Love & Selected Poems

Aharon Shabtai, Author, Peter Cole, Translator, Peter Cole, Introduction by
Aharon Shabtai, Author, Peter Cole, Translator, Peter Cole, Introduction by Sheep Meadow Press $30 (248p) ISBN 978-1-878818-53-9
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 12/01/1997
Paperback - 221 pages - 978-1-878818-78-2
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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) describes--in a spirit more befitting a sailor than a Tel Aviv father of six--a 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.)
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