Page 146 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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the grea t concerns o f the world at large. He is mostly preoccup ied
with the poetic process itself, or with the existence o f the poem as
an independen t object, as in “In the Poem’s Forest” (1954), “An
Island and Its Retreating Sea” (1961) and “T he First Line o f a
Poem” (1968). These new themes are appropriately expressed in
a novel style, quite rem iniscent o f Preil’s early Yiddish poetry.
T he beginnings o f this poetic innovation, however, can be traced
back to some o f the “d iffe ren t” poems o f the first period . T hu s we
find among the predom inantly Romantic poems o f
Landscape of
Sun and Frost,
some experiments in “p u re ” Imagism. Most m em ­
orable o f this second genre is a compact poem, properly entitled
“Chinese Embroidery”:
Night sleeps in her hair.
She carries a slender, gentle dawn,
a gift fo r the sea.
Stars blossom in her face.
She brings a basket of suns -
day is born.
Seas and days are ladders
upon which ascend
the feet of gods.
The dramatic divergence between these two genres canno t be
over-emphasized: the string o f lucid images, seemingly discon­
nected, the “lowering” and “th inn ing” o f both diction and syntax,
and the disappearing o f the poet’s direct voice — all these foretell
the crisp shape tha t many o f Preil’s poems will assume in his la ter
years. In his second volume,
Candles against the Stars,
1954, he does
indeed gradually desert Romanticism for Imagism, and p refers
the spoken idiom to the Romantic pathos, thus becoming the only
exception to the no rm o f Hebrew poetry in America. He also
preceded the modernistic trend o f Israeli poetry in the fifties and
sixties, and became the connecting link between it and the p rew ar
modern poets, Ben-Yitzhak and Fogel.
This bias fo r the spoken idiom is also embodied in a th ird and
very d iffe ren t gen re — the narra tive poem. T h e narra tive-
descriptive poem, with its long Whitmanesque lines, takes p rece­