Page 148 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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138
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
HIS POET IC WORKS
Silberschlag is a leading Hebrew poet who created all his poetry
in America. This had its advantages and disadvantages, as the
poet himself has stressed. America is not fertile soil for Hebrew
poetry, and one must be blessed with an unusual determination
to create for a very limited audience. Silberschlag could write
poetry in several languages, bu t he never did, except for his first
boyish love poems in Polish. Poetry is the language of the heart,
and the heart has its own authoritative wisdom. T he same may
be said of another versatile Hebrew poet who was blessed with
great linguistic abilities and yet wrote poetry only in the Hebrew
vernacular—Saul Tschernichowsky, to whom Silberschlag devoted
a sensitive English monograph, which was published in the
United States and England simultaneously.
Silberschlag produced five books of poetry in which he un ­
folds some of the events of his own life—only in hints, here and
there, and in laconic form, as is his way. His philosophy, how­
ever, permeates his poetry. Silberschlag proves himself a philoso­
pher equipped with a sharp eye and a penetrating mind, who is
interested in many facets of human life and who reacts to them
in his poetry. Moreover, his broad scholarship is reflected in his
work. In his verse, the reader will encounter philosophical and
literary ideas which the poet has incorporated in order to en­
hance his poems. Even though his poetry deals for the most part
with general human themes, his feelings are strongly Jewish.
Still, he cannot remain silent when he perceives Jewish life
beclouded by negative phenomena. When this occurs, he lashes
out and his resultant criticism is harsh, unrelenting and sarcastic.
Except for a few long poems, Silberschlag’s poetry consists
mostly of self-contained lyrical pieces and epigrams. Short and
straightforward, terse and concise, they require effort for com­
prehension because every word is imbued with meaning and
expression. It is difficult to cite examples for the English reader,
because Silberschlag uses complex figures of speech and sound
patterns, sometimes creating new words if he feels tha t the
available vocabulary is inadequate for his poetic needs. W ha t is
clear is that Silberschlag is a master of the Hebrew word. I t is
also obvious that he invests his poetry with all his blessed
faculties and achieves a rare level of excellence.