Noted poet, translator, and scholar Chana Bloch succumbed to her four-year-long struggle with cancer on May 19. She died peacefully in her Berkeley, California home, surrounded by her family. Chana Bloch is survived by her husband, Dave Sutter, her son Benjamin and daughter-in-law Trang, her son Jonathan and daughter-in-law Nina, and her granddaughters Liliana and Stella.
Bloch has been a friend of the Near Eastern Studies department and of Jewish Studies at Berkeley since she taught Hebrew here in the early 1970s. Her biblically-themed poems and translations of Hebrew poetry have been studied and admired by our faculty and students alike and she has been a guest lecturer in Ariel Bloch and Chana Kronfeld’s Hebrew literature and poetry translation classes. Her poetry and translations have been celebrated in numerous events at the Morrison Library. Chana Bloch received her BA from Cornell, her MAs in Judaic Studies and English from Brandeis and her PhD in English from UC Berkeley. For many years Chana Bloch served as Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Mills College, and became a beloved mentor for generations of younger poets and scholars, including a number of our own PhDs. Her award-winning poetry collections span over 35 years: The Secrets of the Tribe (1981), The Past Keeps Changing (1992), Mrs. Dumpty (1998), Blood Honey (2009), Swimming in the Rain: New and Selected Poetry (2015). The new book, her sixth, titled The Moon Is Almost Full, completed just a month before her death, will be published in September of this year by Autumn House. Poems from Swimming in the Rain and the new book manuscript appeared in The New Yorker, the Sunday New York Times Magazine, Best American Poetry 2015, and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. She is widely recognized as the foremost translator of Yehuda Amichai, Israel’s leading poet. For the translation of Open Closed Open, Amichai’s magnum opus, Chana Bloch and her collaborator, NES Professor Chana Kronfeld, have received many awards, including the PEN Translation Prize. Bloch’s translation, with her first husband, NES Professor Emeritus Ariel Bloch, of the biblical Song of Songs was reissued as part of the prestigious Modern Library Classics Series, and Bloch and Kronfeld’s annotated Norton edition of Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch has become a standard text in the field of Jewish Studies. She will be greatly missed.