Page 29 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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Ju d a ic re ferences recreate a world that once was, but the clarity
and security it once exu d ed are no longer felt. In descriptions o f a
present-day Jew ish character o f scene, the tone is usually sceptical
or satirical, the poe t ’s point o f view attached more to doub t than
faith, more conscious o f itself as summ on ing the historic past than
a ff irm in g its p ro spec ts fo r continuation.
K lein ’s sign ificance to Canad ian Jew ish letters derives from the
powerful exam p le o f his life and work. At a time when Canad ian
literature was uncongen ial to minorities he dared introduce the
term s and textures o f his own obscure, archaic lore; at the same
time he realized that such evocations were literary, testament to his
depar tu re from the very pieties and ceremon ies he so movingly
celebrated. He understood his pred icam en t with grea ter d is­
cernment than many uncritical readers , that in draw ing upon the
residual culture o f the imm igrant world fo r image and m etaphor,
he was acknow led g ing his re le a se from the exe rc ise o f its
authority. Th is is ruefu lly brough t ou t in “T h e C ripp le ,” a poem
included in his final volume, which describes a fam ou s healing
oratory in Montreal where infirm , faithfu l Catholics are endowed
with knowledge:
They know, they know that suddenly their cares
and orthopedics will f a l l them, and they
stand whole again.
T o which the poet reflexively re spond s,
And I who in my own faith once had faith like this,
but have not now, am crippled more than they.
In one au tob iograph ica l poem which speaks o f the fate o f the
modern poet, Klein wrote,
. . . from our real society he has disappeared; he simply does not
count, . . . he's not dead, but only ignored -
T h e entire career o f Klein’s younger contemporary Irving
Layton is a forcefu l attempt to alter that fate, to make the world
attend to the poe t ’s comm and ing role, his insistent words. Born in
Roumania in 1912, Layton came to C an ada as an infant, and in a
writing life o f nearly fou r decades has published over thirty