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.
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
Rick by Pyramid Atlantic
At long last, I have finished printing the poems for The Amichai Windows !
It is a real milestone. I have been at work for the last three months, mostly ignoring the rest of my life — exercising, gardening, reading, writing, socializing, etc.
Recently, my brother — Bruce Black — accompanied me to Pyramid Atlantic, took some photos and made a short video of me at work on one of the last poems that I did, My Son Is Drafted. Continue reading
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
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
Watching one of the digital prints emerge from my Epson printer. Photo by Mellie Black
I have made the first handful of digital prints of The Amichai Windows. It’s quite exciting — it has only taken eight years or more to get to this point.
As I move along, I am finalizing design elements, adjusting image placements and colors.
The good news is that I found a place nearby, CSI, which prints exhibitions for the museums in Washington, D.C., that is helping me cut down the paper. The Japanese washi paper that I’ll be using for the poems comes in large sheets that are about 23 x 33 inches. Continue reading
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
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
With New Year’s and the January blizzard behind us, it’s a quiet time of year. Which is just what I need to dig in again and start making more progress on producing The Amichai Windows.
Each poem will be made as a triptych that contains an inner and an outer sheet of paper that will function like a frame. Recently, I spent a week or so experimenting on how to attach the internal sheets (which will contain the poems) and the external sheets of handmade paper. I thought that I had two options: to glue or to sew. But, happily, discovered a third way to do it that I think is going to work the best. Continue reading
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