Page 63 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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Return to 1948: Amichai’s ‘Jubilees
of War’ and ‘We Did Our Duty’
i s f i t t i n g t h a t t h e
occasion of Yehuda Amichai’s seventieth
birthday should prompt a further glance at one of the most
sensitive areas of his poetry: the poetry of war which in one
guise or another has animated his work as a whole: war as battle,
as political system and as an image of personal, internal struggle.
As it happens, Amichai’s latest poetry has a retrospective sense
to it, incorporating an evaluative examination of his early
themes and revealing the crystallization of his own art of poetic
discourse. A poem entitled
Mufnam patuah
(literally, “introvert­
ed open”)1summarizes the tone of poetry that considers its own
making and the relationship of the artist to his own creativity
or what in earlier times would have been called his muse.
Amichai’s recent poetry has generally become more discursive,
elegiac and formalized. In the later collections there are signif­
icant omissions: God, the constant subtextual precept in the ear­
ly work is all but absent in the poetry of the 1980s, an absence
made ambiguous by its constant iteration. The rich texture of
biblical, rabbinic and liturgical intertextuality and allusion has
given way to simpler, more imagistic verse whose principal color
is provided by simile. The retained
in the poetry have
altered. In the past, love was vivid, sexual, a rebuff to God,
a means of inventing memory. Now it is no more than memory
itself and the loved one, a composite of all the loved ones, is
preserved every-youthful like an artefact in a museum. The war
* I am grateful to Dr. David Patterson for having read and commented on
this paper.
Gam ha-egrof pa’am hayah yad petuhah ve-etzbaot
(The fist too was once an
open hand and fingers), Schocken Books, 1989, p. 106.