In December, I went to the launch of Robert Alter’s new book of Yehuda Amichai’s poems in English translation at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.
There was a panel of folks who read Amichai poems and told stories about Yehuda Amichai as well as reflected on his poetry and its translation. Leon Wieseltier, a columnist with The Atlantic (formerly with The New Republic) moderated the evening. Panelists included Robert Alter, Hana Amichai, Chana Kronfeld, Stanley Moss and Philip Schultz.
A few tidbits:
Robet Alter: “Yehuda was a great poet and a dear person. He didn’t succumb to the temptation of being a professional poet. He was an ordinary guy. He shopped in the shuk, made jam and love and poems. He was unpretentious. He had a wonderful/wicked sense of humor and a great sadness in some poems.” Continue reading
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
Eliezer Ben Yehuda’s window
As a book artist, each book presents its own challenges — and rewards. Part of the adventure is not knowing how to get there; no one has ever been there before. There’s no path in the woods to follow. Oh, you can take a path for a while but then you need to branch off in your own direction in order to realize your vision for the book. It’s equally true if you’re trying to create a poem, compose a symphony or do a painting.
To be an artist, it’s essential to fail. One needs to be prepared to try again to get where you want to go, to realize your inner vision. You may not even know where you want to go until you see it, until you arrive after a long, winding road. Paths are helpful; they enable us to go farther into the woods. But to realize one’s own vision — well, ultimately, that’s only something that each of us can do. With help, certainly. But artists are trailblazers. And often I find that even though I might get lost or fail in one way, it often yields results in another, unexpected way. Continue reading
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
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
Today, the day before Yom Kippur, marks the 15th anniversary since Yehuda Amichai’s death on Sept. 22, 2000. In his honor, I am posting my translation of his poem, “Yom Kippur,” which is included in The Amichai Windows. Continue reading
“Poetry is what gets lost in translation,” Robert Frost is often quoted as saying.
It’s true, but it’s not true. The original connotations and impact of a poem is lost in translation, that’s true. One can not move from one country to another without a sense of dislocation, of newness, of discovery. But, that’s just it. A new language presents the opportunity for the poet to be discovered by a new audience — and for the poem to resonate in new ways. It might not be the same as the original but it can take on a life of its own. Continue reading
As I’m getting started with this blog, I wanted to compile some Amichai links for you about his life and work.
Here are the Amichai links that I have found so far. I’ll post more Amichai links as I become aware of them. In the meantime, I wanted to give you a brief description of the Amichai links so far: Continue reading
Welcome to The Amichai Windows!
It has been quite an adventure since I began some eight years ago — well, really more than eight years ago depending on when you begin counting. If you start from my first becoming acquainted with Amichai’s writings, then you have to go back to the 1980s. When I first got a copy of Amichai’s poems in Hebrew, Aschshav BeRaash, from a dear friend, I never dreamed that I would meet him and his wife, Hana. Or that I would ever become a book artist myself and publish some of his poems years later. Continue reading