Monday, August 27, 2012

Amichai's Hebrew Irony

Yehuda Amichai has the distinction of being one of the first Hebrew language poets to write in the spoken vernacular, rather than in the poetic register that marked most modern, Israeli poems.  More Love Poems, a collection of his poems on topics amorous does show this in many particular examples.  Yet he still holds an ironic attachment to the biblical text.  His poems are not yet the kind of ethnicy, street verse we find, for example, in Ronny Someck’s The Fire Stays Red.

In “I Dreamed a Dream,” Amichai connects his poem to the biblical story of Joseph’s dream interpretation of Pharoah’s cows,  both fat and sleek, to seven maidens, one group heavy, one group thick.  The thin ones swallow the leans ones with their “hungry thighs” and the narrator of the poem, making love to them all, gets swallowed by the voracious thighs in turn.

So, the picture of Amichai is far from clear.  Some of his poems are startling clear, and empty of biblical allusion.  Others hop and play along with the biblical text, borrowing from it both as a form of connection and distance to the text, which has been done for millennium with the words of the bible.

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