In his beautiful, haunting poem, Summer Evening By A Window With Psalms, widely renowned Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai wishes for a more peaceful and compassionate world, far away from the suffering that he has so often witnessed.
In the third stanza in particular, Amichai draws on images from the Psalms:
I think: how many still waters
would be able to provide a night of stillness,
and how many green pastures, wide as deserts,
would provide an hour of tranquility
and how many valleys of the shadow of death
do we need for there to be a merciful shadow
in the harsh sunlight.
What, indeed, would it take—how many still waters, how many green pastures, how many valleys of the shadow of death would it take for there to be consolation in the modern world? Given the atrocities of the 20th century through which Amichai lived, one can hardly imagine how many it would take. Continue reading
Reading the Amichai poem, “The Jews” at the USHMM
It is hard to describe the feeling as I took the elevator upstairs.
On the eve of Israel Independence Day recently, I presented the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum library in Washington, D.C., with a copy of my work, The Amichai Windows.
I had used a number of photos from the museum’s photo collection. After I finished my artist book, I brought in a copy to show to Lenore Bell, the library director, and Judith Cohen, who was in charge of the photo archive. They fell in love with the work and said that they would try to find a donor.
In my 10 years of making the work, it’s not something I ever anticipated. A year later, though, they wrote to tell me that they had found a donor to underwrite the artist book’s acquisition. So, it was only fitting that I would deliver their copy of The Amichai Windows on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day.
My wife, Laura, and I gathered in a conference room in the library with a handful of librarians, museum employees and volunteers. And then a remarkable coincidence happened. One of the images that I had used in the spread for the poem, “Eternal Window,” contained a photo of a young girl who had survived and later volunteered at the museum. Continue reading
I am happy to report that a private collector in Australia has purchased a copy of The Amichai Windows for her collection. It was simply serendipitous that our paths crossed.
I had ventured up to New York City in early March to participate in two artist book fairs. This was an ambitious undertaking, to say the least, because they overlapped with each other. The Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair took place on Saturday and Sunday on the East side; and the Booklyn Artists’ Book Fair occurred on Sunday on the West side.
On Friday, I went from our hotel to one of the fairs, set up the booth; then, back to the hotel and to the other fair to set up. It was a little hair raising but that was really the hardest part; then, my wife and I split up staffing the two fairs.
By chance, the collector was visiting New York City and heard about the Manhattan Fine Press Fair. She came down the stairs to the basement of the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, looked around and ended up at my booth.
I shared with her the story of how and why I made the artist book, Amichai’s life and work, and of course some of the spreads. She was particularly taken with the beauty of the work as well as Amichai’s poems themselves.
We arranged for her to take a copy of The Amichai Windows back with her on the plane to Sydney. Eventually, she said, she would bequeath the work to a major institution in Sydney so that others can enjoy it, too.
Exhibitors and visitors to the Manhattan Fine Press fair.
About 40 people came out for a program about The Amichai Windows and ensuing reception at the Beineicke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University in New Haven, CT. The program about Yehuda Amichai’s poetry included Rick Black’s slide show and talk as well as a panel discussion with three Yale professors, Barbara Harshav, Shiri Goren and Katie Trumpener.
The Beinecke purchased the first of 18 copies of this limited edition artist book, which combines 18 Yehuda Amichai poems with multi-layered collages of images from archives around the world. The book is fittingly now housed with the Beinecke’s collection of Yehuda Amichai’s archive, which includes original poems, photos, essays and other memorabilia.
A full-page feature story ran on June 21, 2018 in the Gallery section of Haaretz, a Hebrew-language newspaper in Israel.
It focuses mostly on the reasons for book artist Rick Black to have commenced this 10-year-project as well as Hana Amichai’s granting permission to use the poems.
The online version includes a few links to some wonderful video clips with Amichai in Hebrew. We do not yet have a translation of the article into English, but the headline reads, “Suddenly, Amichai is Peeking Out of the Window.”
The photo of one of the spreads is the first one of the artist book, “Eternal Window.”
Click here to see the piece online.
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.
The book launch of The Amichai Windows at Tmol Shilshom cafe in Jerusalem attracted a standing room only crowd.
Most of the evening was in Hebrew but I gave a slide show in English. The program also featured Hebrew Literature Professor Ariel Hirschfeld of Hebrew University and Hana Amichai.
My thanks go out to so many people who made the evening possible including but not only Hana Amichai, David Ehrlich, Ariel Hirschfeld and Naama Shahar. And, of course, to Arieh Rudnick who took all of the photos and granted permission to share them.
Hope you’ll enjoy the photo show . . . !
I am proud to announce that the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress has purchased one of the 18 copies of The Amichai Windows. It still needs to be catalogued but will be available to the public soon.
Pictured here is Mark Dimunation, the chief of the collection, with an open enclosure of our artist book in front of him. He’s holding up a copy of The Magic of Bookmaking, a book that my brother Bruce Black made for me.
The book documents a day in photos of my printing in the letterpress shop at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Maryland. You can take a look at a video of it here.
Mark Dimunation, chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division
Rick Black at the opening of his exhibition, “A Light By The Window”
The first review of The Amichai Windows, written by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, ran in the February/March newsletter of the American Jewish Libraries.
“Accompanied by an introduction by Robert Alter and an in-depth guide by Rick Black, The Amichai Windows is a towering achievement in American arts and letters. . . it is the culmination of a decade of reflection, research, translation, and artistic imagining and a breathtaking exploration of literary and visual poetics.”—from the AJL Newsletter
Taub, who first saw our artist book at the celebratory book launch at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Hyattsville, MD, was subsequently inspired to pen a review for the newsletter.
You can read the entire American Jewish Libraries review, which starts on page two, here.
Here are some photos from the exhibition “A Light By The Windows,” in which all 18 spreads of our artist book, The Amichai Windows, were on display at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Hyattsville, MD.
After Rick Black’s artist talk, we had a wonderful panel discussion with Helen Frederick and Judith K. Brodsky — and lots of questions from the audience. Continue reading