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.”
Leon Wieseltier: “He revolutionized Hebrew poetry with a vernacular Hebrew but he was also a great Jewish poet, not just an Israeli poet. He created a humanistic midrash.”
Stanley Moss: Amichai said that metaphor was the greatest invention since the wheel. When metaphor and reality come together, that’s death.”
Chana Kronfeld: “Metaphor was a way of survival for him. I read his poems since I was 15-years-old whenever I wanted to regain my sanity.”
Over the winter break, I met with Hana Amichai and Robert Alter to show them my latest progress on “The Amichai Windows” — and both of them were quite pleased with the way things are developing. I met with Hana in New York City. I was looking for a quiet place where we could spread out and have some privacy. By chance, I discovered that the public library on 34th Street and Madison Avenue, which specializes in business, allows people to reserve a room at no charge. So, we talked and caught up with each other over the course of an afternoon.
Then, Robert Alter and I met at a lovely cafe in Berkeley (my family had gone to California for vacation) called, The Musical Offering. It was my first time in Berkeley and I loved the campus. We talked about the book and Yehuda Amichai for about an hour; he will be writing an introduction, so we discussed that, too.
Then, I drove back to our inn in Mill Valley (actually, on Mt. Tam) to join my wife and daughter, where we spent a couple of wondrous days exploring the redwoods and surrounding coast, then journeying up to Chico to visit family.