Still a small voice

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Still a small voice toward an American-Jewish poetry
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American poetry -- Jewish authors -- History and criticism   ( lcsh )
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English thesis Ph. D
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Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1988.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Richard S. Chess.
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Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.

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TOWARD


STILL A SMALL VOICE
AN AMERICAN-JEWISH


POETRY


RICHARD


A DI
OF THE


CHESS


SSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY


UNIVERSITY (


FLORIDA






























Copyright 1988

by


Richard


Chess















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS



I am deeply indebted to many people for the invaluable

assistance they have given me while working on this project.

I have been blessed with a generous and harmonious committee


that calmly,


thoroughly and efficiently evaluated my work


it progressed, raising challenging questions and offering


pertinent insights along the way.


committee's refusal


Above all,


impose ideas on me forced me to


become an independent and confident thinker. Warren Bargad

and Andrew Gordon encouraged me at moments when, unbeknownst


to them,


I was on the verge of abandoning the work.


Brandon


Kershner has offered good friendship and good advice for six


years;


his astute criticism has helped me improve my poetry


and prose.

In addition to teaching me how to live a sane,

compassionate life, Sheldon Isenberg has introduced me to


the Jewish mystical


tradition, a tradition which has come to


captivate my imagination and stimulate my heart.

Justice, one of the few true artists of our age,

introduced me to the intelligence of poetry. He


Donald

has


is a master










of aesthetic and moral standards, standards which I


aspire to uphold throughout my

On a less formal basis, s


will


life.


several people have contributed


substantially to the completion of this project.


Helene


Myers insisted on the value of the project at times when I

was certain I had chosen an inappropriate subject for


serious literary investigation.


Herbert Levine and Ellen


Frankel share a passionate interest and deep knowledge about


the subject of American-Jewish poetry;


I spent many


evenings engaged in spirited discussion with them, evenings

which left me feeling not only inadequate to the task but


determined to prove to them,


to prove to myself that the


interaction between Jewishness and modern and contemporary

American poetry was vital.

My parents, Shirley and Al, my brothers, Mark and Jay,

and my grandmother, Jean, may have misunderstood the nature

of this work from the beginning, but they always understood

my nature and gave me solace when I needed it and helped me

keep my sense of humor alive even during the grimmest


moments.


Mary Jo Thomas gave me the rare opportunity to


expound my ideas over countless dinners.


Our vigorous


exchanges during those delightful meals taught me more about


literature than most of my course work.


Finally,


there is











had since arriving in Gainesville


years


ago.


She has


given me life and, consequently,


the life-giving force


behind this work.


I am grateful


to the following publishers and


copyright


holders for permission to use the material reprinted in this

dissertation:


Robert Alter: From The Art of Biblical Poetry.


Copyright


1985 by Basic Books,


Inc.


Reprinted by permission of Basic


Book


Inc.


Jacob Glatstein:


"Genesis,


" in The Penguin Book of Modern


Yiddish Verse, edited by


Irving Howe, Ruth Wisse, and Chone


Shmeruk.


Copyright 1987 by


Irving Howe, Ruth Wiss


Chone Shmeruk.


Reprinted by permission of Viking Penguin,


Inc.


Moyshe-Leyb Halpern: "The Will,
Modern Yiddish Verse, edited by


" in The Penguin Book of


Irving Howe, Ruth Wi


sse,


Chone Shmeruk.
and Chone Shmeru


Penguin,


Copyright 1987 by


Irving Howe, Ruth Wiss


Reprinted by permission of Viking


Inc.


John Hollander: From "Violet,


" in Spectral Emanantions: New


and Selected Poems. Copyr
by permission of Atheneum.


eightt 1978 by Atheneum.


Reprinted


David Ignatow: From The Notebooks of David Ignatow, ed.


Ralph J. Mills, Jr.


Copyright 197


Reprinted by permission of the autho


by David Ignatow.
r. "I Felt," "Without


Fear,


" "The Rightful One,"


Case


History," "Versicle and


Response," "Harold,"
Gasworks," and "Bower


"Europe and America,
v." in Poems 1934 -


1970 by Wesleyan University Press.


" "Get the
1969, copyright


Reprinted by permission


of the author.


"Kaddish,


" "The Image," "The Diner," "In My


Dream," "The Reply," "85," "Thi
"Company," and "The Refuse Man,


s newspaper states .


. ,


" in New and Collected Poems,


1970


1985, copyright 1986 by Wesleyan University


Press.


Reprinted by permission of the author.


From Open Between


Us, copyright 1980 by The University of Michigan Press.


Reprinted byv permission of The University of Michiaan


DPec


A- A- '-p k '-2


.










Philip Levine:


"Silent


in America,


" "Baby Villon,"


in Not


This Pig, copyright 1968 by Wesleyan University Press.


"Berenda Slough,"
House," "The Turni
Stone Wall Press.


"The Face," in


YI


"Green Thumb," "For Fran," "In A Vacant
ng," in On the Edge, copyright 1961 by The
Reprinted by permission of K. K. Merker.
ears From Somewhere, copyright 1980 by


Atheneum;


"My Son and I,


" "Gift for a Believer,"


Names of the Lost, copyright 1976 by Atheneum;


in The
"Sweet


Will,


" "Jewish Graveyards,


Italy,"


in Sweet Will, copyright


1985 by Atheneum;


"On A Draw


copyright 1979 by Atheneum;


ing By Flavio," in Ashes,
"A Walk with Tom Jefferson,


" in


A Walk with Tom Jefferson, copyright 1988 by Atheneum.
Reprinted by permission of Atheneum. From Don't Ask,
copyright 1981 by The University of Michigan Press.
Reprinted by permission of The University of Michigan Press.


Mani Leyb:
Book of Mod


"I Am," "To the Gentile Poet," in The Penguin


ern Yiddish


Vers


e, edited by


Irving Howe, Ruth


Wisse, and Chone Shmeruk. Cop
Ruth Wisse, and Chone Shmeruk.


Viking Penguin,


rightt 1987 by Irving Howe,
Reprinted by permission of


Inc.


Kadya Molodovsky: "God of Mercy," in The Penguin Book of
Modern Yiddish Verse, edited by Irving Howe, Ruth Wisse, a
Chone Shmeruk. Copyright 1987 by Irving Howe, Ruth Wisse,
and Chone Shmeruk. Reprinted by permission of Viking


Penguin,


Inc.


Charles Reznikoff:


"Kaddish,"


in Poems 1918


1936:


Volume I


of The Complete Poems, copyright 1978 by Black Sparrow
Press. Reprinted by permission of Black Sparrow Press.


Morris Rosenfeld:


Modern Yiddish


"The


Verse,


Sweatshop," in The Penguin Book of
edited by Irving Howe, Ruth Wisse, and


Chone Shmeruk. Copyright 1987 by Irving Howe, Ruth Wisse,
and Chone Shmeruk. Reprinted by permission of Viking


Penguin,


Inc.


Karl Shapiro:


"The Alphabet,"


"Israel,


" "The Dirty Word,"


"University," "Washington Cathedral,
Exiles," "The Olive Tree," "The Conf


" "Travelogue for
irmation," "The First


Time," "The Leg," "Lord,


I Have


Seen


Too Much," "The


Crucifi


x in the Filing Cabinet,"


Moses," "Adam and Eve,"


in Poems of


"Jew," "The Murder of


Jew, copyright 1958 by


Random House.


From In Defense of Ignorance, copyright 1960


by Random House.


Reprinted by permission of Random Ho


use













TABLE OF CONTENTS


page


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.......................................


ABSTRACT.............................................. viii

CHAPTERS


STILL A SMALL VOICE........................


KARL SHAPIRO'S FRONTAL ATTACK


DAVID IGNATOW: THE REFUSE MAN...............


Notes................. ...................... 121


PHILIP LEVINE'S TURNING..................... 122


TOWARD AN AMERICAN-JEWISH POETRY............ 155


Notes....................................... 162

BIBLIOGRAPHY.......................................... 163

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH................................... 169


Notes.......................................


Notes......................................


Notes....................................... 153

















Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy

STILL A SMALL VOICE:
TOWARD AN AMERICAN-JEWISH POETRY

By


Richard


S. Chess


August 1988


Chairman: Donald Justice


Major Department


: English


When the history of twentieth-century American poetry


is written,


literary historians will have to take into


account the proliferation of American-Jewish poetry.


Like


American-Jewish life in the twentieth-century, American-


Jewish poetry is predominantly secular


in nature.


particularly Jewish issues which concern many American-


Jewish poets


include the threat of anti-Semitism,


chauvinistic belief in Jewish exclusivity, and the weakening


ties to their Jewish familial pasts.


While few American-


Jewish poets choose to write overtly of their experiences

Jews, many write of experiences that clearly exhibit the










experiences.


Few American-Jewish poets have chosen to


advance their understanding of Jewish experience through


their adult years. Through the works of Karl Shapiro, David

Ignatow and Philip Levine, three important twentieth-century

American-Jewish poets, we can identify some of the ways in


which Jewish experience continues to inform the poetry of

American-Jewish poets, even when those poets appear to be

fully assimilated into American life.


















CHAPTER 1
STILL A SMALL VOICE




If one bases his judgment on the evidence of modern and


contemporary American poetry,


he might easily conclude that


the assimilation of Jews into American culture has been an

astounding success, even from the earliest days of the


twentieth century.


Jewish literary critics, anxious to


characterize a distinctive Jewish voi


in American poetry,


often attribute the failures of American-Jewish poetry to


its apparent assimilated nature.


In "The Sorrows of


American-Jewish Poetry,"


a touchstone


essay


on the subject,


Harold Bloom concludes,


though it causes me real grief to say thi


, the


achievement of American-Jewish poets down to the
present moment remains a modest and mixed one.


There are no Bellows


or Malamuds among them,


though there are a few signs that this melancholy
estimate may need to be revised upward.1


Twenty years later,


in a 1988 review


essay


of three recent


translations of Yiddish-American poetry, Bloom does revise














We shall carry it


Down inside a pitcher


Out into the field,


[a candle]


late


Wonderers errant in
Among the rich flowers.

Like a star reflected
In a cup of water,
It will light up no path:


Neither will it go out.


As Bloom informs us,


this passage from John Hollander's


"Spectral Emanations" alludes to a custom carried on by


villagers in Northern Portugal


who, as late as the 1920s,


still lighted candles in pitchers on Friday nights without


knowing why, except that it was an old family custom;


were unknowing Marranos, Jews whose ancestor


these


had undergone


forced conversion at the time of the Spanish Inquisition.


Bloom


sees


in the passage "a tragic metaphor for what yet


could become the American-Jewish relation to an ancient


trad it ion"


and asks,


"Does a candle that lights up no path


still matter, even if


it will not go out?"


Many American


Jews of Bloom's generation,


in fact,


find themselves


in a


situation similar to that of the Marranos alluded to here:

they continue to perform the rituals their grandparents or


nrazeVn lr'.r ,,h4 4-4vn i t 4-k 4 a Cram r. rm a -njA


A~r. C AYH













Bloom's


assessment


state


American-Jewish


poetry


concludes


is echoed


that


Herbert


"most


Levine,


American-Jewish


a younger


writers


critic,


. write


a non-Jewish


language


know


Jewish meanings


they


are


unable


convey.


As Levine


sees


most


American-Jewish


poets


have


lost


ties


ancient


tradition:


they


can


longer


even


perform


the meaningless


ritual


write


a Jewish


language,


which


he must mean


Yiddish


Hebrew)


which


would


establish


least


a weak


connection


their


past.


Levine


even


goes


challenge


validity


literary


study


American-


Jewish


poetry.


would


contend


that


hyphenated


term,


American-Jewish


writer,


only meaningful


sociological


distinction,


literary


historical


one"


(HL,2


While


Bloom


is more


positive


than


Levine


about


state


of American-Jewish


poetry,


both men


share


belief


that


true


Jewish


poetry,


whatever


national


identity,


must


be composed


from


within


a covenantal


framework.


After


all,


historically


been


allegiance


covenant


that


defined


essay


sorrow


community


observing


Jews.


that,


Bloom


"[t] here


concludes


recovery


of covenant,


Law,


without


confronting


again,


i ~ I -


K1












poetry is what it must be:


the persistence in seeking to


recover what once our ancestors had"


(SAJP,262).


Though


Levine wisely rejects Bloom's prescription


as nostalgic,


too calls for the surrender of individual expression in


favor of a communal


vision, calls,


in fact,


for a renewed


confrontation with the divine.


"The work of the Jewish


people is to create its own collective liturgy,


its own


prophecy,


its own destiny.


American-Jewish poets can join


in the work, but only after they drop their hyphens"

(HL,27).

The position of Bloom and Levine is arrogantly narrow-


minded.


Jews have been writing and publishing serious


poetry in America for at least 100 years.


It is true that


during this time there has yet to emerge a substantial body


of poetry that could be pointed to and identified


exclusively Jewish.


But we should not expect such a thing,


for the Jewish experience in the diaspora has not been


characterized by isolation, but integration.


Neither has


been characterized by a direct confrontation with the


covenant.


Indeed,


the experience of many twentieth-century


American Jews has been secular, not religious.


of the Reform movement, which


Even members


I constitutes a significant













American-Jewish


experience.


Furthermore,


reasonable


reader


should


expect


find


certain


features


American-Jewish


poem


which


indeed


represent


particular


Jewish


experience


author


along


with


features


reflecting


a multiplicity


Nonetheless,


cannot


other


help


influences.


share


disappointment


of Bloom


Levine


that


when


regarded


from


an exclusively


Jewish


point


view,


poetry


American


Jews


fails


on many


counts.


one


thing,


despite


quantity


poetry


published


American-Jewish


poets,


relatively


poems


address


explicitly


Jewish


subjects.


The occasional


Jewish


poem


one


does


stumble


upon,


often


with


surprise


didn't


know


was


Jewish!"),


is more


than


likely


characterized


absence


passion


conviction,


especially


when


compared


with


poet's


other work.


portrait


of a grandparent,


anecdote


an encounter


between


an old-world


father


new-world


son,


reminder


Holocaust--these


are


some


Jewish


subjects


commonly


treated


American-Jewish


poet.


lackluster


performance


in many


these


poems,


which


seem


primarily motivated


nostalgia


guilt,


, finally,


indicative


poet


s ambivalence


toward












consciousness which is


in part shaped by Jewish cultural


experience,


informing these poems?


I believe so, and


through an investigation of the poetry of three American


poets,


Karl Shapiro, David Ignatow and Philip Levine I hope


to demonstrate this.


Each of these poets,


is true of virtually every


mainstream American-Jewish poet,


views himself


operating


outside of the narrowly circumscribed congregation of Jews.

Nonetheless, each retains the often nagging consciousness of


a Jew.


Though under most circumstances the poet writes with


little apparent regard to this feature of hi


s or her psychic


makeup,


it may at all


times be operative,


influencing the


poet's work in ways he may not detect.


On other occasions,


stimulated by some outside force--a historical event, a


personal brush with anti-Semitism,


a death in the family,


etc.--the Jewish component may rise to the front of his

consciousness, demanding the poet's full attention.


The articulation of a Jewish consciousness


in modern


and contemporary poetry reflects an individualistic response


to Jewish life.


Consequently,


"one must always attend to


the particular ways in which Jewish experience impinges on


the individual, and this


impingement is bound to differ in












his method of reading takes


into account the dynamics of


Jewishness interacting with serious modern and contemporary


literature.


Following Alter's lead then,


I will not search


for behavioral or attitudinal characteristics of the Jews


represented in the poems of Shapiro,


Instead,


Ignatow and Levine.


I will identify the characteristic expression of


Jew in each poet's work.


Shapiro himself in fact


underscores the individualistic nature of Jewish life in the

twentieth century, and hence the validity of this approach,


by entitling his selected poems,


Poems of a Jew.


As the American-Jewish poet steps outside of the Jewish


community,

aesthetics.


in its place he may enter the temple of

In fact, Jewish literary critics complain that


the American-Jewish poet replaces an allegiance to God with


an allegiance to aesthetic principles.


when he observes that


Bloom expresses this


"All post-Enlightenment poetry in


English tends to be a displaced Protestantism .


* a 9


that the faith in a Person easily enough is displaced into


an initial devotion to the god-like precursor poet.


This,"


he continues,


"to understate it,


is hardly a very Jewish


process, and yet something like it seems necessary if poets


are to continue to be incarnated"


(SAJP,253).


Bloom labels


__











8

very recently, my whole life was given over to the religion


of Art,


which is the religion of the Gentile


nations.


The whole interest in form and formal


criticism, an objectifying of the literary text, elevating

the literary text to the status of idol, according to Ozick,


derives from Greek culture,


not Jewish, and is finally


antithetical


to Jewish values.


What Ozick proposes is a


Jewish Diaspora literature which,


religious,


though not necessarily


is written from within the framework of the


covenant in that it does not seek to replace God with a


literary text and in that its


interest is more in the


gristle of human reality than in the perfection of literary

form.


Herbert Levine,


too,


who is more committed to the


practice of a Jewish lifestyle and more knowledgeable about


traditional Judaism than Bloom,


poem to be characterized


feels that in order for a


truly Jewish it must be written


from within a matrix of Jewish values and concerns, not,


Levine's statement implies,


a matrix of strictly


aes


thetic


values and concerns.


Franz Rosenzweig


. defined the six points of


the Star of David as representing God, land,
people, creation, revelation, and redemption.


I










9

writers would not actively seek to locate themselves within


such a configuration.


But one or more of those six points


consistently seems to locate itself within the consciousness


of the American-Jewish writer.


perspective,


from a less mystical


we could say that even the most minimal contact


with Jewish culture in a writer's childhood is sufficient to


expose him to one or more of those points,


which will


subsequently continue to influence the poet throughout his

lifetime.

While I share the sense that an American-Jewish poetry

centered on covenantal principles, or one that consciously

wrestled with covenantal principles, could yield a poetry

that was more thoroughly Jewish and that might finally

engage a Jewish audience, at least an intellectual Jewish


audience,


I disagree vigorously with the implication that to


accomplish this the poet must limit his commitment to


aesthetic values.


Abundant evidence demonstrates that those


poets who do limit themselves to parochial interests may

indeed find a readership, however slight, within the Jewish


community,


though the poems written,


lacking artistic


integrity,


will make no lasting contribution to the


development of either Jewish or American culture.


I am












consciousness of these poets that they

world of which they write.


Furthermore,


lose sight of the


I believe this study will demonstrate,


among the interesting, diverse and lively crowd of American-

Jewish poets who do strive for artistic integrity, a


dialogue with the Jewish past continues,


however


indirectly


or faintly that dialogue


is recorded.


The breadth of the


dialogue is,


naturally,


limited by each poet's own Jewish


experiences and education,


which in most


cases


are typically


social and cultural rather than religious and historical.


Nonetheless,


these Jewish experiences, often originating in


childhood, are powerful enough to produce a lasting effect

on each poet's work.


Whatever the source of Jewish influence on him,


American-Jewish poet writing in English seems to experience

greater freedom to choose whether or not to confront his

Jewishness directly in poetry than the other significant


group of American-Jewish poets:


those writing in Yiddish.


Several examples of American-Yiddish poetry,

linked immediately to Jewish heritage by, if


which remains


nothing else,


the language in which it is written, demonstrate more

overtly than American-Jewish poetry written in English the
~ ~~~~ ~~ S*- .__ e 4_ _












American


feet


conversation


English


of Whitman


with


literary


Keats


poetic


traditions.


enters


forebears,


schooled


an ongoing


occasionally


admitting


subject


foreign


that


literary


tradition,


subject


Jew,


into


work.


Indeed,


writing


directly


Jew


often


constitutes


self-conscious


relatively


courageous


writing


part


English.


the American-Jewish


American-Jewish


poet


,poet writing


Yiddish,


other


hand,


begins


career


working


within


framework


Jewish


traditions


only


self-


conscious


rejection


takes


brave


step


beyond


that


pale


enters


world


of modern


poetry.


Thus


evolutionary


process


American-Jewish


poet


writing


English


American-Yiddish


poet


are


essentially


reverse


one


another.


early days--the


late


nineteenth


early


twentieth


centuries--Americ


community


America.


One


Jewish


the dominant


an-Yiddish


immigrants


schools


poetry


recently a

of poetry


spoke directly


arrived


to emerge


during


that


time


was


sweatshop


school,


whose


poets


produced


works


that


spoke directly


hard


life


labor


Jewish


immigrants


endured.


Morri


s Rosenfeld,


"the


first












century.


On the street floor


"scoundrels" sit in a tavern


and "all day long they souse"


(MYV,84).


One floor above


them,


in the Bible room,


"Jews sob out their prayers."


Finally, on the third floor


Jewish laborers,


is a windowless room in which


"blighted women, blighted men, with their


spirits broken,


and their bodies spent," toil


"without


letup" under the constant supervision of the "scurf-head"


boss who acts like "His Royal Highness."


One can


see


clearly the appeal

broken workers. I

their anthem. Wit


however,


this poem would have for the blighted,


t is the type of poem which could become


h its lack of emotional restraint,


it cannot rank among the great poems of the period


of high modernism.


It was a poem with a specifically


targeted audience, and in that audience's


eyes


it was


successful.

Two movements within the history of American-Yiddish

poetry distinguish themselves for their rejection of the

exclusively nationalistic focus of the Yiddish poetry which


precedes them.


In 1907


a school known as Di Yunge


(The


Young Ones)


emerged,


which broke decisively from the


entrapments of their collective Jewish past and demanded the

freedom to write "as they wished, out of personal feelings













a collective


ethos;


they


W1S


see


Yiddish


literature


treated


an end


itself"


(MYV,27).


poems


Mani


Leyb,


one


of Di


Yunge'


leaders,


we can


clearly


see


self-conscious modern


Jewish


poet


struggling

community


locate


as well


new role


within


within


literary


Jewish


community.


poem


Am "


of modernism


into


even


Yiddi


from


title


poetry.


introduces


am Mani


Leyb,


spirit


" the


poem begins,


"whose


name


sung--In Brownsville,


Yehupets,


farther,


they


know


(MYV,128).


This


poem


attempts


celebrate


individual's


personality,


effort


separa


a community;

te himself f


it marks


:rom


the collective


consciousness.


However


light-hearted


tone may


laced


with


a hint


self-moc


kery,


poet


sights


are


set


on a


fame


that


extends


well


beyond


limits


Brownsville,


fictional


a Jewish


name


district


a city


in Brooklyn,


adopted


Yehupets,


Sholem Aleichem


represent


Kiev,


editor's


note


poem


reminds


us.


Nonetheless,


Mani


Leyb


suffers


from


a divided


identity.


"Among


cobblers"


known


splendid


cobbler;


among


Poetical


circle


endid


poet.


" But


a poet


among


cobblers,


Leyb


regarded


an enigmatic


creature


1I














A boy


straining


over


the cobbler


s last


On moonlit


Some


hymn


nights
struck


. like


at my


heart,


a command,
and fast


The awl


fell


from my


trembling


hand.


Gracious, t
The cobbler


tasted


Muse


with
Word


a ki


that


came


, and,
comes


to meet


young,
n a sweet


Shuddering


speechless


tongue.


And my


song


tongue


rose


flowed


from


like
some


a limpid
other pl


stream,


My world'
My labor,


door


s opened


bread,


were


onto


sweet


dream;


with


grace.


others,


shoemaker


boys,


Thought
For their


that my
r bitter


singing
hearts,


was
my


simply grand:


poems


were


Joys.


Their


Though


source


"shoemaker


They


boys"


could


appear


never


under


to derive


stand.


some


pleasure


from


Leyb'


s verse,


drawn


from


whatever mysterious


source,


next


stanza


learn


that


poet,


finally,


unwelcome


shop.


"For


despair


their


working


day


vacuity/They mocked me,


spat


at me


good


deal.


"with


songs


in my


breast,


the Muse


in my


heart,


Leyb


enters


company


poets,


only


to di


cover


that


poets


are


compensated


their


sufficiently


avoid


starvation.


"While


we gagged


hunger,


our


sick


chests


pounded:


More


than


one


left


this


world.


may


feed


lowly


worm,


"not


quite


lavi


sh with


rrm 1t Yn crr. -i' v 1


nr^ "


/"

1 r / ft+-<-


ch-l? r-T^3/


T ^M r~r


m h n


ftnh /^ C


y /"












identity:


"I'mi


a cobbler


writes,


thank


heaven,/But


poet


who makes


shoes.


This


sentimental


poem


holds my


interest


that


records


clearly


one


Jewish


poet's


attempt


to break


from


community,


only


imagination.


romantic


understanding


poetic


process,


Leyb


still


needs


envision


source


of his


poetry


as coming


from


outside.


rather


than


subordinate


himself


Jewish


God,


Leyb


subordinates


himself


the Muse.


Leyb


steps


away


from


Hebraic


tradition


toward


a Hellenistic


tradition,


for,


discovered,


starves


poets


Muse


blesses


hers


with


bounties.


Still,


Muse


does


survive


unchallenged,


we have


seen


poem


begins


with


firm


statement


self-importance:


am Mani


Leyb.


process


transition


from


Jewish-American


poet


American-Jewi


poet


thus


implied


poem


poet


moves


from God


Muse


Self.


poet


s in


groups


such


as Di


Yunge divorced


themselves


from


the Jewish


community,


they


found


themselves


with


increasingly


shrinking


audience.


editors


new


Penguin


edition


of Modern


Yiddish


Verse


inform


sooner


did


Yiddish


poetry


break


from


folk


constraints


nn3trv mainly


i reonl nrr i 1 a 1


fnrmnla s


than


it h*rama


.


1I I | J


L l












American-Yiddish


poets'


attempts


to enter


kingdom


modern


poetry


the degree


to which


they


succeed


alienating


their


audience!


Leyb


expresses


frustration


the modern


Jewi


poet


when


writes,


sonnet


envy


the Gentile


Poet,


I" I I,


poet


Jews--who


needs


it!"


(MYV, 138)


Earlier


suggested


that


some


Yiddish-American


poets


divorced


separation,


themselves


perhaps,


from


Jewish


would


the more


community.


accurate metaphor,


see


embrace


conscious


here


absorb


about


no matter


literary


Jewish


how deeply


culture


poet


remains


identity


strives


self-


failure


serve


the Jewish


community


Jewish


adequately.


Unlike


lucky


"bard


gentiles"


whose


songs


are


answered


"all


far-flung


elsewhere,


fullness


fields,


wide c

Jewish


ity


squares,


poet,


applauded


sated

and


hearts'

rewarded


serenity

neither


fulfilled,

by Gentile


" the

nor


Jew,


chants


"amid


alien


corn,


tears


of desert


wanderers


under


alien


stars.


Another


poet


associated


with


Yunge,


Moyshe-Leyb


Halpern


expresses


ultimate disdain


life devoted


poetry


lively poem


from


1920s,


"The Will.













Some


poems
the


from my
Bible' s


portfolio
sanctity


(Just


thinking


them


sickens me)


these
an old


After


wrapped


coat,


which,


packed
took th


Put up a nail, and
Outside my window,


let
on a


in my r
up like
whole
it hang
tray.


a bag,
shebang,


(MYV,190)


response


passersby who


wonder


"what


that mess


there


could be,


" Halpern


responds,


"These


are all my


years;


think/They went


rotten


with


infection/By wisdom,


ancient


stink,/From my


precious


book


collection.


Wonderfully


rabbinic


irreverent


wisdom,


toward


poet


poetry


goes


as well


forbid


as Biblical


"son


heir"


from


following


father's


footsteps,


from


competing


laurel


crown.


Indeed,


poet/father


invites


son


become


anything--murderer,


arsonist,


loan


shark,


womanizer--anything


but


poet.


penalty


disobedience?


The


father


will


son


will,


"And


help me


Heaven/This/Will/Be/Done"


(MYV, 192).


The wit


shines


this


poem


that


sums


the modern


Jewish


poet's


frustration


over


life devoted


same


time


that


demonstrates


Halpern' s


success


in writing


fully-realized modern


Jewish


poem.


This


father


wishes


- -. A -


- 1 -


1


J-.- -- A --


_ __


I


_ __


___


.-- -- J- A -- _


__L I












Indeed,


writers


after


WWII


realized,


neither


religion


nor


prevented


Holocaust,


tragedy which


left


aspect


Jewish


life


untouched.


Jacob Glatstein


was


Yiddish


poet


originally


associated


with


In Zikh


(Inside


Self)


group


poets,


a group


which


followed


Yunge


poets.


Unlike


predecessor


group,


Zikh


poets


were


steeped


American


literature


knew well


poetry


of Pound,


Eliot,


Moore,


Stevens


(MYV,38).


The


earlier


group


begun making


transition


toward


poetry which


was


personal;


latter


group


"wanted


to write


poems


completely


unequivocally


personal;


to evoke


bitter


realities


Jewish


experience;


venture


in Yiddish


upon


imagistic


e-verse


experiments


which


begun


in American


poetry"


(MYV,38).


The


Zikh


poets


well


period


adopted


that


form


dominant

content


aes

are


thetic


one,


position of the

they announced


their


1920


opening manifesto


(MYV,38).


Though


Glat


fully


embraced


these


principles


throughout


1920s


accordingly


gaze


turned


outward,


away


from


Jewish


community


toward


national


international


community


of poets,


events


the Second


World


War


influenced


him


well


as many


others


J


1














God and His people.


"You've


[God]


deserted field and


barn;/I, the close love of my people./We've both turned

universal" (MYV,458).


In light of the Holocaust,


then, Glatstein proposes a


new beginning, a return to particularism.


Come back, dear God,


speck.


to a land no bigger than a


Dwindle down to only ours.


I'll go around with homely saying


suitable for chewing over
We'll both be provincial,


in small places.


God and His poet.


While the poem does call for a return to an earlier form of


relations between God and the Jews,


it retains some of the


individualistic and secular spirit of modernism, as implied

by the concluding two lines of the preceding passage. This


is a personal poem in that it records one man's reassessment


of the Jewish


situation


well as his particular Jewish


situation.


God has abandoned the Jews;


abandoned the Jews.


This poem would lik<


the poet too has

e to initiate a


reconciliation between God and His people and the poet and

his people.

The poem then marks a bridge back toward a more


exclusively Jewish framework.


The self-interested poet,


however, does not sacrifice his personal goals in order to












will be "rocked in


cozy


fame."


Modernism has left its mark


on this Jewish poet,


who will continue to celebrate himself


at the same time he celebrates his people and his God.

Nonetheless, Glatstein speaks in a definitive way for his

people in the concluding stanza of the poem.


We have followed You into Your wide world
and sickened there.


Save Yourself,


return


with Your pilgrims who go up


to a little land.


Come back,


be our Jewish God again.


(MYV,462)


In the early decades of the century the Western world

held out a promise to the Jews: Moyshe-Leyb Halpern had


little difficulty in choosing the Muse over God.


But by


mid-century that promise appears to have been shattered:

Glatstein closes his poem with an invocation to the Jewish

God.

Kadya Molodovsky also takes up the difficult post-

Holocaust argument with God in her devotional poem "God of


Mercy," which begins,


"0 God of Mercy/For the time


being/Choose another people"


(MYV,330).


The poem


expresses


the exhaustion of the Jewish people who


tired of corpses" and who


are


"have no more prayers."


"tired of death,


The poem


concludes with a powerful request.










21

And 0 God of Mercy
Grant us one more blessing--
Take back the divine glory of our genius.
(MYV,332)


Molodovsky's plea is the exact opposite of Glatstein's.


Nonetheless,


they originate from the same source.


After the


Holocaust both poets painfully reflect on God's relation to

the Jews and both conclude that the terms of that

relationship must change.

In the strongest American-Yiddish poetry the poets find

a balance between high artistic standards and an


unsentimental representation of Jewish subjects.


poems of Glatstein, Halpern,


As the


Leyb and others demonstrate,


the Jew is fully capable of mastering the language of modern


poetry.


But no matter how far the Yiddish poet strays from


the Jewish community as far as subject matter and style are

concerned, he remains married to the Jewish community by


virtue of the language in which he writes and,


Holocaust has reminded him,


his origins.


The American-Jewish poet writing in English neither

enjoys nor suffers constant affiliation with the Jews


through language.


For him,


the practice of modernist or


post-modernist techniques in poetry is not predicated on a












him,


implicitly


explicitly.


Writing


serious


poetry


brings


American-Jewish


poet


into


conflict,


even


only


self-perceived,


with


Jewish


community


only when a


Jewish


literary


critic


scolds


poet


being


Jewish


enough


work.


Consequently,


American-Jewish


poet


writing


English


more


apparent


freedom


than


American-


Yiddish


poet


either


Ignore


Jewish


features


of his


consciousness


relegate


them


to a position


of only


secondary


importance.


Still,


while


tension


between


American-Jewish


poet


American-Jewish


community may


be minimal,


tension


between


non-Jew continues


function


direct


shaping


influence


on American-Jewish


poetry.


Despite


truly


society,


broad-based


anti-Semitism


acceptance


survives


Jews


this


into


American


country.9


Not


surpri


singly,


even


assimilated


Jews


have


been


shocked


horrified


continuation


anti-Semitism.


consequences


anti-Semitism,


national


international,


been


to sharpen


intensify,


if only


what


seems


fleeting moment,


Jewish


identity


of certain


American


Jews,


including


American-Jewish


poets.


Holocaust,


ultimate


expression


anti-


Semitism.


a oroIfound


imnant-


vi9Ai sh


nno-ru\


J .. J


1.


I I


I


r ri









23

1950s works of poetry and prose on the subject gradually


began to appear.


Often,


the underlying theme of the poems


was guilt:


the American-Jewish poet used the poem as a form


of catharsis for his guilt at having been an American Jew

and therefore saved from the fate of his European brothers


and sisters.


What underlies the guilt, of course,


is a


recognition of unity, Jew to Jew, a community identity which

is always latent in the poet and his work.


In fact,


the reawakened sociological bond is but one of


the ways, albeit the more direct,

affects the American-Jewish poet.


in which the Holocaust

The second impact occurs


on the level of language, on the literary aesthetic.


other things,


Among


the Holocaust demonstrated the horrifying


consequences of a systematic corruption of language, a

degenerative process that had been occurring throughout the


century.


One aspect of the German bureaucratic process,


identified by Hannah Arendt in her study Eichmann in

Jerusalem, was the adoption of "language rules," a code name


for lies actually,


that were to be followed in all official


German correspondence referring to the killing of Jews.10


All the correspondence referring to killing Jews
was subject to rigid language rule and except for


the reports of the Einsatzgruppen


(the killing


squads)


it is rare to find documents in which such


- I - L












According


to Murray


Baumgarten,


summarizing


this


aspect


of Arendt' s


study,


language


rules


served


two main


functions:


protect


oneself


from


admitting


enormity


what


one


was


doing;


machine


to maintain


function


smoothly,


order


serving


sanity


as a public mask"


(B,120).


lesson


be drawn


from


this


abuse


language


global


implications.


What


stake


. is


just


a matter


right
but t


vocabulary
he ways in


words.


destruction


or the
which we


surpri


western


right
think


sing


culture,


sentence


about
find
which


structure,


use


that
culminated


Holocaust,


at work


in language,


discarding of
and certainly


values


that


result


was


perhaps


the cause


destruction


European


Jewry


Six million


basically
number, no


a voiding o
a meaning,


language.


zeroes


burned


represent


graphically


traditions


the catastrophe


of Nazism.


semantic


language
(B,122)


hole
West


Most


poets


this


century


have


been


opposed


debasement


language


hands


of politicians,


advertisers,


journalists,


etc.


When


Marianne


Moore


instructs


poets


readers


of poetry


that


not


"valid


to discriminate


against


'business


documents


school-


books'


" she qualifies


statement


noting


that


"when


dragged


into


prominence


half


poets,


result


not


poetry. "


Though Moore's


intention may


have


been


-


I












fail


uncover


lie masquerading


truth


institutional


discourse.


Many


commitment


American-Jewish


poets,


a meaningful


course,


faithful


use


share


language.


"Nothing


is more


obvious


than


what


our


politicians


are doing


our


language,


says


Philip


Levine,


that


poets


insist


truth,


accurate


rendition,


on a


faithful


use of


language,


they


instance


insist


on an


accurate depiction


people


lives


they


are


actually


lived--this


a political


act.


The


aes


thetics


content,


the morally-grounded


aesthetics


language


used


represent


accurately


lives


people


live,


does


belong


exclusively


Jewi


sh writers.


Holocaust


tragic event


which


language


played


significant


role


a particularly


profound


effect


on American-Jewish


poets:


as Jews,


they


are


reminded


their


vulnerability


modern


world;


language.


ultimately


this


poets,

Though

historic


they a

its i

event


re


horrified


impact may


the corruption


only


strengthens


indirect,

poets'


commitments


language


which


concrete


abstract,


language


which


reveals


rather


than


conceals,


language


which


is meaningful


not meaningless,


language


which


true


1 ann,,i, lrmfll^r lT


r.r r 1 A


e-inl


T^^- k -'


I -a r~r n^r


Srhnsrn V ~tr^/^ y 4 /


n


t nh /"












Pound,


leading


voices


of modernist


poetry,


both


American


heritage,


each


went


through


periods


being


openly


anti-Semitic.


Pound 's


expression


anti-


Semitism


"Burbank


was


the more


with a


vitriolic


Baedeker:


Bleisten


two,


with


though


a Cigar"


Eliot's


well


statement


in After


Strange Gods--


"reasons


race


religion


combine


to make


any


large


number


free-thinking


Jews


undesirable"


--mark


unmistakably


anti-Semitic


attitudes.14


(Eliot


disavowed


After


Strang


Gods


after


publication;


never,


other


hand,


"disavowed"


"Burbank.


extent


which


anti-Semitism


these


influential

a career as

measure. I


poets


troubled


modernist


t would


Y


poets

nearly


young

is,


American

in most c


impose


sible


Jews


cases.


to write


embarking

difficult


modernist


spirit


without


incorporating


least


some of


aesthetic


principles


outlined


Pound


successfully


demonstrated


Eliot.


Nonetheless,


some American-Jewish


poets


were


indeed


conscious


the moral


conflict


implied


writing


under


One of


influence


the most


vocal


Eliot


opponents


Pound.


godfathers


modernist


poetry


was


Karl


Shapiro,


though


famous


raiQnr.- n


n r r


"P1 .; n


n n r


Dfln r


Srt a


nav r1


A a n ,A n


- n


1- C










27

same work Shapiro notes that "the two great prosodists of

our age/Are Joyce and Eliot, both of whom are bound/In


filial respect to Ezra Pound"


(ER,16) .


This is a far cry


from Shapiro's condemnation in the late 1950s of the same


two poets, who, according to his reassessment,


the grounds of their prosody


fail both on


well as their cultural


vision.

Among other American-Jewish poets criticism of Eliot

extended into a rejection of New Criticism, an approach to

reading and writing which by the mid- to late-1950s many

American poets believed was having a detrimental influence


on American poetry.


Ignatow,


instance,


identifies and


criticizes the "two chief,


indivisible positions held by


Eliot plus certain members of the New Criticism:


their


clericalism and their detachment from the social scene."l6


He continues,


"By their own acknowledgment they have taught


a studied withdrawal from society,


in which is implicit a


condemnation of the present state of our culture."


Ignatow


himself did not refrain from criticizing the "present state


of our culture"


in hi


work,


though he certainly did not


condone Eliot's implicitly proposed solution to our

problems, a solution based on Eliot's "clericalism," a










28

Ignatow was another poet who undoubtedly recognized the

implicit anti-Semitism that, as Robert Alter has


demonstrated,


permeates much of Eliot's work.


Alter


suggests that one effect of the "density of discontinuous


allusion"


in Eliot's poetry "is to invoke the whole range of


the European cultural


tradition in a way that suggests the


tradition is at once universal and esoteric,


the outsider.


impenetrable to


The Jew in this regard is important to Eliot


as the archetypal outsider, a European who is not a


Christian,


which for Eliot is a virtual self-


contradiction."17


Neither as American nor


Jew could this


aesthetic suit the temperament of Ignatow or of most other

American Jews.

The process by which a poet arrives at his aesthetic,


his style,


is truly mysterious.


Often poets articulate


their aesthetics in prose statements and then adhere to them

as if they were programmatic only after their style has been


arrived at through the practice of their art.


claim that Shapiro or


Thus,


Ignatow or Levine ultimately rejected


Eliot's aesthetic program solely because it was one which


excluded Jews might be difficult to defend.


Nonetheless,


might regard Ignatow's, Shapiro's and Levine's aesthetic
- I 2 1 1 n 1- f. 11 ... -- In 1 -












indication


defensive


a more


reactionary)


positive expression


Jewish


(not


consciousness


American


poetry


influence


one


American-Jewish


poet


on another.


American-Jewish


poets may not


enter


into


a dialogue


with


American-Jewish


community;


however,


a small


but


growing


body


evidence


exists


that


American-Jewish


themselves


poets


their


do enter


poems


into


on Jewish


a dialogue


subjects.


amongst


Consider,


instance,


Emm a


Lazarus


s poem


"The


New


Year:


Rosh-Hashanah,


5643


(188


John


Hollander'


New


Year.


Both


poems


begin


by distinguishing


Jewish


New


Year,


celebrated


in Autumn,


from


Gentile


Year,


celebrated


the dead


of winter.


Lazarus


writes,


while


snow-shroud


round


dead


earth


rolled,


When


And
orc
The


sea


naked


hards


grape
beauty
Then


branches


burn


glows


and
the


point
lamps


their


like


abundance


new


year


zen


fiery


jewel,


gold,


corn


lies


born.


Hollander'


s poem


echoes


Lazarus.


[the


new


year]


come at


time


like


this,


winter'


Night,


when


few dead


eaves


crusted


with


frost


our


door


vering
steps


to be counted,


or when


our


moments


coldnes


Rise u


to chill


again.


-- --


I


S


__












In both


Jews,


poems


though


America


Lazarus


celebrated


s attitude


new


toward


homeland


America


new


Jewish


homeland


unreservedly


enthusiastic,


whereas


Hollander


s is


skeptical.


Lazarus


writes,


Even


Hath


been


snow-capped


Through
r freedom


Mighty


fire
n to


Prophet
enlarged


Sierras


blood


proclaim
slay and


promised,


unto


from


and
and
save


earth'


vast


so your


s farth
steppe


tempest-to


worship


tent


rim.


s ye
ssing


went,


wave,


Him,


. (EL,38)


Hollander


introduces


theme of


promises


offered


life


America


subtler manner.


shiny


fruits


amidst
, both


showers


sweet


bitter-


tasting
honey


results,


promi


ses


gleams


on apple


that


turn


to mud


our


innermost
westward


Toward


imminent


of mouths,


rich


we can


tents,


facing


telling


remembering.


JH,120)


Though


Hollander


carries


agricultural motif


throughout


poem,


material


abundance


("showers


shiny


fruits,


" "rich


tents"),


promise of


abundance


("the


honey


promises


gleams


apples"),


well


invocation


the myth


American


West


suggest


that


Hollander


commenting


the materialistic


debasement


Jewish


New













tradition


American


poetry.


Other


examples


intertexuality


are


less


clear


cut,


though


various


indications


of a dialogue


between


poems


on Jewish


subjects


exist.


Robert Mezey


Levine


Day


Atonement,


poem by


" for


his fellow


instance,


poet


oes


Philip


derive


Levine;


from a


does,


specific


however,


speak


an experience


poets,


and many


American


Jews,


share.


Impenitent,
As Gentile


Ana pour
The cheap


we mee


your


into


again,


wife


a jelly g
California


or mine,


ass


wine.


Jewl


ess


in Gaza,


we h


ave


come


Where


worldly


Gathering
Some dark,


fury,


iken
and


essential


esses
still


commence


keep


difference.


Both


poets


ave


married


Gentile


wives,


both


are


"impenitent,


" breaking


Yom


Kippur


s holy


fast


drinking


cheap wine,


both


are


swept


fury


ass


imilation;


nonetheless


both


retain


some


"esse


ntial


difference"


from


the Gentile majority.


one of


own


early poems,


"Night


Thoughts


over


a Sick


Child,


" Levine


addresses


weakened


though


persistent


Jewi


identity.


He describes


himself


"heir


ancestral


curse/though


r 1' .


20


_ __


L


. II





I












Jewish


early


stages


their


careers,


who,


in Mezey's


words,


have


"[n] nothing


atone


long,/Blurred


perspectives


dead.


another


manifestation


this


Jewish


literary


dialogue


between


American


poets


adaptation


Kaddish,


Jewish


prayer


the dead,


into


an American


literary

Allen Gi


form.


nsberg's


The most


elegy


famous


American


his mother,


literary


which


Kaddish


ironically


represents


a classic


spiritual


process


as Ginsberg


poem


works


way


through


the depths


of horror


grief


toward


an affirmation


of God.


Intensely


personal


boldly


explic


American


Ginsberg's


social


"Kaddish"


history


documents


records


a period


facts


Russian-Jewish


Furthermore,


immigrant


Naom i


insists


Ginsberg'


link


life.


the Jewish


spiritual


tradition


the midst


fury


American


life.


"I've


been


night,


talking,


talking,


reading


Kaddish


aloud,


listening


Charles


shout


blind


phonograph,


" the


poem/prayer


begins,


giving


a central


prayer


from


Jewish


liturgy


the music of


leading


artist


from


the American


blues


tradition


equal


status


tool


the grieving


process.


The boldest


juxtaposition


I


1


4


J


m












dress


round


operations,


appendix,


the
lips


hips,


pancreas,


stitching


like


hideous


between


asshole?


was


much--seemed


Monster


Would


the
care


Yisborach,


cold


perhaps


slash


belly


incis


thick z
s--What,
--later
a good


Beginning


She
v'yi


of hair,


wounds,


ions


pulling


scars


abortions


down


long


ipper s--ragged


even,


revolted


idea


smell


little,


try--know


Womb--Perhaps--that


needs


stabach,


the
way.


lover.
v'yispoar,


v'yisroman,
v'yishallol,


v'yisnaseh,


v'yi


S


sh'meh d'kudsho,


lhador
b'ri


v'yishalleh,


ch hu.


(AG,24)


juxtaposition


explicitly rendered


Oedipal moment


with


itself


transliterated


suggests


passage


potency


from the

the prayer


Hebrew

for G


Kaddish


insberg


recites


to sanctify


recollection


the most


intimate


encounter


possible


between


him


his mother.


As Ginsberg's


poem


enters


into


a dialogue


with


ancient


Jewish


text,


also


contributes


to a dialogue


between American-Jewish


poems.


One of


predecessors


Ginsberg


s poem


was


Charles


Reznikoff'


"Kaddish"


(1936).


Like Ginsberg's,


Reznikoff'


s poem


attempts


update


Jewish

faithfu


prayer.


Reznikoff'


Hebrew


poem,


original


however,


than


remains more


Ginsberg'


Reznikoff


s version


begins


with


literal


prose


translation


original


prayer,


included


as an epigraph


poem,


then


first


stanza


quotes


directly


from














on post
chalked
shouted


are


Israel


glances,


ers,


a upon
sticks


who meet


stones


in newspapers,


on asphalt


from


pushed


thousand


out


trains,


in acid


thousand


class-rooms


with


unfriendly


names--


in books
on glass,


windows
and ru


last,


by radio;
shing


whom
and


the
whom


hundred
jailers


revolver


hands
strike


butts;


a mob


with


strike,


bunches


keys,


with


them
this


safety


poem departs


place
. .9


from


and
23


every place


traditional


prayer


adaptation

It also co


document.


communal


some


nverts


timeless


Still,


poem


consciousness


magistic

prayer


remains


rather


than


principles


into


of modernism.


a historical


impersonal,


one


recording


individual's


spiritual


journey.


poem


is groundbreaking


that


introduces


specifically


Jewish


form of


elegy


into


American


literary


tradition.


One

Ignatow's


successors


"Kaddish,


to Ginsberg's


" published


1981.


poem


Ignatow


David


"Kaddish"


continues


trajectory


defined


by Ginsberg's


poem


moves


further


away


from


original


prayer,


this


time


virtually


identifying


erasing


traces


shell,


were,


original


provided


except


title


"Mother


birth,


long


were


together/in


your


upon














Earth


now


your


earth,
sustenance


now without


mother,


and my


you


you


strength,
turn to


were


your


mine,


mother


and
in
I 1
Whi
and


Just


seek


rock
ove
sper


from


and
you.
to


safe


Reznikoff'


that


stone.
Whisper


earth,


may meet


Whisper


o the rock
Mother, I


always


poem made


have


you


again


stone,


have


found
found


you.
her,


been.


Ginsberg'


s radical


"Kaddish"


possible,


too Ginsberg's made


Ignatow'


quieter


and more


traditionally


romantic


elegy


his mother


possible.


These


poets


others


have


tested


stretched


original


"Kaddish"


form,


Americanizing


transforming


into a


viable genre


American


poetry.


And


though


there


emerge


formula


the composition


American


Kaddish,


genre


slowly


identifying


establi


shing


itself,


further


evidence


simmering


conversation


among


American-Jewish


poets.


Perhaps


the genre


will


achieve


full


status


once


a Gentile


poet


writes


own


Kaddish.


Allen


Ginsberg,


poet


claims


the mantle


of Whitman


Williams,


may


responsible more


than


other


poet


this


century


advancing


position


American-


Jewish


poet


to center


stage.


"A Jew


seems,


II -i3n--S. *1- 2 -


T*7Y r\ +


'h; -mn =


*I C? <-\v^^


A 1~ ~ A YIY


- .*


n+*


^ y


-t /"^


LJU


C












Buddhist,


political


radical


political


radical,


and,


yes,


to Jew.


Indeed,


Ginsberg


"Kaddish"


fulfills


promise


America


held


Jewish


poets


poem


"Kaddish"


that


dramatically


announces


other


openly


American-Jewish


as a Jew


poets


America.


that


acceptable


remember


reading


to write


Allen


Ginsberg


back


fifties


when


was


Iowa


[the


Iowa


Writers'


Workshop],


liking


him


better


than


anything


anyone was


liking


Iowa,


" recalls


Levine,


remember


when


Kaddish


first


came


out--I


happen


think


it's


one of


the great American


poems "


(DA,20,26).


Ginsberg's


aesthetic


influence did


extend


corners


of American


poetry.


Furthermore,


early


poetry did


not


finally


lead


flood


explicitly


Jewish


work,


though


point


toward


previously unmined


source


of material


Kabbalah;


inspiration


esoteric,


new


mystical


American-Jewish


Jewish


poetry:


tradition.


Poets


as diverse


as John


Hollander,


David


Meltzer


Jerome


Rothenberg


have


indeed


explored


Jewish mystical


tradition


have


incorporated


symbology


their


work.26


They


have


also


adapted


certain meditative


techniques


of writing


from Kabbalistic


sources.












remain


frustrated


over


limited


often


superficial


ways


American


poets


have


represented


Jewish


life


their


work.


wish,


instance,


that


there were


first-rate


American-Jewish


religious


poet,


someone


comparable


talent


and devotion


say,


Hopkins.


However,


am equally


frustrated


with


these


critics


are


so eager


to dismiss


American-Jewish


poetry


that


they


themselves


fail


to explore


adequately


which have


historical


affected


literary-historical


development


conditions


of American-Jewish


poetry,


well


subtle


nuances


Jewishness


that


are


often


present,


the grain


were,


poems,


especially when


poets


are


least


self-consciously


Jewish.


The

Shapiro,


three

David


poets


whom


Ignatow,


have chosen


Philip


study--Karl


Levine--represent


individual


stic


respon


ses


Jewishness


their


poetry.


This


it must


Jewish


culture whi


survives


in American


poems


is a


product


individuals,


communal,


collective,


authorized


Jewish


response


twentieth-century world.


three


share


ambivalence


their


Jewish


identities.


Shapiro'


Jewish


identity


strongest


when


feels


threatened


anti-Semitism,


especially as


expressed


Pound


Eliot.


Ignatow


Jewish


identity.


rarely


exorass d


r9 i rsrl


. II I I


C nncm c 1 a












inspired


poetry


psalms


prophets.


Levine,


too,


finds


s bond


Jewish


culture


Hebrew


Scriptures,


though


records


the moral


failings


of his


he seems


be constantly


lamenting


failure


Biblical


wrestles


haunt


vision


with


life;


sustain


particular


each


him.


Each


Jewish


records


these


demon


struggle


poets


come


that


that


poems


often


seem


remote


from


subject


Jew but


upon


close


examination


reveal


underpinnings


that


can


traced


particular


Jewish


experiences


each man


life.


One must


remain


somewhat


suspi


cious


study


such


this


which


have


undertaken.


confess,


my motives


were


other


than


that


purely


disinterested


scholar.


am a Jew,


a poet,


American


search


a Jewish-


American


poetic


tradition.


hope


this


study will


help


define


America.


characterize


Where


that


sketch


tradition


remains


exists


fuzzy may


potential


future


development


this


tradition.


least


this


is my


justification


leaving


some


areas,


some


paths,


intriguingly


unilluminated.










39

Notes


Harold Bloom,


Figures


"The


of Capable


Sorrows


Imagination


of American-Jewish


(New


York:


Poetry,
Seabury


Press,


1976) ,


247.


John


Hollander,


"Violet,


" in


Spectral


Emanations:


New


Selected


Poems


(Hew


York:


Atheneum,


1978),


York


Harold
Times


Bloom,


Book


"Still


Review,


Haunted


January


by Covenant,


" in


New


1988,


Herbert J.


Levine,


"The


Hyphenated


Life of


American-


Jewish


Poetry,


Reconstructionist,


(1987),


Robert Alter,


"Jewi


Dreams


Nightmares


" in After


Tradition:
. Dutton &


6. Cynthia
York: E. P.


Essays


Co.,


Ozick,
Dutton,


on Modern


Inc,


"Toward


1971) ,


New


, 1984) ,


Jewish


Writing,


Yiddi


New


York


Ardor,


(New


157.


What


am calling


"Americ


an-Yiddi


poets


are,


after


all, f
retain


st generation


strong


ties


immigrants


Eastern


America.


such,


they


European Jewish


communities


from which


third-generation


American-Je


emigrated,
ws with wh


unlike
lom most


seco
this


study


will


concerned.


The


historical


information


Yiddish


poetry


comes


from


introductions


volumes


Yiddish


poetry


translated


Irving


Howe


Winston,


Modern


Yiddish


Khone


text


into


English,


nd Eli
1969) ,


Vers


Shmeruk


0. Specific
as either TY


ezer
pp.


(New


A Treasury of
Greenberg (New
1 66; and The


edited
York:


textual


MYV


by Irv
Viking


citations


respect


ing


Yiddish


York:


Poetry,


Holt,


ehart


Penguin Book


Howe,


Penguin
will be


Ruth R.


Inc.,
noted


1987)


sse,
, PP.


tively.


9. The
receive


history
serious


American


scholarly


anti-Semitism


attention.


See,


has
for


now


begun


instance,















Hannah Arendt,


Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the


Banality of Evil


(New York:


Viking,


1963), p. 80.


Marianne Moore,


"Poetry,"


in The Harper Anthology of


American Literature,


(New York


Volu]


: Harper & Row,


me 2, eds., Donald McQuade,
Publishers, 1987), p. 1622.


et al.


Philip Levine, Don't Ask


(Ann Arbor: The University of


Michigan Press,


1981) ,


Eliot, After Strange Gods: A Primer of Modern


Heresy


(New York: Harcourt,


15. Karl Shapiro,
1945), p. 12.


Essay


Brace and Company,


on Rime


1934), p.


(New York: Random House,


David Ignatow, Open Between Us


Ann Arbor: The


University of Michigan Press,


1980) ,


167.


Robert Alter,


"Eliot, Lawrence, and the Jews," in


Defenses of the Imagination: Jewish Writers and Modern


Historical Crisis


(Philadelphia:


The Jewish Publication


Society of America, 5738/1977),


145.


Emma Lazarus,


"The New Year:


Rosh-Hashanah,


5643


(1882)"


, Emma Lazarus: Selections from her Poetry and Prose


(New York: Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women's Clubs,


1967),


p. 37.


John Hollander,


New and Selected Poems


"At the New Year," Spectral Emanations:


(New York: Atheneum, 1978), p. 120.


20. Robert Mezey,
Door Standing Open


"To Levine on the Day of Atonement," The
(London: Oxford University Press, 1970),


Philip Levine,


"Night Thoughts over a Sick Child," On


the Edge


(Iowa City: The


Stone Wall Press,


1961), p. 11.


Allen Ginsberg,


"Kaddish,


" Kaddish and Other Poems:


1958-1960


(San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1961), p.


Charles Reznikoff,


"Kaddish," Poems 1918-1936


: Volume I


of The Complete Poems


(Santa Barbar


Black Sparrow Press,


--










41

26. For a study of the Kabbalistic influences on
contemporary American poetry see R. Barbara Gitenstein,
Apocalyptic Messianism and Contemporary Jewish-American
Poetry (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986).

















CHAPTER


KARL


SHAPIRO


FRONTAL ATTACK


In Poems


Jew


1958),


Karl


Shapiro


boldly


proclaims


Jewish


identity


world.


Having


selected


poems


from


three


previous


volumes


poetry


to which


added


only


a few


new ones,


Shapiro


intended


coll


section


represent


centrality


of what


identify


a Jewish


consciousness


to his


work,


whether


poems address


overtly


Jewish


subjects


not.


An allusion


Emma


Lazarus


s 1882


book,


Songs


of a Semite,


recognized


first


book


American-Jewish


poetry


tradition,


title


alone


identify


Shapiro's


book


as a di


stinctively


Jewish


one.


book


intended


primarily


Jews,


one


might mistakenly


surmise


from


title.


Shapiro


perce


ives


subj


the Jew,


"obsession,


"universal


timel


ess.


poems


then


are


addressed


readers


seeking


poet'


mind


some clue


their


own


thoughts,


" in


this


case


thoughts


about


Jew.


And


underscore


importance


book'


content,


Shapiro












poets," he states


in the first line of the introduction


(PJ,xi).


Shapiro's decision to


identify himself decisively


Jew in his work was the outgrowth of a longstanding


occupation with the status of the Jew in American life


well as Western culture.

strong imprint on his im


That a Jewish upbringing left a


iagination is made evident by the


many poems Shapiro published on the subject. In "My

Grandmother," from his first book, Person, Place and Thing


(1942), Shapiro recalls having watched his grandmother "at

ragged book bent in Hebrew prayer," and he pities her that

"history moved her through/Stranger lands and many

houses,/Taking her exile for granted, confusing/The tongues


and tasks of her children's children."2


"The


Southerner," from his third book,


Trial of a Poet


(1947) ,


recalls his "Grandpa,


the saintly Jew,


keeping his beard/In


difficult Virginia,


yet endeared/Of blacks and farmers,


although orthodox."3

Of course, as both these powerful and favorable


recollections imply,

own Jewish identity.


Shapiro remained ambivalent about his

In the introduction to V-Letter and


Other Poems


(1944) ,


his second,


Pulitzer Prize winning


ti n 1t imn chn4 r 4 n ter


- I


4- t r4f r r 4-a .P raa 1' nin A













father


assisted


at his


circumcision.


went


home


voluble


sore/Influenced


Abraham and


Mary"


(TP,3).


1940s,


while


active duty


Pacific,


Shapiro


even


seriously


considered


converting


to Christianity.


This,


finally,


never


came


pass.


Aside


another


from


factor


the deeply


figured


influential


heavily


Jewish


Shapiro's


childhood,


decision


assemble


Poems


Jew:


Holocaust


aftermath.


Perhaps


the most


direct


confrontation Shapiro


with


vicious


anti-Semitism


occurred


within


literary


community


itself.


Shapiro


served


a member


committee which


selected


Ezra


Pound


first


recipient


Bollingen


Prize


1948.


Shapiro


was


only member


committee


voted


against


award.


I voted
Bollinge


against
n Prize


Pound
My


first


balloting


and more


crucial


the
reason


was


that


am a Jew


cannot


honor


antisemites.


second


circulated


Pound


reason


among tn
e belief


stated


in a


Fellows:


that


report
I voted


poet'


which


was


against


s politi


moral philosophy
and lowers its


ultimately vitiates


standard


S


literary work.


poetry
'5


Shapiro


regards


this


negative


vote


"turning


point"


life.


_ -- -- iI _


-- I 1 a


I


* I


-- -- A -- -


_I _









45


It was this event that triggered a reassessment of Shapiro's


Jewish identity,


this event which culminated, ultimately,


the publication of Poems of a Jew.

In the midst of the turmoil of this period, between


roughly


1948 and 1960,


Shapiro also reevaluated his


aesthetics, a reevaluation that was very closely related to


his Jewish life at the time.


Shapiro's early


success


poet was in part due to his mastery and American adaptation


of the style of Auden--a mastery,


in fact, of the manners of


English literary culture.7


The


"manner and diction of


Shapiro's writing is all from Auden," wrote Delmore Schwartz


in an early review of the newcomer's work.8


But not long


after his service on the Bollingen Prize committee, Shapiro

expressed total disapproval of the English literary


tradition from which his style derived.


the September


A contributor to


1949 Commentary symposium on the subject of


"The Jewish Writer and the English Literary Tradition,


tradition which,


is "shot through wit:


the editors note in their introduction,

h the notion of the Jew as a creature of


darkness, deceit and corruption," Shapiro traces the


development of his Jewish consciousness


it relates to


European and American literary tradition.9









46

tradition of life and letters, and if I do not
believe in a new and separate American


civilization,


I shall have no other cultural


identity. Today I have e
visit the physical Europe


ven lost my desire to
[my emphasis].10


It is at this time


well


that Shapiro dedicates himself to


destroying "literary anti-Semitism."


Nothing will destroy the literary myth of the
Bestial Jew except the creation of countermyths


out of our modern exilic culture.


will not


speculate on what such myths will be, but I feel
it to be part of the work of American Jewish


intellectuals to further this task.


see


stirring of a counter-mythos in the poetry of
young Jews, and I pride myself on having a part of
its inception.11


He concludes with a call


to battle.


A frontal attack on the intellectual and artistic
sensibilities of the best writers and thinkers of


our time, with true works


of art as our weapons,


will surely pervade the consciousness of the anti-
Jew who has not reached the pathological level.12



Shapiro's awakened sense of Jewish vulnerability

accounts for the shift in his imagination's national


identity


as well as his dedication to contribute to the


creation of "countermyths" of the Jew.


Poems of a Jew is


his artistic contribution to the Jewish literary work.


Defense of Iqnorance


(1960), Shapiro'


a-


controversial


volume


_ __











particular his assault on Eliot and Pound,


two of the most


notorious anti-Semites in twentieth-century Anglo-American

letters, clearly reflect his Jewish sensibility.13

In "The Scapegoat of Modern Poetry," Shapiro enumerates

his objections to Pound and Eliot.


Pound and Eliot meet on the grounds of Education,


if that is the right term.
students, one of Philosophy,


literature.


They begin as
the other of Romance


Both are poets and expatriates, anti-


American and antidemocratic.


The one becomes a


monarchist,


the other a Fascist.


Both gravitate


toward orthodoxy,


the one toward a national church


freighted with


tradition;


the other toward a


ritualism of culture without religious sanction.
Both construct theories of literature out of


opposition to individualism,


what they


label Romanticism.


freethinkingg" and
Both center their


attention throughout their careers not on poetry
or on belles-lettres nor on literature proper, but
on the function of these things in a controlled


society.


As late as 1940 Pound and Eliot are


worrying about the Ideal Curriculum to save
civilization via the American university
student.14


Shapiro criticizes Pound and Eliot for their failure to

base their aesthetics on aesthetic grounds as well as for


the content of their cultural


visions.


As an American Jew,


of course, Shapiro clearly cannot accept the latter.


With


regards to the former point, Shapiro himself seems to be

promoting a content-centered aesthetics in Poems of a Jew.

Furthermore. one of his objections to awardina Pound the












using


poetry


(the


pure


aesthetic


object)


service


some


cultural


program


could


be equally directed


toward


own

does


work.

not,


This ap

however,


parent


inconsistency


invalidate


Shapiro's


critique


Pound


thinking

and


Eliot.


Rather,


it may


simply


further


reflect


turmoil


life


time.


Nonetheless,


Shapiro'


designation


of William


Carlos


Williams


"The


True


Contemporary"


the grounds


that


Williams does


indeed


center


attention


poetry


consistent


with


stance


Shapiro


takes


In Defense


Ignorance.


radical


Eliot,
culturer


difference


that


Williams


tries


stence


between Wi
divorces
Williams


(while


lliams


and,


poetry from
is fighting


Eliot


say,

for


Pound


fought
entire


for
lite


struggle t
experience


I call
because


saw


nothing,


poetry


ses


rary


' of


career


reserve


[Williams


saw


whole:


out


poetry).


Williams'


been dedicated


spontaneity


true


chall


enge


to create


that
e.16


which


before


fr


immediacy


contemporary
om the beginning


American


never


poetry
lent it


Perhaps


Shapiro's


promotion


of Williams


was merely


self












was


herself


half-Jewish),


poet


seemed


succeed


making


America


home,


linguistic,


cultural,


intellectual


home.


Perhaps


Shapiro


recognized


that


only


through


Williams,


of nothing,


Jew was


underlying


could


represented


causes


saw


he hope


challenge


to create


favorably.


of Shapiro' s


to create


a poetry


can


interest


only


poetry


in which


speculate


in Williams.


one


thing


we can


certain,


however:


Shapiro


never


actually


attempts


incorporate


Williams'


s style


into


own


work.


Thus


there


some conflict


time


between


aesthetic


position


Shapiro


articulates


prose


aesthetic

poetry.


position


preposterous


practiced

conclusion


successfully


Shapiro draws


his

while


writing


on Williams


that


"the


iambic


language


American


poet,


" is


further


evidence


that


Shapiro,


master


of meters,


experienced


severe crisis


during


decade


half


following


Second


World


War.


Where


In Defense


Ignorance


a boisterous


undisciplined


prose,


response


Poems


Eliot,


a Jew


Pound,


a subtle,


Williams


sophisticated


others


response


in poetry


influential


poets


anti-Semitic


strains


in the


English


literary


tradition.


Rather


than a


mere


recvcl inn


I lJ I I I fr


wr 1i t--n


"1 rl "


c4-^i1 a


nn em f


& J


T- n











been latent in Shapiro's work:


in the new context the older


poems can be seen to embody Shapiro's struggle to assimilate

to and finally transform English literary tradition.


Indeed, as the book reveals,


in the process of attempting to


lose his Jewish identity in the English literary tradition,


Shapiro actually discovers


its centrality to his


consciousness,


his artistic consciousness.


Thus, while in


the late 1940s and 1950s Shapiro seriously entertains the


thought of abandoning his literary heritage,


it is that


Gentile heritage that has given rise to one of Shapiro's


greatest subjects,


the subject of the Jew.


The artistic merit of the book lies not only in the

quality of the individual poems themselves, many of which

had already been praised for their artistry, but also for

the arrangement of the poems into a loose structure which in

and of itself is an integral part of the book's statement.

The four-part structure includes an introduction and three


sections of poetry.


Karl Malkoff, one of Shapiro's most


perceptive critics, was first to


identify a structural


significance to the book.


The first


[section]


seems largely concerned with


symbols of the Jew


ish experience, frequently with


art and language; the second specifically places
Judaism within the context of a Phricin-in mranrA


I









51

I suggest the structure is more precise than Malkoff


has noted.


Part 1 reflects the historical experiences of


the Jews, especially as victims of anti-Semitism.


The


historical event that radiates like black fire at the core


of this section's poems is the Holocaust.


"The Alphabet,"


"Israel,


" and "The Olive Tree,


" for


instance,


three of the


poems with which the book begins, draw our attention

directly to the Holocaust and the creation of the State of


Israel,


two intimately interrelated events.


As the


Holocaust had an indelible effect on Jewish life,


so too


these poems which open the book cast their shadows across


the entire volume.


Even the poems in this section written


before the full news of the Holocaust had been disclosed,


poems such as "University"


and "Washington Cathedral,


acquire a new and haunting poignancy when read in the

context of that tragedy.


Part 2 i


s essentially personal, documenting various


crises in an individual'


s life,


which include private


opposed to public, historical)


Christian and the Jew,


encounters between the


and even the poet's own


Jewish/Christian ambivalence.


Part


centers on the


representation and reinterpretation of archetypal

characters. Biblical figures such as Moses and Adam and Eve.












history


and mythology--a


history which


would


defeat


him,


a mythology which


representing


literary manifestation


beast


insists


Biblical


manifestation


sustains


him


suffering.


Shapiro


does


leave


Jew


there,


trapped


between


potentially


devouring


forces.


Rather


acknowledges


tragedy


that


befallen


Jew


history,


honors


Jewish dead


Part


celebrates


small


struggles


daily


life


Part


finally


returns


Jew


history,


strengthened


Hebrew


Scriptures.


Part


opens


with


"The


Alphabet"


(1954) ,


collected


here


first


time.


This


complicated,


compressed


poem


tries


invoke


lines


some


the darker moments


history


anti-Semitism


language


that


ranges


from


symbolic


to sarcastic,


from mundane


visionary.


better


little


s of


terrible


Stubbornly upward
Singing through s


Jews


flower


s through
olid stone


strict


lean
the
the


flames


perfect
sacred


ages
names.


(PJ,3)


In richly


resonant


language,


first quatrain


describes


Hebrew


letters


carved


into


headstones


Jewish


dead.


One


can


never


dissociate


Hebrew


from


quintessential


Hebrew


text.


-....


Torah.


Conseoannt v -












survives,


this parchment Torah of life,


this stone Torah of


death.


Indeed,


the history of the Jews can be read as a


history of tragic life and death.


Consequently,


letters


strict as flames"


suggests at once the sacred fire which


never exhausts the fuel


that feeds it,


as of,


instance,


the burning bush,


well


the fires which have burned


thousands of Torahs,


in the recent and distant past.


Furthermore,


Torah.


the Jewish people ar


inseparable from the


When the Torah burns and is destroyed,


the Jew burns


and is destroyed.

sacred flame, the


When the Torah survives as a strict and


SJew survives as a strict and sacred flame.


Considering the date of


its publication,


1954,


the imagery,


the hint of bitter


irony in the phrase "perfect ages"


(the


Jews are stubborn survivors o

which they were persecuted),


the "perfect ages"


there can be no mistaking the


historical event which underlies this masterfully rendered

passage.

The Jewish/Christian conflict comes to the foreground

as the stanza continues.


The letters of the Jews are black and clean


And lie in


chain-line over Christian pages.


The chosen letters bristle like barbed wire


ml"*, L 4-~ u>^3- i- IC -c-i-











pages.


Ironically,


the letters of the Jews have been


expropriated by Christians and turned to life-denying rather

than life-affirming purposes, destructive rather than


creative ends.


This


ironic indictment of the Church


represents the letters of the Jews,

victimizers, not victims, implying


for hundreds of years of anti-Semitism.


the Jews themselves,


a Christian justification


The stanza


concludes with a paradoxical passage.19


These words,


this burning bush,


this flickering


Unsacrifices the bled son of man


Yet plaits hi


crown of thorns.


The Torah, a mysterious symbol of life and death


("burning bush,"


man," not God,


"flickering pyre"), gives Christ,


life.


"son of


Christ, after all, was a Jew.


simultaneously,


the Torah prepares Christ's crown of death.


To this point in the poem,


the difficult relationship


between Judaism and Christianity--who is responsible for

killing whom?--has been presented in torturously compressed


language.


The poem suggests in its eschatological


conclusion that,


like the language which relaxes


in the


second and final stanza,


the Jewish/Christian conflict will


be resolved at the end of time.












This


is at


once


a hopeful


desperate conclusion.


recent


history


no matter


safe


reminded


life


Shapiro


appears,


Jews


Jew will


world


never


over,


finally


secure


diaspora.


Still,


according


Biblical


prophecy


the day will


refused,


Torah


come


when


will


the Jew will


accepted


longer


truth.


While


this


poem


could


easily


have


been


written


at other


periods


Jewish history,


could


perhaps


have


been


written


visionary


American


American Jews


would


Jew


have


1920s


remained


or early


willfully


1930s,


blind


most


this


danger


Jewish


life


until


Holocaust


intervened


their


security.


though


next

the


poem,


"Israel,


Westerner


" offers


an antidote


establishment


to exile,


State


Israel


offers


only


qualified


relief.


"When


think


liberation


Pale


stine/


heart


leaps


forward


like


hungry dog,/My


heart


thrown


back


tangled


chain,/My


soul


hangdog


in a


Western


chair.


He desires


"Palestine"


but


he's


chained


to his


life


West,


America.


Shapiro


first


Jewish


poet


addr


ess


problem


dual


twelfth-century


loyalties.


Jewish-Spanish


same


poet


subject,


Judah Halevi


wrote,


. My













Despite


physical


psychic


imprisonment


diaspora


Jew,


chained


sunk


a Western


chair,


continues


suffer,


he would


like


to believe


that


birth


Jewish


State will


mark


the death


anti-Semitic myths,


Jewish


persecution.


Speak of
No more.


one


Saying,


Speak


tillage


Speak of
harried
faster.


yellow
the name


badge,
only


the
Jesu


a million
evil myth


S


Speak
secta


heads
no more


on his way


no more
nefaria.


living
(PJ,4)


land.


This


hopeful


conclusion


echoes


the messianic


vision


with


which


"The Alphabet"


concludes.


Both


poems mourn


honor


Jewish


dead,


both


offer


solace


living


with


promise of


just


future.


Though more mysterious


than


"The Alphabet"


"Israel,


prose


" the


poem


third


first


poem


published


book,


1942,


"The Dirty


symbolically


Word,


continues


Shapiro's


confrontation


with


anti-Semitism.


Like


bird,


the dirty word


"hops


cage"


of a boy's mind


and,


"with


vicious


beak,


ripping


chopping


flesh,


" feeds


boy's


brain


(PJ,5) .


The


boy


grows


into


a man


dies,


seemingly


indestructible


"bird


outlives


the man,










57

its final paragraph the poem shifts suddenly from third to


first person).


"But I


one morning went upstairs and opened


the door and entered the closet and found in the cage of my


mind the great bird dead.


The speaker mourns the bird's


death and also salvages something from the bird:


"[O]ut of


the worn black feathers of the wing have I made pens to


write these elegi


, for


I have outlived the bird, and I


have murdered it in my early childhood."


The bird, th

pejorative "Jew,"


e word that infects the speaker's mind,


incites a heroic action.


The speaker of


the poem will no longer remain a passive victim, subjected


to the slanderous term


neighbor


"Jew" spit at him by anti-Semitic


The degrading word also inspires "these


elegies," these poems dedicated finally to all who suffer

from anti-Semitism, perpetuators and victims alike.


The first three poems--"The Alphabet," "Israel,

Dirty Word"--follow similar structural patterns. Ea


" "The


,ch poem


begins with a birth or genesis experience ("The letters of


the Jews,"21


"the liberation of Palestine," "The dirty word


hops in the cage of the mind


. [of a]


small boy"),


proceeds to a death experience


("the still speaking embers


of ghettos," "the tillage of a million heads," "the great


h=r n n r'.nr.1 TIac! T.71 i n 4r] ovnrA in r an n cr'itT


k;-^ v^ -a^"\l













yet,


pattern


also


accurately


reflects


historical


experience


underlying


poems:


birth


Jewish


people,


near


destruction


that


people,


Jewish


renewal


through


redemption


Israel.


least


poems


Part


"University"


and


"Washington


Cathedral,


" address


subjects


removed


from


Holocaust.


"University"


is Shapiro'


celebrated


attack


the elitist


Virginia.


(and


racist


"Washington


anti-Semitic)


Cathedral"


describes


University


tourist's


visit


to a church


nation's


capitol.


Both


poems,


however,


this


new


context,


resonate


with


same


themes,


same complaints


those


poems which


address


subject


Holocaust.


"University,


" for


instance,


begins,


hurt


Negro


avoid


the Jew/Is


curriculum


(PJ,12).


Architecturally,


campus


built


"of mannered


brick"


"columns


with


imperious


stance.


buildings


themselves


"eye"


outlanderss,


" the


"entering


boys,


" the


new


students


have


learn


the manners


this


Southern


place.


To succeed


here,


one must


assimilate,


one must


"practice


a face"


even


perhaps


change


one's


name:


"The


Deans,


dry


spinsters


over


family plate,/Ring


out


English


*I -1----


*


tn If C r n ny n


** ~ ~ r II _n


'U I-s 1.-


- ,l --A


~1 L


q *


YL_


A.


1


1.


I


I I












Like


"University,


" "Washington


Cathedral"


was


first


published


Person,


Place


Thing.


Moved


architectural


splendor


well


relics--


"his


heart


. aches


with


history


astonishment"--the


tourist


who


subject


poem


offers


a donation


church:


gives


large coin


wooden


coffer"


(PJ,14).


Similarly,


when he


leaves


the church


returns


the capitol's


streets


pays


dues


country:


votes


again.


poem concludes,


"This


church


city


triumph


in his


eyes./He


only


a good


alien,


nominally


happy"


(PJ,15).


While


there


explicit


indication


tourist's


ethnicity


religion,


context makes


him a


Jew,


an alien


submits


(political,


religious)


land:


"The church


city


triumph.


"University"


and


"Washington Cathedral"


are


poems


subtle extermination.


both


poems,


Jew


"outlander,


transfigure


culture.


" the


himself


"alien,


Only Chris


" confronting


according


tianized,


the demands


Anglicized


pressure


host


Americanized


could


the outsider


fulfill


civiC,


national


spiritual


duties.


Nevertheless,


Jew


understands


that


he can


never


be more


than a


"good


alien,


nominally


happy.


everyone


knows,


" Shapiro


writes


introduction


Poems


I. i


....


L-


V. -












full


citizenship.


Shapiro


knows,


there are


profound


limits


assimilation.


"Travelogue


Exiles,


" also


Part


expresses


exile


s plight


in a manner


which


recogn


izes


impossibility


assimilation.


Travelogue


Exiles


Look


remember.


Look


upon


sky;


Look deep


The u
Speak


What
The


nconfined


now


ao you
heavens


deep
, the
speak


hear
are


into


terminus


into


What


taken:


does


this


sea-c
of p


lean


air,


rayer.


hallowed


sky re
t your


dome.


ply?
home.


Look


remember.


Look down


What


tomb,


down


life


Look


into


below,


a cradl


upon tni
he tirel


life
curly


ess


tide.


inside,
foam?


waves


The water


arise;
s are t


sea


:aken


-wind
; thi


t hsi orhm


and
s is


agree


Look an
Far, fa
Surely,
Speak t


What
The


remember.


across
there,


:hen


and


Look


upon


factories


sure
ask


hear?


earth


they will
forest an


What


s tak


does
s is


the
not


s land,
the gr


let
the


land
your


ass


you pass
loam.
command
home.


(PJ,18)


Simple


, orderly,


direct,


"Travelogue


Exiles"


requires


little


explication


all.


pleas


ures,


however


sad,


derive


equally


from


formal


acc


ompli


shments


content.


Each


stanza


begins


with


a promise:


Look


this,


look at


that.


look


other


thin.


Th


sea;


s a n a,7 ma


.. ...


home.


w


vour


K












sounds


not malicious,


but


seductively


calm


it makes


pronouncements.


whose


voice


this,


God's?


After


all,


God's


omniscient


voice


that


commands:


there


light


("look


remember") .


were


it not


"factories"


final


stanza,


this


travelogue


could


just


as eas


have


been


addressed


Adam and


more


modern


exiles.


Finally,


voice's anonymity


that


makes


"Travelogue


Exiles"


a powerful


poem.


For


these


pronouncements,


spoken


faceless,


unidentifiable,


unattributable


source,


are


even


less


negotiable


than


they


could


be attributed


source,


even


(both


Abraham


Moses


negotiated


successfully with


a merciful


God).


Though


this


poem,


originally


printed


Person,


Place


Thing,


tied


specific


historical moment,


current


context


it speaks


poignantly


Jewi


experience


say,


Germany:


that


country


offered


the Jews


opportunity


assimilate


then


reminded


Jews,


were,


that


Germany was


taken,


Germany


Eastern


Europe


were


their


home.


Shapiro's


success


in dispassionately recording


one


stark


truths


Jewish


life


exile


part


result


ability


surrender


powerful


perhaps


distorting


FaP] in nrc


aiihm 1-


h im co


.l-h j "i "Ki l I nI


Ill | l


r I I i


r r


3












"Israel"


represents


other,


impassioned


end.


Part


concludes


with


failed


Miltonic


sonnet,


"Lord,


Have


Seen


Much,


" worth mentioning


only


that


sentiment


reflects


the


state


utter


despair


over


prospects


Jewish


life


to which


poet


fallen.


Too s
Lord,


suddenly


in a day


The mouth


s lightning
he vacuum of


blood,


ocean'


closed:


Hell,


ragged


jaw,


More
When
The


than


driven


lust


embitter


from


ed Adam


ever


Eden


of godhead


saw


East


hideously


to dwell,


exposed!
(PJ,19)


Despite


Part


conclusion--there


no place


world--these


are


finally not


poems


despondence


unredeemable despair,


but


rather


elegiac


poems


that


witness


horror


pay


tribute


the dead


a manner


that


will


hopefully


enable


living


renew


commitment t


world


that


wishes


to exclude


him.


"Now


lawn/The


olives


fall


thousands,


" Shapiro


writes


"The Olive Tree,


speaking


allegorically


Jewish


victims


Holocaust.


He continues,


* and


delight


shed my


Pressing
In love


tennis


them
and r


shoes


coldly


everence


walk


into
for


them,


the deep gra


total
PJ,7)


loss












transformative moments


individual's


life.


"The


Confirmation,


" published


first


1941,


presents


dramatic events


boy'


life


which


occur


within


hours


one


another:


on Saturday


night


a boy


wakened by


sex


dream


and masturbates;


on Sunday morning


boy


takes


confirmation


church.


Not


surpri


singly,


Shapiro


does


condemn


Saturday


night


sexual


initiation.


contrary,


seem designed


abundance


sexual


to highlight


symbolism and


religious


nature


plot


sexual


experience,


sexual


nature


religious


experience.


third


stanza,


stance,


Shapiro


sanctifies


boy's


masturbation


with


religious


conceit.


to confirm


With Benediction


sex,


breathless


self-bestowed


white


he knelt


Oh
And
Fel


tightly married


unction


1


Like


from


Upon t
Easter


smooth


vesse
altar


boys


his childish grip,
holy-oil
level lio


cloth;


the blood


sang


in his


head


night


long


tallow bead


Like


tears


dried


light-heartedness


the


first


bed.


(PJ,25)


stanzas


continues


final


stanza


helps


undercut


somewhat


sermonizing


with


which


poem


concludes.


Come
AnAr


from


., -* 1 T


church,


parents a
t~~~~~~t;~~~~ ~ i-nt a r. ~


girls.


n^n *l^- ^ v^^


r-1 ktl


1^ -









64

This sentimental portrait of a boy's initiation--


religious, sexual--invites parents, girls,


partake in a double pleasure.


readers to


The sensuality of church


imagery complements the sexuality of the boy's midnight


dream.


The tensions between priest and boy, parents and


child that could have dominated the conclusion of this poem

are swept aside by the celebratory and didactic voice of the


speaker.


But for all


its bravado,


the poem establishes no


clear connection to the subject of the Jew, not, at least,

until it is read in conjunction with its companion piece,

"The First Time."


Published 16 years after


"The Confirmation"


(1957),


"The First Time," uses some of the same rhetorical effects

as its predecessor, but here the effects, marshalled with

great skill and control, move the poem to a shocking and


profound conclusion. The atmosphere in "The Confirmation"

is inviting, seductive. Safe in his bedroom the boy awakes


and observes through the bedroom window how "the moon shone

in the yard/On hairy hollyhocks erect/And buds of roses pink

and hard/And on the solid wall/A square of light like movies


fell


(PJ,25).


contrast,


The atmosphere in "The First Time," by


is medicinal,


anesthetic, even frightening.













Similar to "The Confirmation"


in which


sex


and faith in God


are united by the act of confirmation,


this poem cleverly


joins passion to the anesthetization of passion in a


single


act.


The "lamp"


is of "iodine"


(medicinal


and "rose"


(romantic/sensual) .


Its light "stains all love" like


iodine, like sin,


rose.


"with


For all its evoca


its medicinal bloom," its healing

tive, "shadowy" promises in the


first three lines,


the stanza concludes with a surprisingly


dramatic shift to a plain, direct, and by comparison

understated style.


This boy,


who


is no more than seventeen,


Not knowing what to do,


takes off his clothes


As one might in a doctor's anteroom.


The plainness of lines 4-6 anesthetizes the "passionate"


rhetoric in lines 1-3.


Thus in its first stanza alone,


poem exhibits a wider range of diction, a more deft control


of tone than "The Confirmation.


The next stanza returns to symbolic language.


Then in a cross-draft of fear and shame
Feels love hysterically burn away,
A candle swimming down to nothingness
Put out by its own wetted gusts of flame


And he stands smooth


uncarved ivory


Heavily curved for some expert caress.












of his


first


visit


a prostitute.


Equally


lush


unreal


prostitute'


s bedroom


"where chairs


twist


with


dragons


from


floor/And


great


drugged


with


own


perfume/Spreads


carnivorous


flower-mouth


all.


Besides


further


development


the medicinal/floral


configuration,


important


note


the word


which


stanza


concludes:


"all.


" It


seems


a slight,


merely


descriptive moment


passing.


prostitute


serves


"all"


men


in an


undiscriminating


fashion.


precisely


this


word


that


prepares


shock


poem's


conclusion.


penultimate


stanza,


boy meets


the girl


dreams.


The girl


wears


Hauling


her
young


like


sitting with
black thing


round


tha


country


face
n he


her
and


upward


bac
she


k to him;
rakes her


hair,


like moonri


angled


girl


feet


arms


are


slim


are


(PJ,29)


Again


touch of


poem


returns


figurative


plain diction,


flair:


"Hauling


with


round


only


face


a minimal


upward


like moonrise.


poem


concludes,


picking


from


last


line


stanza


five.











And looks at him,


too naked and too soon,


And almost gently asks: Are you a Jew?


How bureaucratic!


The clerk turns around at her desk and


coolly begins interviewing her client!


The distinction


between "all" and "Jew" has become too painfully clear.


this moment of vulnerability,


this instant of initiation,


the boy desires nothing


less than to affirm,


to confirm his


"essential" identity.


He has come to the prostitute to


prove himself

men behave.


to make himself a Man,


to behave like "all"


He desires normality, not abnormality,


in his


sexual performance;


he would prefer to confirm his sexual


ordinariness, not extraordinariness.23


confronted with his distinctiveness,


inescapable brand,


Instead he is


his tattoo,


his Jewish essence, his circumcised


penis.


In a world of men,


he is a Jew.


If he forgets this,


there will always be someone to remind him,


(gentile-ly)


"almost gently"


of his "true" nature.24


Once this classic model


(Man/Jew)


has been identified,


other anti-Semitic strains in the metaphoric motif become


clear.


For instance,


her "with old


the prostitute watches the boy behind


The comic and ironic effects


aside,


this phrase also invokes the long history of anti-Semitism


through which she gazes at him.


The medicinal metaphors as


,












potentially


contagious


nature


sterility


encounter


between


young


man


prostitute.


latent


these


images


implication


that


the Jew


the most


contagious


of men,


familiar


anti-Semitic myth


originating


during


are


the middle


necessary


ages;

protect


therefore,

oneself f


extraordinary


rom


precautions


him.25


"The Confirmation"


speaker


imposes


values


priest,


parents,


girls


boy,


arguing


finally


sexual


nature of


religious


experience.


"The


First


Time"


concludes


without


intervention


of a speaker


imposing


resolution


poem.


part


poem's


success


lies


precisely


willingness


to conclude with


no more


resolution


than


painful


mutual


recognition:


sees


girl


"a black


thing"


who


"rakes


hair;"


sees


"Jew.


poem moves


from


fantasy


reality,


from


exotic


plain diction,


particularity


from


(girl


universality


Jew),


(prostitute


disconcerting


and man)


particularity.


poems


experienced

identity, e


Confirmation"


record


private


experienced


argues


encounter


domain,


public


public


between


religion

domain.


acceptance of


sexuality,


religious


"The


positive


value


of a boy's


intimate,


personal


life.


Though


poem


was


likely


composed


one ort


S-hno I I v


nIP was


wr i in


U1


rlC r












having


masturbated)


seeks


acceptance


by a majority,


host


culture

records


(church,


family,


interaction


friends).


between


"The


First


outsider


Time,


(Jew


too,


host


culture


(Gentile,


woman)


well


unlikelihood


s ever


overcoming


difference.


This


truth


the center


Poems


Jew.


individual


s encounter


with


an exclusive culture,


culture


from


which


individual


will


always


some


extent


excluded,


repea ted


again and


again


poems


Part


Largely


historical


Often


context


alien


absent


that


from


figures


individual,


poems


Part


so prominently


rejected


host


Part


culture,


experiences


a sense


psychic


incompleteness,


psychic


mutilation.


To compensate


this,


individual


can


develop a


belief


"the


wholeness


even


the mutilated.


This


indeed


subject


"The


Leg,


a war


poem


included


Part


without


Shapiro'


s instructive


note,


would


seem


to have


little


with


subject


Jew.


Freud


speak


defloration"


Father.


Jew,
being


(it may


and
Freuc


mutilation,


eate


"the


often)


fear
view,


circum


are


written during
wholeness even


cis


one.


of being


as
ion,
The


tha


"violent


eaten
t of


"the


s a


and its subject
the mutilated.


f


eve
ear


poem


s the


IDnT 7 \












. as


Begin
That


deliberately,


explore th
comfortable


stump. H
nd tucked


fingers
e learns
in like


shape
sock.


This
The
The


has


finest
nonsense


sense


surgical


wheel


humor,
limb,


this can despi


the dignity


chairs.


Now


of
smi


se
limping,
les to


the wall:


The amputation


become


an acquisition.
(PJ,32)


amputation


become


an acquisition,


a gain.


The wounded


solider


goes


fantasize


"the mind


leg.


lost)


wondering


where


(all


surely


He must


a duty


s injury,
articulate


the mind


leg;
orphan,
he leg,


Pray


part


that


is mi


ssing
PJ,32)


Rather


than


seeking


spiritual


compensation


loss,


soldier


repeatedly


insists


limiting


s identity


sense of


physicality:


tries


to maintain


sense


physical


wholeness


through


imagining


life


the missing


leg.


As Malkoff


explains,


"The


expected means


reconciliation


would,


primacy


most


body;


but


readers,


Shapiro


involve a


frustrates


rejection


this


expectation by


insisting


the more


upon


body'


importance.


finding


consolation


therein-."


....


....













body,


To love
What in
Knead,


what


the
Thy
knead


Which must


thou


take


hurl me


Father,


force
palm


that


but a


grows


senselessness


he substance
beautiful in
e angrily in
the shark,


our


flesh
hand


shall


sign
give


back


and mud?


understanding


to walk,


That


die!


(PJ,33)


This


stanza


continues


grant


primacy


body:


"understanding"


"sub


stance"


expresses


beauty


flesh.


" Even


first


person


speaker


emerges


suddenly


final


stan


can


accept


physical mutilation


provided


spared


life:


willing


to be maimed,


mutilated


transgressions


("if


thou


take me


angrily


hand"),


don't want


to die.


But


body


also


regarded


"sign,


" the


value


which


resides


own


substance


what


points


something


incorporeal,


force


which

the b


comes


ody


from


God.


primary,


Shapiro


soul


appears


primary.


to want


But,


both


finally


ways:

, the


subject


soul


could


only


introduced


once


body,


the mutilated


body,


been


fully


accepted.


Indeed,


conclusions


penultimate


final


stanzas


stand


sharp contrast


one


another.


Stanza


four


concludes,


"after


a while


[the


leg]


will


die quietly.


" Stanza


five


concludes


shall


die.


Thus


poem


is careful












poem's


apparent


statement


of belief


eternal


soul--"if


Thou


take me


angrily


hand/And


hurl


shark,


final


shall


plea,


die!"


shall


--is


die,


undercut


" which


passion


articulates


that


a desperate


attachment


life


body,


only


life


there


As elsewhere


Part


Shapiro


represents


body


center


of cultural


personal


conflict,


here


body


regarded


something


be given


back


Father,


force


that


grows


ultimate


source of


identity,


regarded


source


one's


living


identity,


only


identity


that matters.


To deny


one'


body,


circumcised,


mutilated


or disfigured


any way,


to deny


essence


of one's


identity.


For


soldier


this means


accepting


"wholeness,


" accepting


fact


that


he has


been


hurled


shark


he has


died,


despite having


lost


leg;


the Jew


"The


First


Time"


it means


accepting


manliness despite


been


circumcision,


hurled


accepting


shark,


rabbi


fact


that


"with


blade,


" and


survived


Jewi


sh male:


body


identity.


As Part


concluded


with


sort


summary poem,


"Lord,


Have Seen


Much,


Part


concludes


with


"The


Crucifix


Filina


Cabinet.


poem


which


expresses


Shapiro'


*lir L A I A ^


0












speaker


reaches


into


filing


cabinet,


finds


"crucifix"


tfillin


phylacteryy)


bag,


places


crucifix


into


tfillin bag


presumably


returns


them


filing


cabinet.


Shapiro


uses


these


convenient


props


arrive


hope


(implied)


future


which Christianity


Judaism will


longer


tangle


with


one


another.


Shapiro's


irreverence


ample opportunity


express


itself


this


poem.


"Out


filing


cabinet


true


steel,


steel


" the


filing


poem begins,


cabinet


ironically


suggesting


repository


truth


that


this


office


(PJ,46).


Indeed,


cabinet


"saves


from


fire my


rags


of letters,


bills,


Manuscripts,


contracts"


"all


trash of


praise.


Shapiro


can


afford


scorn


literary


fame:


he has


already


won


Pulitzer


Prize


served


Poetry Consultant


Library


of Congress


as well


editor


of Poetry.


also


seems determined


to undercut


melancholic,


plaintive,


hopeful


echoes


of Whitman


("out


cradle,


" "out


filing


cabinet,


" "out


drawer")


with


bitter


sarcasm.


Having


speaker


found


turns


crucifix


irreverence


amidst


from


papers,


literary


religious


kingdom.














jabs


at Christianity--its


symbol,


tree crazy


with


age";


leader,


"some


ancient


teacher"


--seem


even


sharper


when


contrasted


sentimental


remarks


about Judaism.


found


velvet


sewn


the Jews


For
That
Done


holy
bind


shawl
the


arm


Pharoah


d frontlets
at morning
s time.


and
for


soft
great


thongs
wrongs


(PJ,46


phylacteries


leather


straps


with


which devout


Jews


bind


themselves daily


in morning


prayer,


serve,


among


other


things,


as a daily memorial


Jewi


sh enslavement


Egypt.


Finally,


poem


concludes


with


Shapiro'


s hope


future.


The


crucifix


I dropped
Thought


down


tangled


the darkness


with


thought


chain


chain,


pouch,
with


Till


time


Crumble


untie


the dark


cross


with


bleed


greedy


look,


leathery
(PJ,46


vein.


note


this


poem


resolves


that


Christianity


Judaism are equally


undesirable,


they


are equally


responsible


great


story,


great


tragedy


Western


civilization,


which


they


deserve


to be hidden


- - - -c ~ -I 1- I a


r a


I 1


4


r


* 4


I


1-


' 1


II I_












previous


poems


Gentile/Jewish


conflict


was


represented


institution,


in encounters


individual


between


another


individual


individual,


individual


God.


Here


conflict


is expressed


individual's


encounter


with


religious


symbols,


symbols


that


Shapiro


unable


invest


with


kind


of meaning


necessary


to evoke


strong


emotional


reaction


from


readers.


a sense,


"The


Crucifix


Filing


Cabinet"


one


the most mundane


poems


Part


documenting


an anecdote


from


one man's day


office.


The


poems


Part


move


from


personal


archetypal,


from


the mundane


mythological,


from


prosaic


Biblical.


The


early


sonnet


(1944


"Jew,


" distinguishes


between


immortal,


immutable


name


"Jew,


" and


thereby


language of


Jews,


the mortal,


mutable


Jewish


person,


nose


that


can


change


the weathers


time


persist/Or


die


confusion


or model


itself


best"


(PJ,50).


enemies


the Jews come


from


within


Jewish


community


without:


Jew


"word


the murder


of God";


that


word


will


"cry


air/Though


race


is no more


the


temples


are closed


our


will


[emphasis


added].


twelve-line


argument


compressed


into


concludiina


conni st--












As Christ


"impaled


heart


the world,


" the


Jew


impaled


that


cross,


once


past but


continuously unfolding


present


("is"


"was").


Again


argument


is made


that


Jew


s persecuted


persecutor:


according


the myth


Jews


killed


Christ


in so doing


killed


hopes


that


they


would


ever


treated


equal


in a


Christian


society.


Though


poem


seriously


flawed--by


the deadly


regular


anapestic


line


as well


as by


the expendable couple


instance--it


struggles


provide


a complex


portrait


Jew,


a character


who


been


often misrepresented


stick-figure enemy


in other


literary works.


Based


on Freud


s Moses


Monotheism,


"The Murder


Moses,


" also


first


published


1944,


offers


a much more


complete


psychological


emotional


portrait


Jews


a people


full


fear,


rage


, jealousy,


remorse,


love,


respect,


devotion


--in


short,


a people


fully


human.


The


narrative


recounts


Exodus


from Egypt,


from


point


view of


Israelites,


culminates


Israelites


admission


that


was


they


who murdered


Moses.


poem


begins


expressing


Israelites'


s reluctance


follow


Moses


Egypt


their


subsequent


skepticism


regarding


Moses'


S Dowers


i


1












Called
Natural


the miracle
phenomena.


staff


plagues


(PJ,53)


Despair


doubt


plague


Israelites


this


swiftly


moving


passage


of simple


action


lively


syntax.


The


natural


fears


leaving


familiar


setting


(Egypt


being


are


captured


expressed,


again


is a


crushed


strong


under


suspicion


"Pharaoh


of Moses's


s wheels"


character


itself.


You always
Prophecy d
The women


went


sturb


said


alone,


you,
were


you


little


you w
meek,


ahead,


rere
the


fanatic.


men


Regarded


typical


leader.


your


blac


wife might


have


been


foreigner


We even


discussed


your


parentage,


were


you


really


a Jew?


Their


attitude


toward


Moses


can


summed


best


line of


poem.


We hated


water


u daily.
spilled.


children


died.


these


three declarative


statements,


Shapiro


at his


best:

here,


restrained,


language


clear,


direct.


compressed


There


point


no overwriting

of distracting


1-ityon 4H-anr


r.r- C4- a r m r


, rat


3mr;n^l/^ni'h


nv-^^ y r^


nr t n


fyn /"


nr












we gave


the gift


death.


(PJ,54)


Murder


phrases


of Moses.


articulate


The gift


distinct


of death.


voices.


These


former,


bold


voice


title,


represents


the author's


Freudian


interpretation


these


Biblical


events.


It was


necessary


the Jews


mature,


to murder


take


their


place,


father,


become


Moses,


race.


in order


latter,


voice


Israelites,


justification,


a denial,


of protecting


themselves


from


truth


that


they were


responsible


their


leader


s death,


that


they


broken


sixth


commandment.


boldness,


frankness,


directness,


"The


Murder


Moses"


resembles most


clearly


voice


that


says,


hated


you


daily.


children


died.


The water


spilled.


Only


point


their


most


serious


crime,


more


serious


even


than


idol


worship,


which


they


last


practiced


just


prior


rece


giving


commandments


which


forbade


Israelites


weaken


speak


in sheltering


figurative


language.


Lest


poem


here,


leaving


readers


with


a perception


Israelites


liars,


masters


self-deception,


poem continues


one


more


summary


stanza.











This


characteristically moralizing


final


stanza


introduces


a new


element


into


poem,


time.


Prior


this


poem


seemed


entirely


Biblical


past.


title


notes


poem


provide,


course,


a modern


interpretive


stanza


framework


bridges


our


between


reading.


the Biblical


final


past


present,


implying


from


within


body


poem


itself


relevance


Moses


story--a


paradigm


psychological


conflict


with


Jewish


leaders


necessary


Jewish


growth--to


contemporary


Jewry.


Shapiro'


self-conscious method


insi


sting


importance


reclaiming


the Biblical


past


through


reinterpretation


means


ensuring


Jewish


survival.


"Ad am


Eve,


" Shapiro


again


takes


a Biblical


subject


approaches


through


Jewish


viewpoint:


"The


viewpoint


sequence,


afterworld,


that man


Jewish"


s for


(PJ,71) .


world,


only


this


theme of


"Adam and


Eve,


" it


theme which


unifies


Poems


a Jew.


In addition


"Book


of Genesis,


Shapiro draws


heavily


least


interpretive


sources,


"the


Zohar


or central


work


cabala,


" and


"the


renegade


Freudian,


Wilhelm Reich"


(PJ,71).


The


titles


individual


poems


within


sequence


reveal


C__










titles


themselves


suggest


stages


a psychic


journey which


surface


seems


lead


from


sickness


to health but

alienation and

understanding


leaving


from


sickness


exile.


Jewish


idyllic,


Paradise)


But


to

as


experience


imaginary,


a realistic,


sickness:


applies

e, this


separation,


Shapiro


exile constitutes


impossible world


material,


imperfect,


(Eden,


troubled,


dangerous


world.


fact


tension


between


imaginary


realistic


that


troubles


Adam


from


beginning.


After


having


discovered


every


path


this


first


garden,


after


having


praised


"the


nature


thing


" Adam


grows


bored


with


the world


outside


and


eventually


becomes aware


world


in his mind.


Thinking


became


garden


own.


were


new


thing


word


s he


never


said,


Beasts


he had


never


seen


true garden


knew were


(PJ,62)


After


discovering


imag nation,


he develops


sharp


sense


self-consciousness,


through


which,


finally,


he discovers


even more


new


emotions:


anger,


wanderlust,


longing.


Then


comes


Eve.


- 9 V --


1 ^ -


VT --


f W











first


he regards


undiscovered member


she were


"true


garden"


another,


he had


until


come


then,


know


so well.


when


He was


terror


touched
he must


Then
His


he r
side,


felt


spoke the
stricken,


wound
the


called


while


stab


him


word


but


where i
place to
longing
e watch'


suddenly


was


was


sed her
fading


thou)
hand


now,


understand.


that
d it


like


torn


whitely mend,
a thorn.


thought


woman


hurt him.


was


Her


same
there


she who
fingers


sickne


any


seiz


seeking


difference,


him


bit


now


return;


ne pain
hard as


free


iron


body.


(PJ,64)


Adam s


sickness


began


with


self-recognition;


grows


with


which


recognition


to place


other,


blame


a convenient


ckness.


figure


Then


initiated


into


complex


world


love.


The couple


discovers


kissing


almost


accident.


"The


first


kiss


was


with


stumbling


fingertips.


Their


bodies grazed


each


other


if by


chance.


second


was


with


lips.


Before


fear,


third,


his deep


something


insecurity


happens


that


that


he might


triggers


lose


Adam'


Eve.


Some obscure


ange


pausing


on his


course,


Shed


such


That Adam


a bright


in grie


ess
was


face of


ready


Eve,


to believe


VT 1- -i


I i 1-


s-i inf r% C. 4* a J


^


nri T T S


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I


[I I k~l/


WJ











Tree


of Guilt,


Eve


encounters


serpent,


"the


great


power


tree,


" and


second


taste,


vision


actually,


sex.


Startled


sight


which


prayed--the


snake


risen


from


tree


pointing


loins"


fell


hid


face


still


saw


spirit


Into


Straight


open
as a


sky


tree
until


standing


emerge an
it stood


stone,


slip


spilled


seed.


(PJ,66)


Once


again


the motif


garden


the mind


appears.


the
Stricken


woman
with


what


knew,


ripe


in her


thought


Like
And


a fresh appl
rotten, like


fallen
fruit


from
that


the
lies


limb


long.


Knowledge


affliction,


familiar


theme


from


"Genesi


" and


this


knowledge,


this


sexual


knowledge


paradoxically


once


ripe


and


rotten,


a blessing


curse.


Eve


s confession


to Adam-- "Under


tree


took


fruit


truth/From an


ange


ate


with my


other


mouth"


--an


unwitting


("She did


know


lied"


arouses


fullest


triggers


an almost


animalistic


response.













having


rewarded


"tasted


. with


this


shame


fruit,


" Adam


exile.


are


teach


them


shame?


By marring


imag


the goat-god,


fruits
itching
uglines
ridicul


cloth


tendrils


, by
, by


, by


black


clown


and
and


by
by


shadow


fig-leaf


devi


of Paradi


the navel
strings


our
patch


's bud,
of blood,


fear,
of hair.


(PJ,68)


This


command


executed


while


lovers


sleep.


Then


they


awaken.


They
They
Like


awoke


and


thought
animals
clutched


saw


they
they
each


the covering
were changing


bellowed


other,


that
into


reveal
animal


terrible cries


hiding


each


other


eyes.


They


have


been


reduced


shame,


they


are


too


ashamed


even


look


one


another.


they begin


their


departure


from


the garden,


they


first


walk


"angrily,


slowly


. like


exiled


king


s," but


then


first


"like


step


peasants,


toward


pitiful


earth


strong,


hesitate.


[they]


" From


take


kings


peasants.


Before


taking


final


steps


of departure,


Adam


calls


to his


"Father.













Adam,


surprisingly,


seems


to desire exile.


Eve,


other


hand,


endowed


with


"opposite


nature"


Father,


another


desire:


"Guide


Paradise.


Finally,


slow


half-dozen


steps


across


stone,


" Adam


Eve,


"called


by name"


angel,


"turned


beheld"


Eden ablaze
The garden


was


with fires
dressed for


autumn,


dying


present


d gold,
cold flame,


world.


Unlike


"Murder


of Moses,


" this


poem


concludes


without


a summary


stanza.


word


spans


human


history


from


its mythological


beginnings


"present,


" this


without


explicit moral


comment.


The


present


time,


according


this myth,


perpetually


know what


"present


autumn,


world"


perpetually


fall.


to offer.


Adam


"turned


in dark


amazement"


to witness


Eden


burning,


look


back


over


our


shoulders


beginning


world


this


book


where


see


"flames,


" the


"barbed


wire,


" "the


European


still


Jewry


speaking


burning


embers


"The


of ghettos"--Eastern


Alphabet.


Shapiro


chosen


to end


book


beginning.


leaves


with


story


our


archetypal


Mother


Father


stepping


their


world


into


ours.


returning


reclaiming


.&


L. J


I .











long


night which


preceded


this


book,


Shapiro


been


troubled


representation


Western


literature


as well


status


Jew


Western


civilization.


Indeed,


concerns


world


literature


inseparable.


book


Jew


itself


the world


suggests,


are


banishment


banishment,


exile


exile.


Jew


belongs


this


world,


next;


earth,


not


Paradise.


Poems


first-rate artistic


accomplishment,


represents


Shapiro


s Jewish


commitment


repairing


this


broken


world.


time of


publication,


Poems


a Jew was


well


received.


reviewer


s mi


Many


strust


the re

Shapiro


views


centered more


s sincerity


a Jew


the

than


the quality


the work.


Leslie


Fiedler


charged


Shapiro


with


capitalizing


recently wakened


interest


in Jewish


literature.27


live


time when


everywhere


realm


prose Jewi


sh writers


have discovered


their


Jewishness


to be


an eminently marketable commodity,


their


much


vaunted


alienation


their


passport


into


heart


Gentile culture.


Fiedler


also


felt


compelled


remind


readers of


Shapiro'


"unconsummated


adulterous


affair


with


the Catholic Church.


Fiedler


writes,


"Indeed


Shapiro


very


conception


is a Christian


one


once


Jew,












are


recycled,


freshened


only


slightly


new context,


Fiedler


poignant


able


to attribute


perception


Shapiro


American


Jew's


a particularly


self-concept


the mid-twentieth


century.


[F]or most moderns,
of belonging but of
alienation. It is


Jewishne
galuth,
Shapiro's


an awareness


not


of exile or


special


triumph


Jew


and a


twentieth
awareness


poet to
century
in which


have


defined


American
Bleiste


form:


galuth


mid-


the moment


realizes


that


still


Shylock


after


generation American
remotest ancestor 31


all,
that


second-


is as


third-


alien


Another


reviewer,


Paul


Lauter,


echoes


Fiedler' s


concern


that


Shapiro's definition


Jew


a reflection


Jew


non-Jewish


essentially


attitudes.32


Sartrean:


This


leads


reviewer


to his


strongest


attack:


"Shapiro' s


Jew


fully


enough Jew


a man.


Both Fiedler's


Lauter


s comments


reveal


more


about


their


own discomforts


around


subject


Jew


know


Lauter


Jewish)


than


they


about


the quality


of Shapiro


s work.


Sartre


period


s definition


in which


Jew was


Poems


indeed


Jew was


influential


published.


during


For many


intellectuals and


writers


time


Sartre's definition


provided


useful


starting


point


clarifying


one


s Jewish


identity during


the difficult


DOSt-Holocaust


ears.


s












central


characteristic


twentieth-century


Jewish-American


life.


course,


not


stand


alone


in recognizing


significance of


Shapiro'


contribution


the development


American-Jewish


poetry.


1973


Karl


Malkoff,


instance,


gives


book


kind


intelligent


informed


criticism


deserves,


exploring


both


position


within


the modernist


tradition


poetry


well


contribution


to American-Jewish


literature.


Shapiro demonstrated


as much


courage


publishing


Poems


a Jew


he did


when


took


stance


Bollingen Committee.


With


this


book


he hoped


to carve


new


audience


himself;


hoped


to create a


new,


truthful


image


the Jew


understanding


among


Western

non-Jews


literature;


Jewish


he hoped


increase


life


twentieth-century;


he hoped


contribute


to Jewish


survival.


virtually


impossible


to measure


failure


success.


book,


long


out


of print,


inspire


substantial


American


body


poetry.


Jewish-centered


Nonetheless,


it stan


writing

ds as a


in mainstream


landmark


achievement,


should


Jewish


renaissance


American


poetry


occur,


believe


will,


Poems


of a Jew will


hPrnnom nn<=*


rQn -r 1


LI I I


ta -c


*ln 7h i rh


n l 1 Samr o r; /r 7n To., oh










88

Notes


Karl


Shapiro,


Poems


(New


York:


Random


House,


1958),


Karl


Shapiro,


Person,


Place


Thing


(Cornwall,


Reynal


Hitchcock,


1942),


Karl


Shapiro,


Trial


a Poet


(New


York:


Reynal


Hitchcock,


1947),


Karl


Shapiro,


V-Letter


and


Other


Poems


(New


York:


Reynal


Hitchcock,


1944) ,


Karl


Shapiro,


respondent


"The


Question


Pound


Award,


" Parti


san


Review


(1949),


. 518.


Robert


Phillips,


"The


Art


Poetry


XXXVI


: Karl


Shapiro,


" Paris


Review


(1986) ,


198-199.


that
with


Praising
Shapiro


Shapiro's


takes


an American


"the


subj


first


book,


style


ect matter,


Delmore


Auden and
by writing


Schwartz


notes


transform[s] i
of drugstores


lunch wagons,


and many
Schwartz,
(1943), p


other
"The


a conscription


thing
Poet'


equally


Progr


es


camp, a midn
indigenous.
s," The Nati


light


show,


Buick,


Delmore


on,


156,


Schwartz,


"The


Jewish


Writer


and


English


Literary Tradition,


Commentary,


(1949


, p.


209.


"The Jewish


Writer


English


Literary Tradition,


369.


"The Jewish


Writer


English


Literary Tradition,


370.


"The Jewish


Writer


English Literary Tradition,


370.


I n i m F i r m i


lnnpfl0 r


i n cnnf n F


1h-a 0rli


I -1 -


r












that


the Christian


faith


true,


what


says,


makes


Christian
meaning,"
the Jews:


does, will
culture and


as cited


Versions


spring


depend
Robert


of his


upon


Alter,


Europe,


that


heritage of


culture


"Eliot,


Lawrence,


" in Defenses


Imagination:


Jewish


Writers


and Modern Historical


(Philadelphia:
1977/5738) p.


The
137.


Jewish P
Pound'


'ubli


cation


anti


Society


-Semitic


of Ameri


fasci


ca,
radio


broadcasts


familiar


are


even more


portrait


infamou


Jew


, as


is his


international


banker/source


the world's


evil


standard


anti-Semitic myth


propagated


throughout


European


civilization


from


the middle


ages to
Semitism


Yale


present.


see


Review,


information


Barry Goldensohn,
75, No. 3 (1986),


"Pound


on Pound '


Anti


anti


semitism,


" The


399-421.


Karl


Defense


Shapiro,


"The


Ignorance


Scapegoat


(New


York


of Modern


: Random


Poetry,


House,


1960


" in
), P.


15. Shapiro,
Ignorance, p


"The


True


Contemporary,


" In Defense


. 150.


Shapiro,


"The


True Contemporary,


169.


Shapiro,


Karl


"The


Malkoff,


True

"The


Contemporary,


Self


the Modern


-161.


World


: Karl


Shapiro'


s Jewish


Literature:


Poems,


Critical


" in


Essays


Contemporary
ed. Irving


American-


Malin


Jewis


(Bloomington:


Indiana


University


Press


214-215.


Malkoff


relationship
Jewish]" is


suggests
between
"finally


that


ese


lines


traditions


express


paradox.


"the


total


[Christian


Malkoff,


215.


Judah Halev


Heart


East,


" Hebr


trans.


. Carmi


(New


York


: Penguin


Books,


, p.


347.


"the


According
letters o


Midrash,


the Jews


" and


God


then


firs


cons


created


ulted


he Torah,
Torah for


instructions


(Soncino


Press:


cre


London,


ation
1977)


the world.


vol.


Gen.


Midrash
1:4-8.


Rabbah


-- a n


nrn 1 \


1 ac+


.1r'nC i --r


A__ ---


1-1- -J--


1-- *i_


n


r


/ / I I l&J Jft ii


I


I


3


nr 'nr r r T "n


I fl












later
poems
This
this


a non-Jewish


thought


remark
sort,


but


poet
had
indi


said
an i
cate


suggests


me:


impossible


'When


first


name


anti-Semitism
e persistence


saw your


a poet.'
anything of
the British


tradition


this


in American


respect


American
deeply,
among wr
question


feel


writers:


even


iters


r


significance.


C


though
But
ace or


Karl


In Defense of


208-209.


name,


lett
have


hanging
it has


ers
don
of


unti
e a
name


always


in poetry,
religion i


Shapiro,


Ignorance


Ironically,
to make it


1


very


little
s has
been a


any
the


"The


(New


Jewish


York:


Shapiro did


appear


late date.


pionee
always
common


other


art


r


work


shocked me
practice
, the


highest


Writer


in Ameri


Random House,


change


ess


Jewish,


1960) ,


spelling
rather t


make


seem


. as a


Carl


to Karl


German Jews


that


Karl


he were


kid,


' he


because


were


was


Shapiro


ston:


Twayne


better


a German


changed
we were


than


the German


as cited


the s
always


Russ


spelling


eph


Publishers,


not a


spelling
led to


Jews,


Russian Jew:


of his


believe


when


of my name


Reino,


Division


Karl


of G.


1981),


Shapiro
. Hall


name


from


that


found


changed


Co.,


" [W] within


himself


same


same class


he reads


they d
Paul S
1948) ,


lartre,


himself,


Sartre


as other


erests


newspapers
understands
Anti-Semite


"Within


prostitute


diff


erence


a rude


from


other


that
and
and


share
Jew


himself":


reminder


men.


writes,
speaks


same


others
s their


(New
the


"the


same


national


read,


opinions.


Jew consid


esse


ers


language;
interests


votes


Jean-
Books,
the


ntial


York: Schocken
encounter with


boy


Sartre's


of his


thesis


on Jewish


identity--


is not


anti-Semitism but,


Jewish


rather


chara


cter


. it


that


provokes


anti-Semite


creates
during


the Jew


S,143)"


--was


widely


known


influential


1950s.


This


encounter


resemble


s the


kind


of encounter


between


non-Jew


John Murray


Cuddihy


describes


in The Ordeal


of Civility:


Freud,


Marx,


Levi-Strauss.


Jewish


Struggle with Modernity


ston:


Beacon


Press,


1974).


Latecomers


faced
public


with 1
life.


distinction


to modernity,


earning th
Confined


between


Jew


proper,


public


the
and


s, Cuddihy
Protestant,


ghetto,
orivai-t


argues,
manners


were
for


Jew drew no


1 i f _


he crhar1 1 anna


Jewish











"The


access


first


thing


swimming


Israelite


water, th
speaking,


Sartre


water


Germans did


pools;


were


would


seemed


plunge
e comply


Jew contaminates


into


was


them


that


forbid


Jews


that


confined


befouled.


even


air


body


body


Strictly
breathes


. 34


Malko


222.


Leslie


. Fiedler,


Road;


The Adventures


Karl


Shapiro,


Poetry,


(1960),


171-78.


Fiedler,

Fiedler,

Fiedler,

Fielder,


171.

174.

176.

177.


Paul


Republic,


Lauter,


139,


"The


No. 21


Jewish
(1958),


Hero:
PP. 1


Views,


" The


New


8-19.


Lauter,