Page 29 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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Jewish Poetry’s Quantum Leap
the Illusion o f Holiness
i n
p o e t
John Hollander encapsulated the dream wish o f
every poet who not only attempts to bridge the gap between
“the dancer and the dance,” but who also feels compelled to
resolve the estrangem ent between the process o f writing and
the units o f expression — letters/syllables/words themselves. In
Reflections on Espionage
, he writes:
.. .
one would want to be
Able to look upon his literal world
H a lfforgetting what it enciphered; one would
Want to walk one's gaze among the cool columns
Of letter groups, through the shades of averted
Signification. That would be the one world
Where letter itself was all the spirit that
I f poets are historians o f the past, in terp re ters o f the present,
and prophe ts o f a fu tu re constructed from currencies o f both,
Ho llander’s words would resonate with those o f professor and
poet Allen Grossman at a recent Boston University conference
on Jewish poetry. Declaring that “ . . . in the nuclear age all
poetry must change its characteristics,”2 Grossman justifies his
statement by distinguishing between the fictive and sacred,
maintaining that the two categories repel one ano ther because
“the poetic defers the sacred (as represen ta tion defers the
unpresentability o f God) which is nonetheless the destination
o f all things.” He invites us, in one o f his own poems, “The
Sieve,” to
1. Hollander, John,
Spectral Emanations: New and Selected Poems
(New York: Ath-
eneum, 1978).
2. Grossman, Allen, “The Sieve’ and Remarks Toward a Jewish Poetry,”
(May/June, 1990), p. 45.