Agi Mishol is a major minor poet, the kind with whom, as John Crowe Ransom said, “the poetic object is elected by a free choice… and this object, deliberately elected and carefully worked up by the adult poet, becomes his microcosm.” In other words, she captures our imagination by observing her own. Israel is such a small country that non-Hebrew speakers seldom get to meet its “major-minors”; all attention is saved for the “major-majors” — outstanding poets who seem to speak for their age, their generation and so forth. But with “Look There,” Lisa Katz’s selection and translation of Mishol’s work, we have the chance to discover a mature and individual lyric poet who draws music mainly from her own consciousness. It’s good luck for us, and a little victory for Hebrew literature.Read More
In an interview, Yehuda Amichai once mentioned that some congregations in America had started to use his poems as tefillot, or prayers, in a synagogue setting. This left him pleased (why not?) but also bemused. He had studied Bible at the Hebrew University, not in yeshiva. The Israeli literary scene, which is thoroughly secular, considered him a master and teacher, and sometimes found his flirtation with the Jewish God dishonest, even grotesque. But for other Israelis, and even more for Americans, this flirtation was the very basis of Amichai’s appeal. So he found himself refashioned into a sort of atheist rabbi, sexy yet spiritual, and easy to translate — which is no doubt what we want Israel itself to be.Read More
The Insatiable Psalm: Poems By Yermiyahu Ahron Taub Wind River Press, 144 pages, $14.
For a while now, I have been asking Hasidic Jews, especially women, what they think poetry is supposed to be. In today’s Hasidic world, many view poetry as at worst secular, at best bittul torah, a frivolous distraction from serious learning. The women I’ve spoken to basically agree with this; they consider poetry ornamental orRead More
First Day: EXODUS 19:1-20:23;NUMBERS 28:26-31,EZEKIEL 1:1-28 & 3:12; Second Day DEUTERONOMY 15:9-16:17, NUMBERS 28:26-3, HABAKKUK 2:20-3:19.* * *Shortly before the Babylonian Exile in 587 BCE, Habakkuk in his workshop meditates on the visions he has seen: Babylonian soldiers storming westward toward the Kingdom of Judah, drivenRead More