Page 149 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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behind the organic creative imagination; it is also a constituent o f
the basic structure o f all myth, as conceived by the anthropologist
Claude Levi-Strauss.
This ideal balance, however, is not always achieved. Despite the
tranquil recollection, the opposites are sometimes too real to be
mediated. Thu s we hear, for example, tha t “cool beginnings
cannot conquer, it seems, the scorching summ er’s en d ” (“A
Traveller’s Diary”), or tha t “even a cool and careful text can tu rn
sad, can defeat the peace” (“A Lesson in T ransla tion”). Paradoxi­
cally enough, many o f these unmediated situations are associated
with the creative process itself. The young poet has romantically
set out to save the world — to renew its moon and revive the dying
sun (“Notes on an Ancient Parchment,” 1944). A decade later he
was doubtful whether “a meadow, a pond or a window can dis­
close some clear knowledge,” but he still hoped to find an hou r “in
which each shadow becomes a slice o f sun” (“In the Poem’s For­
est,” 1954). With certainties collapsing and with distrust o f the
world at large, the poem becomes “the only stable g round ,” and
the mature poet adopts the Imagists’ view o f poetry:
After the poem was sung
with its sun and snow
and the vibrant transitions between them,
it breathes as a landscape
concrete and alive on the map
(From “An Island and Its Retreating Sea”)
According to this view, a poem is an objective artifact, “creating its
own climate”; in it, a fusion o f extremities indeed takes place, but
independently o f the creator. Ironically, the poet himself is often
excluded from the harmonic existence he has effected:
Only the poem’s creator,
love-wounded, remains outside:
An island whose sea has retreated.
This ironic self-awareness permeates many o f Preil’s later poems,
beginning with
Fire and Silence
(1968). T he youthful challenge to
the harassment o f T ime is slowly replaced by the acknowledge-