Thursday, 19 May 2016

POET OF THE MONTH #36: Yehuda Amichai

c 1970


A man doesn't have time in his life
to have time for everything.

He doesn't have seasons enough to have
a season for every purpose.

Was wrong about that.

A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment,
to laugh and cry with the same eyes,
with the same hands to throw stones and to gather them,
to make love in war and war in love.

And to hate and forgive and remember and forget,
to arrange and confuse, to eat and to digest
what history
takes years and years to do.

A man doesn't have time.

When he loses he seeks, when he finds
he forgets, when he forgets he loves, when he loves
he begins to forget.

And his soul is seasoned, his soul
is very professional.

Only his body remains forever
an amateur.
It tries and it misses,
gets muddled, doesn't learn a thing,
drunk and blind in its pleasures
and its pains.

He will die as figs die in autumn,
Shriveled and full of himself and sweet,
the leaves growing dry on the ground,
the bare branches pointing to the place
where there's time for everything.

Translator uncredited

? 1970

The Poet:  The following biographical statement appears on the Poetry Soup website.  [It is re-posted here for information purposes only and, like the poem re-posted above, remains its author's exclusive copyright-protected intellectual property.]

Yehuda Amichai (1924 2000) was an Israeli poet.  Amichai is considered by many to be the greatest modern Israeli poet, and was one of the first to write in colloquial Hebrew.  His writings often dealt with the issues of day-to-day life, and were less overtly literary than many nineteenth century Hebrew poets such as Hayyim Nahman Bialik.  His writings are characterized by gentle irony and the pain of damaged love.  It was a love for people, for a religion and for a land, most of all it was a love for the city of Jerusalem.

Amichai was born in Würzburg, Germany, as Ludwig Pfeuffer, then immigrated with his family to Palestine in 1936.  He fought in  World War II (British Army Jewish Brigade) and the Israeli War of Independence as a young man.  He became an advocate of peace and reconciliation in the region, working with Palestinian writers.

He was 'discovered' in 1965 by Ted Hughes, who later translated several of Amichai's books.

'He should have won the Nobel Prize in any of the last 20 years,' wrote Jonathan Wilson in The New York Times (December 10, 2000), 'but he knew that as far as the Scandinavian judges were concerned, and whatever his personal politics, which were indubitably on the dove-ish side, he came from the wrong side of the stockade.'

Amichai once noted that all poetry is political.  'This,' he said, 'is because real poems deal with a human response to reality, and politics is part of reality, history in the making…Even if a poet writes about sitting in a glass house drinking tea, it reflects politics.'  Despite this, he's regarded as one of the most 'accessible' of all twentieth century poets, one whose work has been translated into English, French, German, Spanish and Catalan and widely published in the USA, the UK and Europe.

Click HERE to read more poems by YEHUDA AMICHAI at the Poetry Soup website.  You can also click HERE to read more of his work at

You might also enjoy:
POET OF THE MONTH #27: Adam Zagajewski
POET OF THE MONTH #24: Nazim Hikmet
POET OF THE MONTH #22: Fay Zwicky 

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