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The largest English-language collection to date from Israel’s finest poet Few poets have demonstrated as persuasively as Yehuda Amichai why poetry matters. One of the major poets of the twentieth century, Amichai created remarkably accessible poems, vivid in their evocation of the Israeli landscape and historical predicament, yet universally resonant. His are some of the mo The largest English-language collection to date from Israel’s finest poet Few poets have demonstrated as persuasively as Yehuda Amichai why poetry matters. One of the major poets of the twentieth century, Amichai created remarkably accessible poems, vivid in their evocation of the Israeli landscape and historical predicament, yet universally resonant. His are some of the most moving love poems written in any language in the past two generations—some exuberant, some powerfully erotic, many suffused with sadness over separation that casts its shadow on love. In a country torn by armed conflict, these poems poignantly assert the preciousness of private experience, cherished under the repeated threats of violence and death. Amichai’s poetry has attracted a variety of gifted English translators on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1960s to the present. Assembled by the award-winning Hebrew scholar and translator Robert Alter, The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai is by far the largest selection of the master poet’s work to appear in English, gathering the best of the existing translations as well as offering English versions of many previously untranslated poems. With this collection, Amichai’s vital poetic voice is now available to English readers as it never has been before.


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The largest English-language collection to date from Israel’s finest poet Few poets have demonstrated as persuasively as Yehuda Amichai why poetry matters. One of the major poets of the twentieth century, Amichai created remarkably accessible poems, vivid in their evocation of the Israeli landscape and historical predicament, yet universally resonant. His are some of the mo The largest English-language collection to date from Israel’s finest poet Few poets have demonstrated as persuasively as Yehuda Amichai why poetry matters. One of the major poets of the twentieth century, Amichai created remarkably accessible poems, vivid in their evocation of the Israeli landscape and historical predicament, yet universally resonant. His are some of the most moving love poems written in any language in the past two generations—some exuberant, some powerfully erotic, many suffused with sadness over separation that casts its shadow on love. In a country torn by armed conflict, these poems poignantly assert the preciousness of private experience, cherished under the repeated threats of violence and death. Amichai’s poetry has attracted a variety of gifted English translators on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1960s to the present. Assembled by the award-winning Hebrew scholar and translator Robert Alter, The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai is by far the largest selection of the master poet’s work to appear in English, gathering the best of the existing translations as well as offering English versions of many previously untranslated poems. With this collection, Amichai’s vital poetic voice is now available to English readers as it never has been before.

30 review for The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Two of my favourite poems by Yehuda Amichai God-Full-of-Mercy, The Prayer For the Dead If God was not full of mercy, Mercy would have been in the world, Not just in Him. I, who plucked flowers in the hills And looked down into all the valleys, I, who brought corpses down from the hills, Can tell you that the world is empty of mercy. I, who was King of Salt at the seashore, Who stood without a decision at my window, Who counted the steps of angels, Whose heart lifted weights of anguish In the horrible contest Two of my favourite poems by Yehuda Amichai God-Full-of-Mercy, The Prayer For the Dead If God was not full of mercy, Mercy would have been in the world, Not just in Him. I, who plucked flowers in the hills And looked down into all the valleys, I, who brought corpses down from the hills, Can tell you that the world is empty of mercy. I, who was King of Salt at the seashore, Who stood without a decision at my window, Who counted the steps of angels, Whose heart lifted weights of anguish In the horrible contests. I, who use only a small part Of the words in the dictionary. I, who must decipher riddles I don't want to decipher, Know that if not for the God-full-of-mercy There would be mercy in the world, Not just in Him. Translated from the Hebrew by Barbara and Benjamin Harshav ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I Walked Past A House Where I Lived Once I walked past a house where I lived once: a man and a woman are still together in the whispers there. Many years have passed with the quiet hum of the staircase bulb going on and off and on again. The keyholes are like little wounds where all the blood seeped out. And inside, people pale as death. I want to stand once again as I did holding my first love all night long in the doorway. When we left at dawn, the house began to fall apart and since then the city and since then the whole world. I want to be filled with longing again till dark burn marks show on my skin. I want to be written again in the Book of Life, to be written every single day till the writing hand hurts. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Each time I re-read this, I receive a good soul-scraping. I carry them around with me like British civilians in the Second World War carried around their gas masks. It was always there: an appendage, and a weight that after a while became invisible; and that despite its invisibility became a necessary burden which one absolutely could not give up. Without it, one couldn't breathe. Without it, one lost all hope. But with the talisman strapped on, one could still look for tomorrow's sun to shine, amid the ruins. Despite the despair and seeming hopelessness, Amichai gives me hope that the sun will shine, amid the ruins. (It's taken such a long time to find these words, having finished a few collections of his works almost a month ago.) Thank you Other Julie for the introduction.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Florencia

    * The Time Has Come to Collect Evidence When did I cry for the last time? The time has come to collect evidence among those who saw me doing it. Some of them dead. I wash my eyes with water to see the world once again through the moist and the hurt. I need to collect evidence. These days I felt sharp stabbing pains for the first time in my heart: I wasn’t afraid. I was almost as proud as a boy who discovers the first hair under his arms and down there, between his legs.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey (Akiva) Savett

    A collection of the sublime. Upon completing this selected (it's NOT a Collected) and The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai edited by Bloch and Mitchell, I can say without reservation that Amichai has skyrocketed into position as one of my favorite poets of all time. The HUGE advantage of this text over the Bloch and Mitchell is the inclusion of poems from Amichai's magisterial last work Open, Closed, Open. The poems selected from that collection are some of the finest I've ever read in any lang A collection of the sublime. Upon completing this selected (it's NOT a Collected) and The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai edited by Bloch and Mitchell, I can say without reservation that Amichai has skyrocketed into position as one of my favorite poets of all time. The HUGE advantage of this text over the Bloch and Mitchell is the inclusion of poems from Amichai's magisterial last work Open, Closed, Open. The poems selected from that collection are some of the finest I've ever read in any language. They are funny and sad and full of longing. Those ALONE are worth the price of this book. I defy anyone who loves poetry and life to read the poems in Open, Closed, Open and NOT feel like you've been as in touch with the sublime as listening to Mozart and Beethoven, standing before a Rothko, or at the foot of a sequoia. Alter, the translator of Jewish texts par excellence recently, has also INCLUDED some of the translations of from Bloch and Mitchell, so this text has that going for it as well. THAT SAID, there are MANY poems in the Bloch and Mitchell Selected which are NOT included here which are TREMENDOUS. This merely speaks to the need (am I being too demanding after getting this gift from Alter?) for a Collected for Amichai. In the meantime, buying both books is well worth the money. I'm left wondering why Amichai never received a Nobel? It's certainly not an issue with the quality of his work or his prolificacy. Obviously, politics plays a role in such decisions, but I can sleep at night knowing that Amichai won his share of awards, and more importantly, is held with tremendous love and respect in the hearts of his poetry peers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jory

    Gorgeous collection of most celebrated Israeli poet's work. So many in here I love -- especially where he questions his connections to Judaism, and religion in general. His set of poems on Jerusalem are stunning.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gayla Bassham

    I really wish I had more patience for poetry than I do. But I don't. There are some really wonderful verses here but most of the poems in this book simply didn't work for me. This gap in my readerly interests annoys and distresses me, but it's possible that I am just not a poetry person.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Olms

    Great book

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    A Hebrew poet who wrote intimately about Judaism, Jerusalem, and the body, Amichai moved from Germany to Palestine with his parents in 1936, when he was 12. The area was wracked with wars throughout his life and they are a frequent topic of his poetry. As is his pubic hair. An evocative poem about grief and the passage of time might be followed by one talking about genitalia. Sex. Or childhood. Amichai plays with grammar and syntax as much as rhyme scheme, and my hat is off to the translators wh A Hebrew poet who wrote intimately about Judaism, Jerusalem, and the body, Amichai moved from Germany to Palestine with his parents in 1936, when he was 12. The area was wracked with wars throughout his life and they are a frequent topic of his poetry. As is his pubic hair. An evocative poem about grief and the passage of time might be followed by one talking about genitalia. Sex. Or childhood. Amichai plays with grammar and syntax as much as rhyme scheme, and my hat is off to the translators who have to massage these complicated images from one language to another. Overall, the poetry is very accessible and you can glean a reasonable amount of meaning from it in one or two readings. The only things I didn't like was the incessant pubic hair and his representation of women; they often were presented as just extensions of the male viewer/narrators's desires and not as separate, autonomous beings. A weirdly one-dimensional portrayal. Despite that, his work is a creative and interesting addition to the poetry pantheon, and worth taking a look at.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lorri

    Yehudi Amichai's poetry strikes at my very core. His illuminations and ruminating prose is intense, yet gentle, often bold, yet with a caring voice. He reflects on many issues, that are pertinent not only in moments past, but also in today's world. Social justice/injustice, love and loss, Holocaust and anger, sex, children, women, the military, Jerusalem, daily life, and so much more are woven within the tapestry of his beautiful poems. It is difficult to articulate my thoughts and feelings regard Yehudi Amichai's poetry strikes at my very core. His illuminations and ruminating prose is intense, yet gentle, often bold, yet with a caring voice. He reflects on many issues, that are pertinent not only in moments past, but also in today's world. Social justice/injustice, love and loss, Holocaust and anger, sex, children, women, the military, Jerusalem, daily life, and so much more are woven within the tapestry of his beautiful poems. It is difficult to articulate my thoughts and feelings regarding 'The Poetry of Yehudi Amichai". Suffice it to say that, although the copy I read was an e-book, from my library, I have ordered a hardcopy for my personal library. That should say it all.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Randall

    For me, Amichai's strongest poems are those that focus on and explore a single metaphor. "Jacob and the Angel" and "Air Hostess" do this very well. While this collection is exhaustive in covering Amichai over the years, that same comprehensiveness also shows how often the poet covers the same topics with the same language over and over again. Or, conversely, how quickly he switches metaphors from one line to the next leaving this reader dizzy or left behind altogether.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Померанцевое

    "The three languages I know, All the colors in which I see and dream: None will help me." - from “Like Our Bodies’ Imprint“ "And like a dark branch that is white where it is broken, I too am bright in my love." - from “Street“ "Sometimes pus, sometimes poetry — always something is excreted, always pain." - from “Ibn Gabirol” "The two of them together and each of them alone."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Porter Shreve

    Something I saw recently brought to mind a Yehuda Amichai poem, so I’ve been reading his collected and my soul feels better now that this book is among my possessions. “The Place Where We Are Right” (from 1963) could have been written this week, and so many of the poems, even these shorter ones, feel similarly enduring.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    DNF on page 67. If it was the length of most poetry collections I read, I probably would have finished it and rated it 3 stars. But this collection is 526 pages long! I don't have the energy to invest that much time in something I'm feeling average about.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Yvette

    The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai is vivid and bold, delicately tender, often ironic, sometimes forbidden, but always inspiring and original. This compilation is one of the most moving collections of poetry I have had the pleasure of reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Caedi

    "Like a newspaper pinned to a fence by the wind, so my soul is stuck to me." - Yehuda Amichai

  15. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Cabello

    Tender, visionary, helps me weep and rejoice.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Josh Marks

    Achingly brilliant

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hu Sang

    Brilliant, especially the affectionate love poems. In addition, his poems echo a profound national Tradition.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    Amichai died in 2000. His first collection of poems appeared in Israel in 1955 and by 1965 he was recognized not just as a major Israeli poet but one of the great poets of contemporary world literature. This edition brings together the most complete edition of his poetry available in English, edited by Robert Alter, who selected translations from among previous published editions or, when none were satisfactorily available, commissioned translations from among the best living translators of Amic Amichai died in 2000. His first collection of poems appeared in Israel in 1955 and by 1965 he was recognized not just as a major Israeli poet but one of the great poets of contemporary world literature. This edition brings together the most complete edition of his poetry available in English, edited by Robert Alter, who selected translations from among previous published editions or, when none were satisfactorily available, commissioned translations from among the best living translators of Amichai’s work. Among the translators, in addition to Alter, are Chana Bloch, Chana Kronfeld, Ted Hughes, Steven Mitchell, Leon Wieseltier, Glenda Abramson, Harold Schimmel, and the author himself. As a retrospective it is beyond impressive and only reminds us that Amichai’s greatness wasn’t just global but timeless. The first poems in this collection talk about his childhood and first experiences in the military, including the War for Independence in 1948, and the last poems are about mortality and his children’s military service. “Even my loves,” he writes, “are measured by wars.” In between the poems about love and war are poems about peace, God and faith, sex and marriage, memory and history, and of life and death. I can’t speak to the innovations in use of vernacular Hebrew that Amichai is credited with but I do know even in translation the poems sing. His language is the music of joy, fear, sorrow, regret, dispute, love, remorse, outrage, doubt, certainty, worry, and it comes in clear statements and deft understatement, and with wry, incisive humor. First, some lines that might take your breath away and give you a sense of Amichai’s genius: “An achievement, a retreat. Night reminds And day forgets.” “From there the other roads began. And my heart was covered with dreams, like my shiny shoes that were covered with dust, for dreams, too, are a long road with an end I will not reach.” This is a whole poem: “God’s fate now is like the fate of trees and stones, sun and moon, when people stopped believing in them and began to believe in Him. But He has to stay with us: at least like the trees, like the stones and like the sun and the moon and the stars.” Watch in the following how he uses the simple punctuation of a colon to great effect: “My hands are stretched out to a past not mine and to a future not mine: it is hard to love, hard to embrace, with hands like that.” “A woman said to me once: ‘Everyone goes to his own funeral.’ I didn’t understand then. I don’t understand now, but I go.” “(And the howl of the orphans is passed from one generation to the next, as in a relay race: the baton never fails.)” “And I do now what any memory dog does: I howl quietly and piss a boundary of remembrance around me so no one can enter.” “I went down to the harbor, thinking: I’m a lucky man— I will never have to sail again.” And in these lines the beauty of observation: “And now it’s too soon for archaeology and too late to fix what was done.” “The landscape is calmed like a baby through sobbing, I recited the prayer of forgetting.” “Searching for a goat or a son has always been the beginning of a new religion in these mountains.” “And the land is divided into regions of memory and districts of hope, and its people are all mixed together, like those returning from a wedding and from a funeral.” “Prophecy, too, is archaeology.” “From a man who loses things I’ve turned into a lost man. I am tired of doors, I want windows, only windows.” “At night I walked again along the row of weeping willows whose branches reach down. I sat on the same bench where I waited many years ago, when I was a little boy. Two generations of remembering have passed, now the first generation of forgetting has come.” I have three index cards filled on both sides with scribbled lines with page numbers and then there are just lines of page numbers where whole poems are denoted: “6, 7, 9, 12-13, 23, 24, 26, 29, 30, 58-59….” There are so many poems of excellence, profound and moving. This is a collection that resists shelving. You reach to put it up and open it and scan, then read, and then move from the bookcase and find a chair. And there you sit and read and wonder and are moved. Here is a poem whole, from a sequence called “Summer and the Far End of Prophecy,” that my eye fell on as I was intending to close the book: Oh, the calendar’s blank prophecy on the first of the year. Oh, the memory of beach chairs folded and stacked in winter, shackled together with an iron chain like galley slaves in ancient days. Slaves of memory. Swimmers’ strokes preserve the memory of swimming and of last summer too, of all the summers that were, swimmers’ strokes proceed from love and unto love they shall return. Oh, the great prophecy of what is past or what is yet to come. And there, at the far end of prophecy, a swimsuit spread out to dry.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nuri

    4.5 Departure from a place where you had no love includes the pain of all that did not happen together with the longing for what will happen after you leave. This is a really, really extensive collection. I didn't connect much with Yehuda's poetry until I got to the text from Time (1978) and A Great Tranquility : Questions and Answers (1980). At the end of it, and in revisiting these poems, I've become an Amichai fan. I think it would be best to stay patient with the collection, in case you don' 4.5 Departure from a place where you had no love includes the pain of all that did not happen together with the longing for what will happen after you leave. This is a really, really extensive collection. I didn't connect much with Yehuda's poetry until I got to the text from Time (1978) and A Great Tranquility : Questions and Answers (1980). At the end of it, and in revisiting these poems, I've become an Amichai fan. I think it would be best to stay patient with the collection, in case you don't connect right away. From Man You Are and to Man You Shall Return (1985), the selections begin with poems about Mother's Death. So poignant. The second half basically probes a man's existence through the lens of spirituality. I read some verses without fully understanding the references from Bible or other Jewish Terms. The last segment Open Closed Open (1998) p. 408 onwards, had me drop out of this book. Maybe it didn't have anything to do with the text but maybe because I'd read enough long verses already. And the even longer verses (about love, nurturing, parents etc) in this part has references of Bible that I don't grasp. Among these, you find a line or so, that makes you go "Wow." Parent's Lodging Place is a good one from this collection. The text also indicates how his poetry has evolved spiritually. Apart from this, the major chunk of his poetry is his dedication and love of Jerusalem. His poetry talks a lot about God, Truth, Beauty, Parting, Hope, Change. The translations are wonderfully done. "Ballad on the Changing Room" P.289 and "Air Hostess" "Inside The Apple" blew me away. On Parting, this one will stay with me. "We Traveled to a Sleep Far from Us" (excerpt)We were close to each other like two similar languages, Hebrew and Arabic, English and German. It was good for us together. But your heart studied in a different school from your head. Our meeting was an illusion of red bliss like the meeting of sun and sea at evening." *********************** "Look, just as time isn't inside clock love isn't inside bodies : bodies only tell the love." *********************** Your heart plays blood-catch inside your veins. Your eyes are still warm, like beds time has slept in. Your thighs are two sweet yesterdays, I'm coming to you. All hundred and fifty Psalms roar Hallelujah. P.13 ************************** Half the people love, half the people hate. And where is my place between such well-matched halves, and through what crack will I see [...] P.32 Other Favorites: The Two of Us Together And Each Of Us Alone p.5 God Takes Pity on Kindergarten Children p.6 Ibn Gabirol p.15 From All the Spaces Between Times p.17 And That Is Your Glory p.28 The Right Angle p.50 Steer p.63 Like Our Bodies' Imprint p.70 If With a Bitter Mouth p.71 And Let Us Not Get Excited p.77 My Child Has The Fragrance of Peace p.90 Bitter and Brusque p.94 God's Fate p.98 A Pity We Were Such a Good Invention, p.104 We Did It p.107 To Break Up Now p. 149 We Lay Exposed and Equal p.188 Not for the Sake of Remembering p. 189 Akhziv 197-200 Love Song p.216 I Am Tired p.217 When A Man Is Left p. 219 From Time p.15, 17, 46, 48, 62, 71, 80 The Doors Are Closed p.273 Rain In A Foreign Land p.277 Air Hostess p.278 I Don't Know If History Returns p.279 A Woman Like That p.287 Song of Love and Pain p.292 Peace of Mind, Peace and Mind p 296 We Traveled to a Sleep From Us p.300 Infinite Poem p.303 On Some Other Planer You May Be Right p.309 Everybody Needs An Abandoned Garden In His Life p.312 Herbal Tea. P.316 Those Were Days of Grace p.318 Try to Remember Some Details p.319 A Man in his Life p.324 Hamadiya p.335 Inside the Apple p.352 But We p.375 Sixty Kilos of Pure Love p.376 Sorrow and Joy p.378 Between p.379 I Am A Penniless Prophet p.384 Summer Rest and Words p.386-387

  20. 4 out of 5

    Howard Krosnick

    Like others whose reviews follow, having just finished reading this edition I find my heart and head and memories and understandings changed. Reading these poems Amichai has joined the short list of my favourite poets of all time. I have been so challenged, so delighted and saddened, so moved by the profound beauty of his poetry and only wish I were able to read it in the original Hebrew.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sanjay Varma

    These poems represent the feelings and thoughts of an Israeli boy as he fought in the desert during the 60's and 70's. Some of the common themes include the obligation to his ancestors, the arbitrariness of fate, the beauty of women, and perceiving a kinship with the enemy. His most common technique is a simile, and many short poems are simply an extended simile. His second most common technique, which might be more accurately described as a flaw, is the tendency to dream about how many ancient These poems represent the feelings and thoughts of an Israeli boy as he fought in the desert during the 60's and 70's. Some of the common themes include the obligation to his ancestors, the arbitrariness of fate, the beauty of women, and perceiving a kinship with the enemy. His most common technique is a simile, and many short poems are simply an extended simile. His second most common technique, which might be more accurately described as a flaw, is the tendency to dream about how many ancient civilizations have shared the Israeli land. The translation quality is highly variable and mostly below average, they make his poems seem amateurish. But a few of the poems really soar. Moving into the 80's and later, the poems increasingly present religion as a salve against one's own pain, which replaces active engagement with reality. In its place the author substitutes a murmuring repetition of overloaded words, concepts, and symbols; standard sermons, or word puzzles composed of Hebrew words and names, Abraham, Yehuda, and such. They read like one man's self-medication by murmuring.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I love Yehuda Amichai's works and treated myself to this collection after the NY Times had reviewed it so favorably. Definitely a great collection of his work, put together by Robert Alter. This book contains some of the poems that had not been previously translated into English and is a real gem!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Noreen

    Gorgeous poetry. Highly recommend.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    See my review at http://www.thereportergroup.org/Artic... See my review at http://www.thereportergroup.org/Artic...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Richard Anderson

    A great poet and communicator.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Antonio Delgado

    This is humanistic religious poetry written during a time of dangerous theological and hermeneutical struggle.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    As beautiful, as startling, as Neruda's love poems

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sérgio Alcides

  29. 5 out of 5

    Scott Hirsch

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jayne Benjulian

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