Thursday, December 16, 2010

In the History of Our Love - Yehuda Amichai

With this selection, Amichai solidifies his lead as the most represented poet here.  And deservedly.  (Do "click" on his name on the left column to see why.  You'll agree and also see the biographical information on an amazing life.)   In this one, the analogy used in the last stanza to convey connectivity and isolation is just brilliant.  It takes Donne's "no man is an island" a step further, and that is just a great finish to the earlier lines' riff on permanence/impermanence.  There is also no doubt that Amichai is writing from deep experience.  It's the voice of a man who has loved well, loved deeply and loved completely.... and, thus, knows also the weight of loss.  What's striking to me about Amichai's love poetry is how powerfully and passionately he can write about both that state of grace that is being "in love" AND its aftermath.  (Sadly, just calling it a "state of grace" defines it as being a finite interval.  And do all "states of grace" inevitably have a "fall"? ) I envy that ability to express joy and sorrow equally well, as my own best writing is skewered towards the latter....

In the History of Our Love
                                    transl. from Hebrew by Ben and Barbara Harshaw

In the history of our love, always one is
A nomadic tribe, the other a nation on its own soil.
When we changed places, it was all over.

Time will pass us by, as landscapes
Move behind actors standing in their places
When they make a movie.  Even the words
Will pass by our lips, even the tears
Will pass by our eyes.  Time will pass
Every one in his place.

And in the geography of the rest of our lives,
Who will be an island and who a peninsula
Will become clear to each of us in the rest of our lives
In nights of love with others.

                                             Yehuda Amichai - Israeli

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