The 2020 Prize For Hebrew Poetry in memory of Nechama Rivlin was awarded to poet Shlomit Appel for her collection, “Memories from the Swimsuit Factory.”
Anat Rivlin, daughter of President Reuven Rivlin and Nechama Rivlin, informed Appel that she had won the NIS 50,000 prize in a phone call on Monday.
Appel began her writing career at age 17, and has been a constant contributor to Hebrew poetry since the 1960s.
An excerpt from Appel's poem, "Memories from the Swimsuit Factory," reveals the staggering raw emotion and yearning in her writing.
‘I closed the shutters and left. I left behind me the years and the flowers I planted along the sides of the path of the factory where I sewed swimsuits from the age of sixteen. From now, the day empties and the heart fills with longing.’
Appel's dedication and contribution to Israeli literature fulfills Nechama Rivlin's vision to celebrate Hebrew writing. Before her passing in 2018, Custodian-General Sigal Yaakoby worked together with her to create a prize that would award just that.
At the award ceremony in 2018, Nechama said: “I congratulate lovers of language and words, the writers who do magic and wonders with them, and wish that our world will always have people who turn them into poetry.”
The committee for the 2020 competition considered 170 books, with Appel's work winning the grand prize. Prof. Adi Wolfson and Bacol Serlui received honorable mentions for their books and a prize of 10,000 NIS.
Of Appel's masterpiece “Memories from the Swimsuit Factory" the committee boasted, "it is a language that oscillates between spoken Hebrew and the language of poetry, and is characterized on one hand by honesty, rebelliousness and wild associativity, and on the other hand by observation that aspires to almost aphoristic accuracy... This is poetry that calls a thing by its name and often surprises with its ability to connect biographic pain to aesthetic pleasure."
The president announced at the committee that, "during the coronavirus pandemic, a time when we have had to stay home because of fears for our physical health, our souls have yearned to spread their wings, to break the bounds of the house. We all learned and are learning a lesson in the importance of cultural and artistic life. "Nechama loved art in general and particularly literature," he said. "She believed that literature and poetry could give expression to people. She believed in the power of words to change the world. As part of her activity at the President's Residence, it was very important for Nechama to honor established artists and to encourage artists at the beginning of their careers. That was the mark of her work; that was what she wanted to invest in. "This prize is a wonderful way of immortalizing her work in this house.”