salient and recognizable symbol of Labour Zionism in the 20th century and remains one of the most popular Hebrew poets in Israel into the 21st century.
Bluvshtain was born to a Jewish family in Russia. As a young woman on her first visit to Palestine, she decided to join a Jewish settlement there, abandoning her plan to study art in Italy. Although her poems came to be associated with Labour Zionism and the Jewish pioneers in early 20th century Palestine, her poetic career began only once she left her work collective due to illness, and ended about a decade later with her death at the age of 40.
Her short modernist lyric poetry betrays Russian acmeist and French imagist influence. Many of Bluvshtain’s poems capture and express a momentary thought, feeling, or memory. Their vocabulary and syntax are seemingly straightforward, they contain only a few images, and are concise. Bluvshtain’s style and her poems’ explicit celebration of simplicity allowed her to be read initially as a naïve contributor to ‘women’s poetry.’ A few scholarly works have since revised this critical assessment by showing the intertextual play, ambivalent language, and critique of contemporary poetic expectations embedded in her poems.