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Love and Selected Poems

Love and Selected Poems

by Aharon Shabtai, Peter Cole (Translator)

Aharon Shabtai, now in his late fifties, is the most important Israeli poet of his generation. This is his first book to be published in English.


Aharon Shabtai, now in his late fifties, is the most important Israeli poet of his generation. This is his first book to be published in English.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Consider the difficulties of translating poetry from Hebrew, a language read from right to left, its individual letters laden with symbolic and mathematical meanings of their own so that a single word can add up to an entire morality play. There is little that English can do to match that, but Cole, a poet, has nonetheless come up with a spirited and speedy version of Shabtai's work. The lines are short, simple and severe, with the occasional schmear of transliterated Hebrew for flavor: "I'm a man/ who murdered love// simply/ with his own two hands// took/ and snapped its neck/ like a lamb// and then, with his fee,/ his slaughterer's fee,// promptly turned/ into// a groisser hocham/a wise ass." There are few complex issues to grasp here. Drawing on rabbinic and Hellenic traditions, Shabtai elaborates on straightforward themes: lust, homestead and more lust. His long poem "Kibbutz" is a vivid checklist of "tools and their objects/... a hooked rod/ for catching chickens, a beak clipper," while the title poem (and much of the rest of the book) describesin a spirit more befitting a sailor than a Tel Aviv father of sixa woman that he wanted, a woman that he had and lost and various gorgeous ladies of mythology. In addition to his fluent translation, Cole provides an incisive introduction that sets Shabtai and his work in context. (Aug.)
Library Journal
This volume introduces American readers to an Israeli poet who emerged during the mid-1980s. Shabtai, previously known as the foremost translator of Greek poetry into Hebrew, splays his poems with sexual references that in Greek, and possibly in the original Hebrew, might be sensual: "Eroticin the ancient sense/ the daemonic." In English, they contain a superfluous vulgarity verging on bestiality. Despite the translator's focus on "Love" as the work that brought him to prominence as a poet in Israel, American readers might relate better to selections from other volumes included here, such as "Kibbutz" or "Begin" (the latter a collage built around Menachem Begin's life in the Israeli underground and the birth of his second child). Abandoning the cadences found in other modern Israeli poets and adopting, as translator Cole points out, the style of Williams or Olson, these poems play with language and structure, breaking new ground. For comprehensive poetry and Judaica collections only.Rochelle Ratner, formerly Poetry Editor, "Soho Weekly News," New York

Product Details

Sheep Meadow Press, The
Publication date:
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

What People are Saying About This

C K. Williams
"In his fusions of the sensual and the spiritual, the ordinary and the exalted, the sexual in the suffering psyche and the intelligent conciousness searching and spinning through history, myth and layers of language, Shabtai is one of the most exciting poets writing anywhere, and certainly the most audacious. The poems have a wonderful almost vertiginous energy, an enormous erudition, and a startling, finally inspiring candor. A splendid book, brilliantly translated by Peter Cole."

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