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Yehuda Amichai
The Selected Poetry

Translated in collaboration with
Stephen Mitchell.
New York: Harper & Row, 1986; revised and expanded edition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.




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listen Chana Bloch reading her translation of "The Diameter of the Bomb"

The Diameter of the Bomb

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won't even mention the howl of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making
a circle with no end and no God.

The Selected Poetry brings together work from ten volumes published between 1955 and 1985. . . . The translators, Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell, have divided the poems into two roughly equal parts, . . . translating not only Mr. Amichai's words but also his complex tone––by turns witty and playful, nostalgic and bittersweet, darkly skeptical and ironic. . . . Chana Bloch translated the mature Amichai of the 70's and 80's, in some ways a sparer and more informal poet whose colloquial free verse rhythms seems modeled, perhaps, on William Carlos Williams and whose profuse imagery and lightning-flash analogies may be compared to Deep Imagism. Mr. Amichai calls the 70's "the decade of fires," and powerful sequences on war such as "Seven Laments for the War-Dead" and "Songs of Zion the Beautiful" stand at the center of his late work. In these poems Mr. Amichai's sardonic Jewish quarrel with God reaches a fever pitch worthy of the biblical prophets. -- Edward Hirsch, The New York Times Book Review

"Yehuda Amichai is by now one of the half-dozen leading poets in the world. He has found a voice that speaks across cutural boundaries. . . . Bloch and Mitchell get inside the text and render a subtler, more complex and formally expert Amichai than we have seen before in English." -- Mark Rudman, The Nation.

"Displacement endures as a motive of the best poets. . . . The poetry of Yehuda Amichai exercises this same power, and with the publication of his Selected Poetry (in convincing, beautiful translations), the demonstrated range and faithful human consistency of his power should secure his place as one of the century's major international poets." -- Donald Revell, The Bloomsbury Review.

Yehuda Amichai, Israel's greatest living poet, is no champion of military virtue or Old Testament warriors reborn; still, his sensibility and imagery are rooted in the biblical heritage. Even in translation -- at the sensitive hands of Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell -- the rich biblical idiom and rhythm of the original Hebrew survive intact. His poetry gleams. Traditional stereotypes are turned back upon themselves. We see the familiar anew from disturbing and unexpected angles. -- Martin Sieff, Washington Times Magazine.