Page 111 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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99
R ITTENBERG ----CRITICS SAY
Poems.
B y A .
M.
K
l e i n
.
Philadelphia,
T
h e
J
ew i s h
P
u b l ic a t io n
S
oc i ety
of
A
m e r i c a
,
1944. 82 pages. $2.00.
To the very few who are aware of the central and the permanent it
was clear enough a number of years ago that in the person of Abraham
M. Klein, the Jewries of English speech had at last found a poet. He
lived and felt as a Jew and as a Jew only; he wrote out of his self which
was and is, of course, a Jewish self. He was neither overemphatic nor
over-conscious nor ever looked at Jewish themes from without. Today
he is more deeply aware than ever that poetry comes from deepest wells
of being, personal but also supra-personal.
It is clear at once, then, that Abraham Klein, is a thoroughly modern,
a thoroughly contemporary poet. He has left far behind him the detest-
able nihilistic cliches of day before yesterday, the false universalist slogans,
the servility before the mob. He underwent these follies at sixteen of
course. He is God’s man today and therefore a free man.
In brief, Klein stands at the very center of his Jewishness and there-
fore at the center of his kind of humanity, and so of all humanity and is,
by rigid consequence, one of the few living poets of any kind who can
write of beautiful deep human things according to their proper sanctity
and vestiture.
Klein is deeply conscious of course of the tragic and apocalyptic hour
in the history of our people. He has treated it with grave poignant intel-
lectual passion.
I have scarcely left myself space to speak of Klein’s specific poetic
virtues of style, texture or of his command of the great poetic moment.
The latter he has in abundance.
It is clear that the Jews of English speech have a poet of their own.
— L
u dw ig
L
ew i s o h n
i n
The New Palestine
Emma Lazarus: Selections from her Poetry and Prose.
Edited, with
an introduction, by
M
orr i s
U.
S
c h a p p e s
.
New York,
C
oo p e rat i v e
B
ook
L
e a g u e
,
Jewish-American Section, International Workers
Order, 1944. 105 pages. 50 cents.
The assertion made by Ludwig Lewisohn that Emma Lazarus “wrote
as pseudo-nobly and conventionally as the other sonneteers and odic
gesticulators” of what he termed “an age not of silver but of tin” may
or may not be justified. But she did gain a certain strength from her
interest in the plight of her people. In his lucid introduction to this book,
and again in an appendix, Mr. Schappes destroys the common belief that
the poetess had become conscious of her Jewishness only in the last years
of her short life: her poem “In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport” was
written in 1867, when she was eighteen. It is true, however, that before
the influx of Russian Jewish refugees in the early Eighties her interest
in Judaism and the Jews was placid and undemonstrative; since no prob-
lems confronted her, no action was required.
Few of the many Americans who may remember the lines of “The
New Colossus,” the sonnet by Emma Lazarus which is enshrined at the
base of the Statue of Liberty, are acquainted with the facts of the author-
ess’ life. Of Sephardic lineage, she was born in New York City in 1849.