Yale to Host Conference on Israeli Poet Yehuda Amichai

Original Article Published on The Jewish Ledger

NEW HAVEN — Yehuda Amichai lived most of his life in Israel until his death in 2000. Now, the famous Israeli poet lives on at Yale University.

Amichais extensive personal papers and literary archive are the first of a major writer in Hebrew to be added to Yales Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. And Yale will host an international conference Oct. 20-21, celebrating Amichais life and work.

Amichai, considered one of the great poets of modern times, was born in Germany in 1924 to a religious Jewish family. His family immigrated to Palestine in 1935, lived briefly in Petach Tikvah and settled in Jerusalem. In World War II he fought with the Jewish Brigade of the British Army, and in 1946, he joined the Palmach. During the War of Independence he fought in the Negev. Following the war, Amichai attended Hebrew University, where he studied Bible and Hebrew literature. He then served as a secondary school teacher.

According to Benjamin Harshav, the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Religion at Yale, Amichai is the most universal Israeli poet, expressing the human conditionIn an age of ideology, he celebrated the individuals private moments and existential situation; in an age of war, he celebrated love and love-making. Amichai has been praised for the depth and complexity of his language as well as its accessibility-even in translation from the original Hebrew. Harshav, a close friend of Amichais for over 50 years, was one of Amichais chief translators. He and Barbara Harshav translated two of Amichais poetry books-Even a Fist Was Once an Open Palm with Fingers and Yechuda Amichai, A Life of Poetry 1948-1994 into English.

The conference, entitled Poetics and Politics in Yehuda Amichais World, kicks off Saturday night Oct. 20, at 8:30pm at Yales Slifka Center for Jewish Life (Free and open to the public). Professor Harshav will deliver a keynote address entitled, Political Discourse and Situational Cognition in Amichais Poetry.

According to Dr. Nanette Stahl, Judaica Curator at the Yale University Library and coordinator of the conference, The conference is a way to celebrate Amichai and acknowledge his contribution to modernist poetry.

Among the speakers at the conference are some of the most renowned scholars of poetry. Four of the seven speakers are coming from Israel. All seven speakers have written about Amichai and some have also published English translations of his poetry.

Speakers and topics on Sunday, Oct. 21 (9:30am – 4:30pm) include Robert Alter on Yehuda Amichai: At Play in the Fields of Verse, Menakhem Perry on Facing the Dead: The New Poetics of the Young Amichai, and Chana Kronfeld on Making Honey from all the Buzz and Babble: Translation as Metaphor in the Poetry of Yehuda Amichai. Other speakers include Boaz Arpaly, Michael Gluzman, Ziva Ben Porat and Vered Shem-Tov.

The final session will be a roundtable discussion (5-6pm), presented by Professors William Cutter, Barbara Harshav, Geoffrey Hartman and Barbara Mann, and by Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic. A gala reception 6-7pm. Sunday will be attended by his widow, Hana Amichai.

Stahl further notes, Yale is privileged to have the Yehuda Amichai papers in the Beinecke Library, along with the archives of many other great poets of the 20th century.

The archives consist of his personal notebooks from the 1950s to the late 1990s, his correspondence with literary figures from Israel, Europe and the United States and other countries such as Japan and China. They also include the manuscripts of most of his published poetry both in Hebrew and in translation to other languages. Among his papers are also some of his unpublished poems. Amichai also wrote works in prose and the archives includes the manuscripts of his published essays and plays. The archives are open to anyone who wishes to study them.

The Amichai conference is sponsored by the Yale University Library, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Program in Judaic Studies, the Department of Comparative Literature, the Whitney Humanities Center, the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation and the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempt Memorial Fund.

For more information, contact Nanette Stahl at 203-432-7207 or nanette.stahl@yale.edu The conference website can be viewed at http://www.library.yale.edu

The conference is free and open to the public.

Filed under: Connecticut Jewish Ledger, Newspaper Articles (Source: http://www.jewishledger.com)

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