Employing the style and idiom of a post-modernist, Amichais poems resoundingly reflect the human drama with an acute sense of the epoch he lived. In an interview with Lawrence Joseph in The Paris review, Yehuda Amichai said: I never felt any sense of separation between an inner and outer world, and I dont feel it now. It is his historical consciousness that makes Amichais poems at once tragic and humorous, tender and tough, direct and intricate. What I like best about Amichai is that he doesnt put on the image of a great poet. In a number of poems, Amichai focusses on the holiness of all aspects of existence-Physical, sensual and spiritual. The need to display a tough, macho exterior image is contrasted with inner feelings as sensitive and delicate as those of Jewish women who faint during wedding in this poem. In a short later poem, "forgetting someone", the confusions of love are felt in ordinary ways: "Forgetting someone/is like forgetting to turn off the light in the backyard/ so it stays lit all the next day/But then it is the light/that makes you remember". Amicahi wonderfully demonstrates in this poem how a bomb's detonation included the entire world in its circle. But the young woman who was buried in the city she came from, at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers, enlarges the circle considerably, and the solitary man mourning her death at the distant shores of a country far across the sea includes the entire world in the circle. And I wont even mention the crying of orphans that reaches up to the throne of God and beyond, making a circle with no end and no God. Amichai starts the description of the bomb explosion with a recitation of cold, technical facts -the diameter of the bomb, its range and the number of casualties. But then, unexpectedly and rather jarringly, he segues into a personal sketch of one of the victims and her grieving lover, "the solitary man mourning her death / at the distant shores of a country far across the sea"--two lines I find especially poignant. These cold numerical facts are intended only to make us realize that the diameter increases infinitely to include those affected: four dead and eleven wounded, two hospitals and a graveyard, the solitary man, the crying orphans, and God. It is incredible how a small explosion can reach a man in a country across the sea, and God in the heavens. Amichai's conversational, somewhat detached tone ("And I won't even mention...") throughout the poem, intensifies the horror of sudden violent death and the raw emotional loss that accompanies. God Has Pity on Kindergarten Children is one of his most quoted and anthologized poems. The poem typifies Amichais inclination, especially in his early poetry, to challenge and to transform in an acutely ironic fashion the traditional perception of God as merciful. The poem typifies Amichais inclination, especially in his early poetry, to challenge and to transform in an acutely ironic fashion the traditional perception of God as merciful. The title God Has Pity on Kindergarten Children positions the reader to expect a poem praising Gods benevolence, but it quickly develops into a searing tract about a universe devoid of higher kindliness. Amichai marshals the image of soldiers crawling on all fours in the hot sands toward the first aid station, bloodied and wounded, to underline the idea that combatants (in this instance, during the war of independence) were not the objects of Gods watchfulness. The last section of the poem suggests that generosity and empathy handed down in the form of coins of compassion by a mother (or mother figure) may generate happiness for the adults shunned by a discriminating God. Acts of maternal charity, Amichai says, will lead in turn to our protection. The poem avers that human beings should not rely on God for refuge or mercy, but must be responsible for their own safe conduct. Amichai is asserting, contra Jewish religious dogma, that human goodness, kindness, and love are far superior shields and can function as a worthy substitute for Gods uncertain protection. Here is a poem that I posted in Facebook on a Fathers day for which I received very good feedback. Thats not a scar you feel under my skirt, thats a letter of recommendation, folded up tight, from my father: "All the same, hes a good boy, and full of love" I remember my father waking me or early prayers. The poem resonates with warmth, nostalgia and reverence for his dead father. Unlike many modern poets, Amichai is a deep-rooted emotional poet who never shies away from displaying his emotions. It is this emotional fervour that alchemizes a love line like "O touch me, touch me, you good woman!" into a memorial poem and prayer for the dead. To sum up, Yehuda Amichai was one of the greatest artists of 20th century and his poetry is a forceful and fanciful fusion of the beauty and pain of our existence.
I don't read a lot of poetry, so I don't know enough about it to be able to recommend a poet to someone who does read a lot of poetry, but if I did then I would still probably recommend Yehuda Amichai. War, childhood, aging, religion, and Jewish identity are the main themes, which aren't exactly easy targets to tackle with grace, but Amichai's voice comes at you sounding the way I'd imagine god's voice probably sounds.
And beyond that, his poetry is such a lovely immersion into Jewish and American history; to me he is a little like Viktor Frankl meets Robert Frost. Great read, wonderful translation--the best of those I've read, to my mind.
A great example of the power of this poet is the very first stanza from the collection: God has pity on kindergarten children.
Although Yehuda Amichai is truly a great and well known name, I have not had the pleasure of reading his works until now and I am truly sorry for that for he is definitely a name, a must-read name, for everyone who enjoys poetry, literature and serious works that dabble in everything from love, life, war, different kinds of relationships and many are intertwined with religious, Biblical and Jewish motives. His poems are memorable because at first look they seem simple and straightforward but when you spend a little time on them, when you read them a couple of times and take them apart you will notice remarkable metaphors which will then stay with you for hours, days and longer, you will be unable to take your mind off of some of them. I believe it is so because even in my language his poems echo through my mind and my soul.
By way of a "review," I'll simply copy out one of the shorter poems: Fields of Sunflowers Fields of sunflowers, ripe and withering, don't need the warmth of the sun anymore, they're brown and wise already.
But I can certainly tell you, this is one of the best books Ive come across.
Yehuda Amichai (Hebrew: ; 3 May 1924 22 September 2000) was an Israeli poet. Yehuda Amichai was for generations the most prominent poet in Israel, and one of the leading figures in world poetry since the mid-1960s. Amichai immigrated with his family at the age of 11 to Petah Tikva in Mandate Palestine in 1935, moving to Jerusalem in 1936. Encouraged by one of his professors at Hebrew University, he published his first book of poetry, Now and in Other Days, in 1955. His second novel, Mi Yitneni Malon, about an Israeli poet living in New York, was published in 1971 while Amichai was a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley.