Page 147 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

Basic HTML Version

SAGIV-FELDMAN / GABRIEL PREIL
1 3 7
dence in Preil’s second volume (the section “From American
Landscapes,” particularly “Walt Whitman and the Coachman,”
“An American Graveyard,” “Poems for Avia” and “Walks”). Yet
the first indications o f this genre can be found in the shorter
narratives o f Nancy Lincoln, G randpa John or Franz Hals in the
first volume. Unfortunately , none o f these longer poems has as
yet been translated into English. Preil himself has phased them
out in his later poetry. T here seems, however, to be a welcome
re tu rn o f similar poems among those he has published more
recently (“Gino in Jerusa lem ,” “Yehuda Leib Teller”). Hopefully,
these will be incorporated into his next volume.
There is no doubt, nevertheless, tha t the dom inant fea ture of
Preil’s poetry, as well as his underlying forte, is the imagistic or the
quasi-imagistic poem. In later collections (
Map of Evening,
1961,
and i'm?
and Silence
, 1968), his utmost attention is devoted to the
sights, colors and shapes of the world surround ing him. One
sometimes gets the impression tha t the poet is a fru s tra ted
painter, as when he describes the yellow sunset, or when he often
compares himself to various painters. More often, however, the
scenes, lively and picturesque as they may be, only serve as a
vehicle to describe (not to express!) a mood, an emotion, a state of
affairs: “Jerusa lem ’s Au tumn” conjures up the presence o f a
woman; “the re trea ting sea” and the “heavily laden railroad car”
signify the moment o f poetic creation.
Most interesting is the way in which the poet exploits the visual
dimension in o rde r to delineate the otherwise uncapturable pas­
sage o f time: the recollected sights o f a “L ithuanian A u tum n” are
juxtaposed with the p resen t vistas o f an American spring, or with
the “snowy valley o f the mo ther.” It seems tha t the poet’s initial
concern with time, which had prom p ted him to write “A Letter
from Man to T im e” (
Landscape of Sun and Frost,
p. 11), was rele­
gated to the background , only to surface again in his most recent
poetry (
Poemsfrom End to End,
1976). After a phase, du ring which
Preil abandons himself to the sweeping scenes and colors, he
seems to come to the realization “tha t
time, color-blind
and
tone deaf,
is the thief and the the ft” (“A Letter”). In o ther words, the rich
color, and (to a lesser degree) the musicality o f Preil’s verbal art,
are his ammunition in his war against his arch enemy, the color­
blind, and tone-deaf Time. Time inflicts on him “rusty foliage”
and “snowy valley” (“My Time Now”); “rustiness of things” and
“nighttime disputes” (“Cities Within Me”); “rust o f time” and sour