Select­ed Poet­ry and Drama

Lea Gold­berg; Rachel Tzvia Back, T. Car­mi, trans.
  • Review
By – July 13, 2012
Prus­sia-born and Lithua­nia-raised Lea Gold­berg emi­grat­ed to Pales­tine in 1935, exchanged Russ­ian for Hebrew, and began a career as one of Israel’s most beloved poets. An Israeli Emi­ly Dick­in­son with a strong mys­ti­cal streak that had to have been derived from the study of Tal­mud and Kab­bal­ah, Goldberg’s theme was the inti­mate, the indi­vid­ual in an age of de-indi­vid­u­a­tion; her poet­ry reflects dai­ly life in the mir­ror of the divine: I am the one on high,/I am the many in the deep./My image, dou­bled image,/from the riv­er looks back at me. From her ear­li­est col­lec­tion On the Flow­er­ing (1948) to her astound­ing, more dif­fi­cult late work in The Remains of Life (1978), Goldberg’s poet­ry remained anachro­nis­ti­cal­ly tra­di­tion­al in rev­o­lu­tion­ary times, not in reac­tion, not out of igno­rance, but out of the deep­est con­vic­tion of the holi­ness of utter­ance, and the sub­lime respect for a lan­guage that com­mu­ni­cates, that not only brings peo­ple togeth­er but can also unite past and future, the liv­ing and the dead. Still, it is Goldberg’s inter­mit­tent doubt that sounds the most pow­er­ful­ly. A young poet sud­den­ly falls silent/​for fear of telling the truth./An old poet falls silent for fear/​the best in a poem/​is its lie .

Joshua Cohen is the author of Witz, The Heav­en of Oth­ers, The Quo­rum, Caden­za for the Schnei­der­mann Vio­lin Con­cer­to, among oth­er titles.

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