THE STATIC ELEMENT: Selected Poems by Natan Zach


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It is possible that Israeli poet Zach's work, like that of Tomas Transtrommer, loses nearly all its vigor in translation. His poems are astringent, cumulative, suggestive: ""not in the street, if at all, not at the gates of the house,/ not by hand, not slowly, not in the heat, under an olive tree,/ not today, not from necessity, not hard,/ not in sunlight, not like a sword."" Some are fatalistic or ironic: ""What's new? Nothing under the sun./ And whoever looks to a bad end/ has not learned from bitter experience."" But only a certain bluntness--along with some Biblical references--marks this work as modern Hebrew poetry. Otherwise there is a distressingly international sameness to some of the wispier poems: ""Be attentive, feel, touch carefully./ Breathe in/ the light, harder. Illuminate/ each cloud. It's passing. And night won't wait."" And there are cliched musings on poetry: ""The problem, of course, is to shape a form/ like a diamond, but also like an ample bed/ where a man can stretch without/ knocking his head against a wall,/ and like a taut string/ with no corners to catch dust."" That Zach can be a poet of excellence is proven by such stand-outs as ""In This Deep Darkness"" and ""Twilight""--but the impression, in this English-ed selection, is rare and fleeting.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Atheneum