Yehuda Amichai, a Life of Poetry, 1948-1994

Yehuda Amichai, Author HarperCollins Publishers $30 (477p) ISBN 978-0-06-019039-2
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.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/1994
Release date: 10/01/1994
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-06-092666-3
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