Page 227 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

Basic HTML Version

— A
mer ican
poets have in the past drawn upon a variety of themes for their
subject matter. T h e decline of the Red Man, the travail of the
Negro, ancient myths and legends, as well as biblical themes,
were among the topics they have treated in individualistic fash-
ion. Some, like Lisitzky and Efros, turned to the epic poem which
provided them w ith greater artistic scope. For the most part,
however, American Hebrew poets found lyrical poetry to be the
metier in which they could best express their feelings of loneli-
ness and alienation.
T h e past quarter century, w ith its climactic events, has im-
pinged forcefully upon the writing of these poets. Always firmly
attached to Zion, their poetry now reflected even a great emo-
tional identification w ith the land. In the work of some o f the
poets there has even been evident a strong polarity as regards
Israel and American Jewish life. In some cases feelings of “gu ilt”
were expressed because of failure to participate in the upbuilding
of the land and in the struggle for Jewish statehood. T h e holo-
caust, too, had its impact and its tragedies are depicted in the
poems of Lisitzky, Bavli, Efros, Silberschlag and Aaron Zeitlin
among others.
As indicated, American influences are clearly discernible in
the work of virtually all these poets. But by no means can their
poetry be considered merely a transplantation from Eastern
Europe, even if it is nurtured on the Bialik tradition. These poets
are equally at home in Shelley and Tennyson, in Sandburg and
Whitman. T h e American influence has been most pronounced
in the poetry o f Gabriel Preil (1911־
), who has three collec*
tions of poetry to his credit. It is as natural for him to use Whit-
man or Washington Irving as the subjects of his writing as it is
to refer to the angel Gabriel or his own grandfather. Preil has
identified closely w ith the American landscape, particularly that
of New England. His imagist blank verse is widely accepted in
Israel, where a selection of his poetry was included in a series
devoted to contemporary Hebrew poets. American motifs and
cadences are evident also in the poems o f Eliezer D. Friedland,
whose first collection appeared in 1966. Like Preil, he has trans-
lated Sandburg, Frost and other American poets.
Leading American Poets
W ith in the scope of this survey we shall be able only to touch
briefly upon the leading American poets. Some have died in the
quarter century under review; others have published a consider-
able corpus of their work in collected form during this time.
T h e poems o f Abraham S. Schwartz (1876-1956) were not
published until three years after his passing. Conservative in