Page 35 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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Occasions dear: the four-legged
And angel pennies dropping on my book;
The rabbi patting a coming scholar-head;
My mother, blessing candles, Sabbath-flamed,
Queenly in her Warsovian perruque;
My father pickabacking me to bed
To tell tall tales about the Baal Shem Tov
Letting me curl his beard.
Oh memory of unsurpassing love
. . .
For the poet these are “immortal days” from which “All days
thereafter are a dying off / A wandering away / From home and
the familiar.”
Yet, he insists, the evocation of the past is not merely in the
service of a fatuous nostalgia; rather he seeks
The strength and vividness of nonage days,
Not tranquil recollection of event.
It is a fabled city that I seek;
It stands in Space’s vapours and Time’s haze . . .
Simply by referring to the fabulous, to personifications of space
and time, Klein indicates how powerful a hold the past has
on his imagination even while he admits to its transmutation
into fable, a condition without incarnate presence.
I f his ambivalence toward Jewish past and present furnishes
Klein with a rich vein of creative tension, so does his troubled
awareness about his chosen role of poet. In his frequent citation
of Israel’s singers — Deborah, David, Isaiah, Yehudah Halevi
— Klein identifies with these predecessors, with their capacity
to realize their poetic vocations within the national drama of
their times. His own time, however, is different. He knows all
too well the public’s indifference to poetry, the diminution of
the audience, the poet’s isolation from the people he seeks to
address. Once again, it is the very nature of his dilemma which
provides his subject matter, creating poems from the very con­
dition that would seem to militate against their coming into
In “Portrait Of The Poet As Landscape” (which appeared