LOVE POEMS by Yehuda Amichai


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A volume of love poems is a relative rarity from a modern poet (Neruda's may be the last wholly successful instance); perhaps this is because requited love bundles up more into a central image than an expandable ache, and a love poem often seems to end up being about love's exhaustion. Yet Israeli poet Amichai--though seemingly aware of the pitfalls--called this bi-lingual selection from previous books ""Love Poems,"" and a few pieces do transcend those limitations. In ""Song for a Woman,"" love-in-action, so frequently described as a pining discomfort, becomes a muscular quid pro quo: ""If you open your coat/my love must widen/if you wear that round white beret/my blood must redden/wherever you love/furniture must be removed from the room?' Even more kinetic is ""Jacob and the Angel""--in which the nature of the angel is a great surprise: ""Before sunrise, she groaned, caught him/and grasped thus, won him./And he caught her thus, too, winning/ so that both knew such holding came to death./ They were beyond introducing, past names."" Angels, scattered paper, gauze--these images serve Amichai well as erotic, post-Biblical decals. But the best poems here are unfortunately in the minority. As translated into English by Amichai himself, with help from Ted Hughes, most others lack that force of love-as-visitation, too many merely turning love into another facet of human nature: ""We were not careful when we said 'next year'/or 'a month ago.' These words are like/glass splinters,/which you can hurt yourself with,/or cut veins. People do things like that."" So, though Amichai is a strong poet, worthy of respect for the risk he takes in this collection, it is only sporadically successful.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row