A kaleidoscope, as this book is entitled, is an instrument showing many different patterns of continuing changing forms, suggesting that poets Raquel Chalfi, Ory Bernstein, and Shimon Adaf are illustrative of just that. Drawn from three generations of Israeli poets, their writing represents to us, as the editor Howard Astor states, the “footprints” of their personal literature, hopefully over time to reflect those of the nation.
Raquel Chalfi, already an award-winning short story writer when she began writing poetry in 1975, continues to write compassionately of life, combining artistic sensitivity and humor. “The Water Queen of Jerusalem/has a bathing suit made of Yiddish”) Her poems “Elegy for a Friend Who has Lost her Mind,” “Time, that Wonderful Wild Horse,” and her nine poems with a form of “witchery” in the title, are at once beguiling and seductive, as are her many allusions to non-human creatures: the chameleon, the barracuda, the porcupine. Her quiet poem “The love of trees” ends on an elegiac note: “There’s nothing like a quiet hug with a large tree/to chase away/the demons.”
Ory Bernstein, born in 1936 developed a law practice specializing in criminal law when already a prolific and highly regarded poet. In his maturity he is drawn to the sadness of the passage of time, and the helplessness of those who age around him. The tone is faintly reminiscent of Theodore Roethke and late Philip Roth in “My Father in Declivity” (“I washed him in the tub/…Purifying his shy flesh” “Father’s days passed/and with them/went the friends…who now appear in the obituaries”) or “All My friends in their Gardens” (How many friends do I have?/ Only those who think about me/before I fall asleep”)
Shimon Adaf was born in 1972 in Sderot to Moroccan parents. Contrary to expectation, the poetry of this writer from a Sephardic tradition reflects a strong pull to Western classical imagery. He writes of Orpheus, Cassandra, Icarus and Daedelus. Through his profound imagery, Adaf is able to bridge the chasm of classicism to the sadness of his own realm. In “Daedelus Speaks” he writes, “I had a son,/ and I was a terrible tiredness.” His later poems “Scab,” “A Confession,” and “Remains” all harbor a profound sense of irretrievable loss as does this, “But now forgetting is the sole power.“
Kaleidoscope, a slender book representing selected poems of Chalfi, Bernstein, and Adaf, is only a taste of the immense output of these three very accomplished multi-generational poets of Israel, each of whom is already widely recognized as a gifted artist. Written originally in Hebrew, the music of the poets’ words is preserved for us the fortunate readers through the art of excellent translation.
Biographical notes, essays, summary of published works.