Tag Archives: Hebrew poetry

Israel Radio Interviews Rick Black

On a visit to Israel in May for a book launch of The Amichai Windows at Tmol Shilshom cafe in Jerusalem, Rick Black had a chance to talk with Ron Nesiel, host of the show, “The Weekly Journal” on Kan-Reshet Bet.

As part of the 20-minute segment, Nesiel also spoke with Hebrew literature Prof. Avner Holtzman of Tel Aviv University about Amichai’s work and played a Yossi Banai song of an Amichai poem, I Told You That it Would be so and You Didn’t Believe.

A link to the Hebrew radio show is here; broadcast on Saturday, May 26, 2018, the segment begins at 42:30 of the hour-long program. For those who would prefer the English, a translation is below . . .

Ron Nesiel: We’ll stay with literature but go from prose to poetry.  In any case, we’re marking 60 years since the publication of Yehuda Amichai’s book, Two Hopes Away, which was published 60 years ago by HaKibbutz HaMeuhad in 1958.

Together with his first published book, these two volumes launched a revolution in Hebrew literature in the 1950s. A major motif of both volumes, but in particular of Two Hopes Away, is the window . . . and the motif of looking out and looking in a window is what inspired the creation of a new, extraordinary volume, The Amichai Windows. The creator is Rick Black, a former reporter for The New York Times in Israel. He was here this month and presented his new book at Tmol Shilshom café in Jerusalem, the same café that Yehuda Amichai used to visit. It took Black ten years to complete this project.

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Yehuda Amichai and God

Original copy of Amichai's poem, "Yom Kippur." Reproduced courtesy of Hana Amichai from the archives of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Original copy of Amichai’s poem, “Yom Kippur.” Reproduced courtesy of Hana Amichai from the archives of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Yehuda Amichai frequently argues with God in his poems.

Raised in an Orthodox household, Amichai stopped practicing when he became a teenager — much to the dismay of his father. They argued about God and Jewish ritual practice for years. In fact, Amichai continued to argue with him long after his father died.

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Amichai Windows Papercuts

When I had the idea of working with a papercut artist on The Amichai Windows, I never thought that I would end up working with the papercut artist who did the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) when my wife and I got married years earlier. Continue reading

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Sneak Peek of Amichai Windows

The Amichai Windows, poem "28"

The Amichai Windows has a total of 18 poems. A cross section of poems from Amichai’s ouevre, they’re equally divided between love, war and being a Jew in the 20th century, both in the Diaspora and in Israel. Continue reading

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The Amichai Windows and Letterpress

Pyramid Atlantic Letterpress Studio

Pyramid Atlantic Letterpress Studio

Letterpress is a type of ‘relief” printing of text and images that is primarily used today for art and wedding invitations, birth announcements and other special occasions. It is done on a cylinder or platen press where a reversed and raised surface is inked and then literally imprinted into the paper itself.

The decision to use letterpress for The Amichai Windows had to do with making the words an integral part of the paper itself. I am also using various plates of images to lend the spreads texture — the outline of a Jerusalem window or a dove or a clock — and to emphasize certain words and letters. Continue reading

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Yehuda Amichai and Archeology

Dead Sea caves

Caves at the Dead Sea where the Dead Sea scrolls were found.

“From his earliest poems, archeology has been a primary source of metaphors for Amichai’s perception of the human condition,” wrote Robert Alter, a Hebrew translator and literary scholar, in a New York Times magazine article in 1986. “He sees both the self and history as an elaborate depositing of layers in which nothing is ever entirely buried from sight, in which the earliest strata uncannily obtrude upon the latest.” Continue reading

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New Books on Yehuda Amichai

A couple of new books have recently come out about Yehuda Amichai.

First, the publication of Robert Alter’s new book,  The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, is a compilation of a variety of previous translations as well as many poems that have never been translated into English before. Alter, who is the preeminent Hebrew literature translator and critic, has done a fine job assembling all of the poems together in one volume, old and new. Plus, he has added an informative introduction that places Amichai’s work in the context of modern poetry and contemporary Hebrew literature. Continue reading

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Amichai tribute in San Francisco

Earlier this month, a tribute was held to Yehuda Amichai and his poetry in San Francisco. Participating were Hana Amichai, his wife, Emmanuela Amichai, his daughter, Hebrew literary critic and translator Robert Alter, poet and translator Chana Bloch and comparative literature critic and translator Chana Kronfeld. The gathering was in honor of a new book of Amichai’s poetry in English, “The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai.” Continue reading

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Favorite Yehuda Amichai Quotes

Over the course of researching “The Amichai Windows,” I found many Amichai quotes about poetry — writing it, reading it, and what poetry means to him. I have translated some of these from Hebrew sources, others were originally in English.

As Amichai told me when we met in Philadelphia in 1995:

“Love won’t save you from war but it can help you deal with the pain. Poetry can help, too. Words helped me to regain a balance in my life. You have to accept life on its own terms. If you try to fight it, you’ll break.” Continue reading

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Translating Amichai II

After I selected the poems for The Amichai Windows, I soon realized that I would have to translate them myself. There were good translations, of course. But in each one there was always something that I would have done differently. And so I began to think about translating Amichai and how best to do it. Continue reading

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