Page 147 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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ABRAMSON / POET OF THE DARK GATE
139
ature both in Europe and in Palestine during the first two dec­
ades of this century. His bleakness, which well accorded with
European interwar modernism, was alien to the prevailing at­
titudes of the
yishuv,
to its ideologies and also to the severely
demarcated thematics and styles prescribed by tradition, con­
vention and the critics to the Hebrew writers of the time. The
words “weakness,” “paleness,” “gentleness,” “spinelessness” re­
cur in descriptions by his contemporaries both of Vogel and
his work. These traits, which have been echoed by later critics,
with the present-day addition of “effeminate,” contrasted
strongly with the positive, masculine ideology proposed by the
yishuv.
Initially Vogel was disliked and misunderstood. His con­
temporaries criticized his individualism at a time when commu­
nal problems were regarded as paramount. Bialik derided him
and exposed his irritation at Vogel’s blank verse and his abstruse
subject matter, reprimanding him for his linguistic usages. He
deemd Vogel’s work devoid of logic. Benzion Benshalom set
the tone in 1927 by exclaiming: “Vogelism? God forbid! Hebrew
poetry must choose others for itself.”30 Brenner, always the
iconoclast, saw some merit in Vogel and favourably compared
him to Avraham Ben-Yitzhak. Despite other critical supporters,
never vociferous but cautiously approving, such as Hillel Bavli,
Asher Barash and Y.D. Berkowitz who published him in his
New York journal,
Miklat,
Vogel’s curious structures and themes
alienated the majority of his contemporary critics. Avigdor
Hameiri complained about his excessive imagery, and mocked
and parodied him. There has been much debate about
Shlonsky’s well-known comments about Vogel’s first volume,
Lifnei ha-shaar ha-afel.
Shlonsky’s savaged Vogel’s verse in a piece
of scathing satire which mocked his extensive use of “black”
and his sadness and nostalgia.31 It is clear that Shlonsky either
did not like or had not sufficiently explored German Expres­
sionist verse.
In a lecture entitled
Lashon ve-signon ba-sifrut ha-tze’irah
(Lan­
guage and style in the new literature) given in Warsaw in 1931
Vogel retaliated by deriding the pretentious language of the
Hebrew writers, singling Shlonsky out for particular scorn. This
30. Pagis,
op. cit.,
200.
31. See Uzi Shavit. “Beyn Shlonsky le-Vogel,”
Hasifrut,
April, 1973, vol. 3, no.
2, 251 ff.