Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Gili Haimowich

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.


Gili Haimovich

is an Israeli poet with a Canadian background published internationally. She won the international Italian poetry competition Ossi di Seppia for best foreign poet (2019) and was awarded as an outstanding artist by the Ministry of Culture, (Israel, 2015). Both of her last books in Hebrew Orot Nechita (Landing Lights, Iton 77 Press, 2017) and Tinoket (Baby Girl, Emda Press, 2014) won grants from The Acum Association of Authors and her second book Mistakefet kmo Osher (Reflected Like Joy, Gvanim Press, 2002) won The Pais Grant for Culture. She is the author of two short collections originally written in English: Sideways Roots (Kimchi Press, 2017), and Living on a Blank Page (Blue Angel Press, 2008), a multi lingual book Note (Ediciones El nido del fénix, 2019) and couple of books translated into French and Serbian. Her full-length book in English, Promised Lands is forthcoming this year (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have been translated into almost 30 languages and published worldwide in festivals, anthologies and journals including Columbia Journal, World Literature Today, Poetry International, International Poetry Review, Washington Square Review, POEM, Literary Review of Canada, Asymptote, Tok – Writing the New Toronto (Zypher Ptrss), New Voices – Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust (Vallentine Mitchell Press), 101 Jewish Poems for the Third Millennium (Ashland Poetry Press), Room Magazine, Drain Magazine, Circumference and The New Humanist.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I don’t think of it as an inspiration but more of a way of evolving a way to respond to the world around me. It started as a way of internally processing my experiences and relationships with my surrounding through language. It happened naturally, starting in a young age. I guess the ability to shape these things into words that are very much my own, having my “fingerprint” and to shape them on the page created an alchemy that can be thought of as inspiring.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

The very first ones were my first teachers and my parents, who used to read to my brother and I as children, just the same as bedtime stories. My mother is also an author of several children’s book both poems and stories. But even my father, who is a very verbal person, used to play with words with us, make-up nursery rhymes or improvise puns and such. Later on, when I was in high school, poetry felt like a big discovery in and outside the classroom. My friends and I shared the feeling that it has a different access to the world around us. We felt we’re onto something when we read poetry, it was exhilarating. This resonance, made me feel I want to respond back to it with my own writing. I guess right from the start loving to read had a connection with writing myself.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I was probably more aware of them than to contemporary poets since in the very beginning they were taught in school.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a daily writing routine and these days with the Corona virus raging, its hard to keep any routine at all. However, I generally feel that I don’t need to chase writing in order for it to come to me. Thought it can be frustrating at times since it means I have patches of time in which I don’t write. I try to be in an attuned state, so I can be a proper recipient for it when it happens. Since otherwise, I think it will take away its sincerity and its authentic creative sap if I’ll become too deliberate about it. When I’m getting to the stage editing, I then tend to have a more of a daily practice. However, I guess I’m lucky to feel writing is so essential for me that I don’t need to bind it too tightly to daily practices. Of course, this is personal and would work differently for other authors.

5. What motivates you to write?

Often pain actually, a certain feeling of void that I have a need to look at and see what is behind it, and also transitions. It can be more obvious such as when I travel or can be more  significant like with life transitions such as immigration, marriage, bearing children, loos of a loved one  and such. On the other hand, also being absent minded and letting something language related capture my attention can drive me to further explore it through my writing.

6. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

First of all, by making me know that literature matters and can be a significant experience, that excellent writing can let you feel less along existentially.  Then more specifically, there are ways of my thinking that were definitely shaped thanks to some of the writers I read or that influenced my writing. For instance, Hayim Nahman Bialik, who is considered to be Israel’s national poet from the 1930s, a poet that for many Hebrew speakers is just a basic school curriculum, inspired some of my poems and an excerpt from his poem is also the motto of my last book in Hebrew ‘Landing Lights’.

7. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I don’t tend to ‘admire’ generally. There is something too glorifying in this term, like with ‘inspiration’, that I don’t really connect to. Furthermore, I also think that someone’s excellency, in writing as well as in any other field, is not a reason for admiration. If anything, it is humanistic qualities that I would admire more than the writing capabilities of one individual or the other. I’m pointing it out also because I believe that as writers we should be more aware of the language and words we are using, what they mean to us and point discrepancies we find in their use, help others to be more aware of their use of language.

Having said that, I can point that the Israeli poet I have been translating into English, Nurit Zarchi, is one of today’s writers I particularly cherish. She writes intricate yet beautiful poems, each is like a snowflake in which there is an imaginary world, fairy tale like, that resonates profound truth. I’ve been also awe by the work of the American poet Li-Young Lee that very delicately uses language, as well as the silence it holds, to investigate the world by coming out from his own personal experiences in a coded and delicate way. He has a way of almost transparently layer meanings in his poems that seem deceivingly simply structured and without giving up being compelling.

9. Why do you write?

Because I have to, first of all. Secondly, by now its part of my identity and helps me feel relief by the ability it carries to look at things, even the most challenging, in different, resourceful ways.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

You don’t become a writer, it choses you. And writing posts on Facebook doesn’t turn you into one either.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

My first full length book in English, ‘Promised Lands’ is forthcoming, you can already order it here: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/promised-lands-by-gili-haimovich/. I have also a book translated into French coming up, I do some poetry translations as well which I really like doing and I find very important, to increase the variety of poetry that is accessible to English and Hebrew readership. I teach creative writing for individuals and group, sometimes also online which I love. The work with individuals is very unique since it can be in depth and be tailored to the participants’ needs. However, I do look forward for this social distancing to be over and get back to teaching my creative writing workshops face to face.

2 thoughts on “Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Gili Haimowich

  1. An excellent interaction through which one gains great insights into poet Gili Haimovich’s personality and her approach to poetry. Her candour and straight responses are heartwarming and commendable. Also enjoyed her views on the process of poetry writing and her motivation to write poetry.

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