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
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
“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