I must admit, I enjoy Abraham Joshua Heschel’s ideas far more than his writing. Generally, his writing lacks thrust and drive. When you see interviews of Heschel, you can understand his appeal among his students and associates: he had a vibrant, persuasive personality. Without the man behind them Heschel’s writing get a bit repetitious… even… blasphemy… boring.
These early poems have a certain vibrancy to them, and the original Yiddish next to the translations, for those able, adds an element of solidity. Despite the title, these poems run the range of topics; there are strictly religious poems, secular poems, and ones in between. Of course, the secular poems can be interpreted as religious, especially those devoted to the imaginary woman.
That said, some are right on religiously non-dual, such as “The Most Precious Word” were we find these lines: “I’ll make every word a name for You! / I’ll call you: Forest! Night! Ach! Yes! / And collect moments, / weave a bit of eternity, a gift for You.”
Here Heschel plays with themes he will fully exploit later. And he does so in a more compact, condensed form.