Sunday, 15 November 2015

Deceptively Accessible

Robert Alter celebrates the work of Yehuda Amichai:
The poetry of Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000), who with the passage of time seems more and more one of the great poets of the twentieth century, is deceptively accessible in translation. He was part of a group of young Israeli poets in the early 1950s who effected a vernacular revolution in Hebrew verse, rejecting the high literary language and the rhetorical thrust of the previous generation of Hebrew poets and finding ways to make poetry out of the plain words of everyday speech. His first volume of poetry, Now and in Other Days (1955), was widely recognized after it appeared as the turning point in the vernacular revolution. This effort to use the plain language and images of ordinary experience is clearly visible in a good deal of what Amichai wrote. It has a lot to do with the enormous popularity his work has enjoyed in Israel from the late 1950s to the present. It is also what makes at least some of his poems seem perfectly transparent in English, almost as if nothing were lost in translation.

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