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Collected Poems

Collected Poems

by Yehuda Amichai, Benjamin Harshav, Barbara Harshav

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When Israeli poet Amichai (Poems of Jerusalem) began writing poems as a young man in 1948 in his newly forged country, ``the twentieth century was the blood in my veins,/ Blood that wanted to go to many wars.'' Crafted of blood and war, his early poems also addressed his first beloved and his father's death, offering the exquisite pains of a man and a nation coming into being. These early themes reverberate, too, in Amichai's poems of later decades. Readers might suppose that he would weave Israeli politics like an enduring strand throughout his poems, but if so, they would underestimate the dynamic tension between the poet's initial admiration for Israel and his later disenchantment with any simple or facile viewpoint. Beautifully translated here, Amichai's poetic style is elegant, spacious and perfectly accessible. His metaphors range from liturgical to secular, as when the writer ironically considers war and love together: ``I'm like a machine gun, somewhat old-fashioned/ But very precise: when I love,/ The recoil is very strong.'' This comprehensive record of a sensibility is an enormously satisfying introduction to an important 20th-century poet. (Oct.)
Elizabeth Gunderson
In stark, beautiful language, Amichai shares with us a worldview sustained by verbal power, irony, and resonance. His ability to balance the arid with the fertile has made him Israel's most prominent poet, and another part of his gift is his capability for the eloquent analogical comment on larger issues, such as war, by means of striking minor images: "On a threshold of stone, whose house is destroyed, / A watermelon was slaughtered, cracked / And a light face rises / From the heavy tear slowly descending." He often takes on the burden of history, but the load rarely strains his work or makes him appear omnipotently beyond the reaches of human skirmishes. With full awareness, he descends into the maelstrom of conflict and brings back eroticism, contemplation, and exhilaration. Consisting of authoritative retranslations as well as work newly rendered into English, this comprehensive collection should delight longtime admirers and encourage a new generation to discover his mastery. One quibble: the book lacks an introduction illuminating Amichai's own experiences, which are only vaguely referred to in his work.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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1st ed

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