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In Memoriam Chana Bloch 1940-2017

Story by  Cynthia Overbeck Bix, Photography by Nancy Rubin

As I got older, the writing got—in a way—a little bit easier. I began to have access to areas that I might have closed up before.”


CAREER: Award-winning poet and translator; Professor and Department Chair, English Department, and Director of Creative Writing Program, Mills College


Chana passed away on May 22, 2017, at the age of 77. Even as she waged her final battle with cancer, her luminous spirit glowed undimmed. With typical clear-eyed courage, she continued to write poetry, chronicling her experience in a book of new poems, which will appear in September 2017. Following are some of the thoughts about aging that she expressed in March 2017.

I was scared to retire from teaching. I’d been wearing that harness, and that gave me structure. But it turned out to be the best thing! I did more translations. (I translate poetry from Hebrew.) And I wrote two books of poetry! I didn’t expect that. I’m still very close to a lot of my former students. Getting older affects my writing, just like it affects everything. I feel like I am and am not the same person that I was. Once I got sick with cancer, I realized there were still things I wanted to say to the world. So there was a much stronger impetus to write. It’s so mysterious, how things from the past or the present get buried inside you. You didn’t exactly put them there, they just happened, like seeds that fell on a certain kind of soil. Then one day you come to them, and there they are—they have been shaping themselves inside you, and you write.



 Chana Bloch