Nebraska Center for Writers

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About Hilda Raz


Hilda Raz's All Odd and Splendid is unique, accomplished, and turns the "genderings" of the world upside down, as they need be turned upsidedown. The poems are psychologically innovative and deft. There are tones of a masterpiece in this work. — John Kinsella

This is Raz's strongest book to date: a gentle quotidian view of the world that then twists toward the sardonic/tragic; or else a steady drumbeat of hard life, out of which happiness and beauty flower. — Janet Burroway, author of Writing Fiction

Raz's sixth collection of poems takes its title and section names from its Diane Arbus epigraph, using the late photographer's fascination with the "especial shape we come in" to frame her own quiet meditations on form. She studies poetic structure (the book includes a villanelle, a poem called "Terza Rima," a Ghazal), as well as the forms of relationships and the unsaid things that mold them: "Sacrifice can have no meaning if the witness turns away." As the parent of a transgendered child, Raz (TRANS) considers the shifting nature of motherhood and gender, letting it thoroughly permeate her work ("The especial shape we come in/ is insufficient, says the child/ come slippery from the body/ of another especial shape that comes in/ the shape of its mother"). While the weight of her prosy and contemplative style can at times flatten her insights, Raz's intense focus on the domestic and familiar more often yields observations that are paradoxically surprising: "What means all this?// Nothing, says the red bird on the branch/ darning winter out of the nest, Damn nothing." — Publishers Weekly

Divine Honors
Copyright © 1998
by Hilda Raz
Wesleyan UP How to Buy

This elegant and moving collection documents Hilda Raz's experience with breast cancer. The journey, from diagnosis to mastectomy, from denial to humor to grief and rage, is ultimately one of courage and creativity. The poems themselves are accessible and finely wrought. They are equally testaments to Raz's insistence on making an order out of chaos, of finding ways to create and understand and eventually accept new definitions of good and evil, health, blame, personal boundaries — in short, a new sense of self. These poems remain intimately bound to the world and of the senses, becoming documents of transformation. — from the jacket

The best of the poems are breathtaking — the sensuous imagery, the sounds she repeats for the pleasure of reading, and the surprising juxtaposition of images. I love this book of poems — grief and longing turned into poetry. — Walter McDonald

Transgressive and transcendent, Hilda Raz's new poems are intimately involved with the physical, corporeal world, and constantly making the leap of faith necessary to its re-embodiment in words. These poems push the boundaries of what language can do to enunciate perception. Their beauty, their clarity, their mystery equally compel. — Marilyn Hacker

Divine Honors is a rare book, one that does honor to its subject and transcends it at the same time. An unflinching account. ... Divine Honors illuminates much more about a woman's life that has, mysteriously, remained shadowy in so many other accounts of women's lives. Few books change your way of viewing the world. This one does. — Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

Many of these poems refer explicitly or obliquely to [Raz's] experience with breast cancer; others deal with domestic relationships and her struggle to make sense of — and, literally, to experience sense and sensuality — after her mastectomy. ... Raz brings intelligence and imagination to the task of understanding and expressing her own travail. Ultimately, she's not sorry for herself, she's interested in herself. — Publishers Weekly

A collection of lyrical, graceful, and challenging poems that speak of life's gifts, its "bruises," and its capricious nature. Not a solace in verse form ... this is instead a work for the serious reader of poetry, who will appreciate her language and style. The poems draw upon Raz's past, her child, even our connections to nature. In the end, life is what you are given and what you make of it. — Library Journal

Raz's varied and serious new collection plays a range of styles while sticking closely to the poet's life. About half the volume describes Raz's troubled, but finally heartwarming, experience with her daughter "Sarah," who changed her sex to become Raz's adult son "Aaron." Other poems examine Raz's extended family she is especially good on the very old (in a shocking poem set in a nursing home) and on maternity and childbirth. — Publishers Weekly

What subject could be harder for a mother to document than her daughter's sex-change operation? "Aaron is glad to be rid of breasts. I look/ in the mirror and see nothing familiar,/ scars and absence." Some of the strongest poems in this collection by poet and anthologizer Raz (Living on the Margins: Women Writers on Breast Cancer) focus on that transformation: "You're the one that had the sex change./ I've always been as I am." ... Raz captures the pain, grief, and acceptance beautifully. — Library Journal

"Being a man, like being a woman, is something you have to learn," Aaron Raz Link remarks. Few would know this better than the coauthor of What Becomes You, who began life as a girl named Sarah and twenty-nine years later began life anew as a gay man. Turning from female to male and from teaching scientist to theatre performer, Link documents the extraordinary medical, social, legal, and personal process involved in a complete identity change. Hilda Raz, a well-known feminist writer and teacher, observes the process as both an "astonished" parent and as a professor who has studied gender issues. All these perspectives come into play in this collaborative memoir, which travels between women's experience and men's lives, explores the art and science of changing sex, maps uncharted family values, and journeys through a world transformed by surgery, hormones, love, and ... clown school. Combining personal experience and critical analysis, the book is an unusual — and unusually fascinating — reflection on gender, sex, and the art of living. — from the publisher

What Becomes You is a radically strange, deeply moving, unique book, a mother and child story like none you've ever read. There is nothing in our literature remotely like this story of personal transformation, a non-traditional story of coming of age and letting go told in a non-traditional way that challenges all of your assumptions about gender, family, stability, and social harmony. You will love this book, these people, and their candid, tough-minded bond. — Floyd Skloot, author of In the Shadow of Memory and A World of Light

What Becomes You is a tranny memoir/rant/documentary that reads like a whirlwind of James Joyce, William S Burroughs, and Sarah Schulman, delivering a dizzying tour of gender worlds and netherworlds from a multiplicity of viewpoints. — Kate Bornstein, author of Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws

What Is Good
Copyright © 1988
by Hilda Raz
Thorntree Press
How to Buy

Hilda Raz commands a diction which gracefully marries the beautiful and the crude truths. The voice in these poems speaks of our human condition with such authority that we cannot turn away. It is a voice which sings as well, and the music is unerring. — Marilyn Krysl

Hilda Raz's substantial and varied collection of poems, What Is Good, is distinguished by her immediacy of address, and by a lyric fluency that sweeps the reader along through rhythmic turns and undulating phrases. This book is a pleasure to read for its music, its emotional honesty, its thoughtfulness, and its richness of detail and image. Most of the poems are grounded in family situations, moments of happy intimacy or of pain, and in familiar places, both indoors and out, vegetables in the kitchen, flowers in the garden. The speaker of these poems is aware of her Jewish heritage, her various roles as a woman, and, above all, her own reaching humanity. This is a mature and accomplished book. — Robert Pack

Practical, tender, bitter, sensuous, philosophical, at times metaphysical the voice of Hilda Raz moves steadfastly through experiences of great pain and great pleasure, human and womanly weakness and strength. What Is Good is a first book of poems that is skyborne, earthbound, dipped in salt water, and swimming with life. — Alicia Ostriker

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