The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai
Pieces of laundry hanging from Jerusalem's rooftops serve as signposts distinguishing Arabs from Jews; Amichai's brief lyric crystallizing their mutual hatred would heal the rift, if words could. Israel's best-known poet sifts centuries of Jewish experience in firsthand impressions of his troubled land; moreover, he makes the particular universal. In their remarkable translations, Bloch and Mitchell bring over the poet's healing, wise voice in a modern American idiom that nevertheless remains true to his biblical and cultural roots. Amichai circumscribes the world in a few lines; pain, joy, sorrow, hope press against the reader with the felt weight of experience. Love poems are shot through with an ironic awareness that love is no panacea. In their richness of history, their ever-present political dimension, their sharing of a common frame of reference with their audience, these poems are miles above almost anything in contemporary American verse.