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Posts Tagged ‘Amichai’


I’ve been reading American Singers, by Whitney Balliett, on the ongoing theory that much can be learned about an art form by examining other art forms — a kind of synesthesia of confusing this for that.  Poems of course are written about this, I forget the name of the form; point being singers learn to subsume themselves to the song, let the song tell them how to sing.  In like manner, I am discovering poems have a natural rhythm.  I don’t mean just iambics and trochees.  A point made at the beginning of a poem must be allowed its natural time to settle in.  One can get to the end of the poem too quickly, in writing it, before the reader has a chance to absorb, react, resonate to what is being said.  And that damages the poem in a subtle way.  I haven’t mastered the balancing of it, but at least I am aware now, and beginning to try.

In the current issue of The New Yorker, Kevin Young begins his poem, “Rapture,” with the line “I want to be awake / when the world ends.”  In order to give us time to absorb this, he immediately tap-dances sideways with the next line: “I want to be my friend / who rose to an empty / house… & thought it was the rapture…”  This second storyline explains, extends, gives another slant on, allows us time to absorb the punch of that first line.  Then at the end of spinning out the second thought, he refers back to the first: “After, / let what I’ve torn — the myself I mourn –”  And by using this device, or construct, when he takes the next natural step with the first thought, it can be the very end of the poem, which suddenly has the power of brevity, since his original thought only takes up about two very short stanzas, but yet has the depth that comes from two views on one idea.  So it’s punch…absorb the punch… punch.  Very effective.  At least for me.

Yehuda Amichai gives us the poem “Love And Memory” in this issue as well.  “How we made love in the memorial forest for the Shoah dead…” it starts, and the image that immediately comes to my mind is from the time we toured Israel, and our guide showed us a landscape about 80% sand and rocks, with a tree here and there, and explained that for Israel, this WAS a forest.  If you haven’t been to Israel, the area around Santa Fe is pretty similar.  If you haven’t been to Santa Fe, you got some travelling to do. ;->  “The forest did the remembering for us and gave us leave to love.”  Great poems seem to have summation lines like this, quintessential lines that give us perspective inside the poem, a way to orient ourselves.  Again, the last line of this poem is worth the whole price of admission, here.

Peace in poetry,

P M F Johnson

My eBook of poems, Against The Night, a sweet, rueful look at love in a long marriage, is available on Amazon, and at other fine e-retailers.

Related blog posts:

Rattle 60 – Summer 2018

The Nation – Apr 9 2018

The New Yorker – Apr 30 18

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