Page 144 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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ernism in Palestine in the thirties), Yiddish had already a ttained
some o f its finest m ode rn verse in America (the
and the
[Introspectivists]). T he earlier modernization o f Yiddish
poetry was no doub t enhanced by its proximity to the innovative
Anglo-American poetic movements o f the time. A parallel effo rt
among Hebrew poets in Palestine resulted in ano ther kind o f
highly stylized verse, mostly rhymed and me tered (Shlonsky and
Alterman) for the simple reason tha t colloquial Hebrew was still
in its infancy, and was unable to outgrow its strong Russian bonds.
In view o f these differences, Preil’s debu t as a Yiddish poet is
indeed instructive. His participation in the last issues o f the
periodical (1936-39) might explain his inclination towards Im-
agism, free verse and the use o f everyday speech in poetry. These
very features, however, were conspicuously absent from the scene
o f American Hebrew poetry o f the time. T he “liberated” norms
already established in Yiddish poetry, had only a tenuous b reak ­
through in the Hebrew verse o f Avraham Ben-Yitzhak (1883-
1950) and David Fogel (1891-1944), written in Europe u n d e r the
influence o f German Modernism.
Thus, we should no t be surprised tha t Preil’s early poetic ou t­
pu t is clearly marked by the tension between two diverging trad i­
tions. Despite the epithets “m odern ist” and “innova tor” used by
his early Hebrew reviewers, more “da r ing” verse can be found
among the Yiddish poems o f the same years (collected la ter in his
only Yiddish volume,
1966). His first Hebrew volume, on
the o ther hand ,
Landscape of Sun and Frost
(1944), is a m ix ture o f
three very d iffe ren t genres. T he majority o f the poems are re ­
plete with traditional Romantic themes and concerns: the painful
passage o f time, personified na tu re , the poe t’s empathy fo r the
world’s agony and fo r the suffering o f child o r mo ther. T he
rhetoric, predictably, follows expected lines: the diction is ra th e r
“h igh ,” the language is loaded and the imagery rich, complete
with anaphoras, invocations, rhetorical questions or o th e r in ten ­
sifying devices. T h e picture o f the world is still quite round ed and
stable, despite its flaws, and the poe t’s role in it is still unm is taka­
bly clear, if painful.
Typical o f this gen re is the open ing poem o f the volume, “Notes
on an Ancient Parchm en t”: