How do these love poems, “Bleecker Street, Summer” and “The Fist,” compare with other love poems you’ve read?

These love poems portray that love hurts. For instance, in “The Fist,” it is written “The fist clenched round my heart/ loosens a little, and I gasp/ brightness; but it tightens/ again.” This draws the image of loving someone so much but realizing that there might be something better for you. However, that faint thought offers light but is quickly gone because the feeling of love is too overbearing. The other poems we touched on showed how people in love brought about good things and there was not much of hurt. They showed examples of how love can, sometimes, be blinding but not really be “death defying.”

How does the poet bear witness to tragedy or more difficult aspects of human life? (Amichai)

In Yehuda Amichai’s “The Diameter of the Bomb”, Amichai gives his opinion of war through the lens of someone walking through a war-torn city with bombs dropped on it. The effects of a bombing are described in the poem, both immediate and indirect consequences. The most obvious effect, the sheer destruction of an explosion causing death and displacement. However, what Amichai wants us to also realize is that people are affected by these deaths. Women and Men lose those important to them and children are left parentless. It is important to note that Amichai does not make clear where he is and which country the people in the poem are part of. This indicates that war takes no sides and there are no victors, only victims.

How does the poem depict his (and perhaps the reader’s) relationship to history?

Yehuda Amichai’s relationship to history is clearly quite personal and emotional. To him, history is not just a collection of facts and not just memories of things that happen to people he’s never heard of. Perhaps my favorite poem of his, “Endless Poem,” illustrates this very well. It is so simple, yet it expresses so much. He visits a modern museum that has restored, or rebuilt, or maybe encased an old synagogue. It’s a juxtaposition of the new and the old living literally inside one another, inseparable. Yet, he also lives inside that synagogue, and his heart, which lives in him, has a museum inside it. The museum crucially is not in his memory or in his brain. It’s in his heart. He has the museum at the center of his emotional core. The museum, in turn, has a synagogue in it, which has him in it, which has his heart in it, which as a museum in it, ad infinitum. He’s written a sort of Russian doll of a poem that never ends, always having him, his heart, the museum and the synagogue inside it. All of that is part of his character and part of his self. It’s part of his emotional core, as well.

Additionally, I think he’s writing not just about how he feels, but about how all people of Jewish descent feel. The poem strikes me as representing the familial nature of Jewish history, one of shared strife and shared triumph. He’s saying that just as he sees Jewish history as emotional and personal, so do Jewish people in general.

Yehuda Amichai “God Has Pity On Kindergarten Children”

This piece by Yehuda Amichai is well written and full of literary elements.  What he is saying in this poem is that God has pity for children and true lovers.  As for adults, “he pities not at all (Amichai).”  I like the message the poem delivers about caring for truly genuine individuals.  This is just something that most people are taught as they grow up, like myself.  The line that reads “perhaps even we will spend on them Our last pennies of kindness”, as it demonstrates the extremes people are willing to go for loved ones (Amichai).

How does the poet bear witness to tragedy or more difficult aspects of human life?

In Walcott’s poem The First, the author describes love as an excruciating pain overtaking his body. He acknowledges love can be painful, but in his case, his love is overstepping its boundary to a point where it “moved past love to mania” (Walcott, 3). His heart also plunged him “howling into the abyss” (Walcott, 3). The poem The First showcases the pain love comes with to describe a tragedy all humans go through in life. There will be times in life where our loved ones, significant others, and passions/goals will go wrong and cross over into the darker side of life. Just like how the author is experiencing his love plunging him into the abyss and mania, we will all experience this as a coming of age period of our lives. However, the author realizes that in order to fully live a fulfilling life, we must push through the hard times. For instance, Walcott writes “hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live” (Walcott, 3). In short, Walcott advises us that with the highs, there are the lows when we fully live.

Response to “An Arab Shepherd Is Searching for His Goat on Mount Zion” – How does the poet bear witness to tragedy or more difficult aspects of human life?

Although I believe that this poem hinting to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Amichai also uses the poem to express additional symbolism. An initial reading of the poem suggests that the setting of the poem is the Old City of Jerusalem which is one of the key points of the conflict, the reality is that the poem takes place to the west of the old city. This can be derived from the fact that Mount Zion is West of the Old City and the temple mount and the Sultan’s Pool is to the west of Mount Zion. I believe that Amichai chose this setting to suggest that the points of modern conflict are not worth the fight and blood loss. Rather, allowing residents to live peacefully throughout the contested land should be the ultimate goal.

Additionally, Amichai references “Had Gadya” which is a song sung by Jews during the Passover seder (Ritual Feast on the first two nights of the holiday). Had Gadya starts by stating that a father bought his son a goat, the goat is then eaten by a cat, which is eaten by a dog, which is beaten with a stick, which is burned with fire, which is extinguished with water, which an ox drinks, which a butcher kills, who is then killed by the angel of death, who is removed by God. Amichai uses this reference to suggest that those in conflict should avoid becoming part of the “machine” that the song alludes to. Instead, they should worry about keeping their own kin safe by taking proper precautionary measures and working towards peace.

How does the poet bear witness to tragedy or more difficult aspects of human life?

Amichai and Walcott both bear witness to the more difficult aspects of human life in two different perspectives. Amichai seems to focus on the difficulties associated with conflict between two opposing groups, while Walcott shows the perspective of difficulties within one’s self. In “An Arab Shepherd Is Searching for His Goat on Mount Zion”, Amichai shows two differing groups, an Arab shepherd and a Jewish father looking for something they love. Even though the two are culturally imposed to two different sides of the war, they still show concern for one another and their loved ones. Amichai illustrates the morality of both characters who were willing to put aside their differences to achieve a similar goal. Walcott’s “The Fist”, on the other hand, focuses on the internal conflict associated with love.  Walcott compares love to a physical grip around the heart. When you are hurt by the one you love it feels as if it is being clenched and when you lose that grip you lose your sense of self. Walcott establishes that this feeling of love is necessary for you to move forward.

How does the poet bear witness to tragedy or more difficult aspects of human life?

Some of Yehuda Amichai’s poems deal with loss which is particularly prevalent in his two poems “An Arab Shepherd Is Searching for His Goat on Mount Zion” and “Try to Remember Some Details.” In “An Arab Shepherd Is Searching for His Goat on Mount Zion,” Amichai writes about a missing goat and a missing boy which are both precious to the ones who have lost them– the Arab shepherd and the Jewish father. When they are lost, people feel anxious and they cry out, but when they’re found, laughter is released and sighs of relief. Being lost seems to be one of the natural qualities of humans because everyone has moments in their life when they feel unsure, but finding guidance can help them overcome their struggles. In “Try to Remember Some Details,” Amichai is trying to say that you should hold onto the memories of the people that you’ve lost such as what they wore and the little details of them. Once they’re gone, you only have those memories to hold onto because they can be ripped away from you in cruel ways. These poems show that Amichai witnessed many tragedies during his life which could have been similar to the ones he wrote about that triggered this kind of writing style.

Amichai: You could talk about whether you think he’s provocative, and if so, how, and/or how he using his poetry to bear witness (in other words, to give a very honest and possibly cathartic accounting of tragedies).

In his poems “The Diameter of the Bomb” and “An Arab Shepherd is Searching for his Goat on Mount Zion,” Yehuda Amichai is deliberately provocative to enlighten society on the horrific impact of war and to inspire society to believe that peace is still a viable possibility. In his poem “The Diameter of the Bomb,” Amichai begins by providing the scientific and statistical findings attached to the physical object of the bomb. Beyond this nonchalant description, however, Amichai accounts for the true and horrific impact on the lives affected by its force, such as the “young woman/ who was buried in the city she came from” and the “solitary man mourning her death/…at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers” away (“The Diameter of the Bomb”). In revealing the extensive impact of the bomb, Amichai utilizes the symbol of the enlarging circle to suggest that the entire world will at one point be consumed until it “reaches up to the throne of God” (“The Diameter of the Bomb”). Though Amichai questions the existence of God for allowing such violence to exist in his poem “The Diameter of the Bomb,” he discusses the possibility of finding peace in his other poem “An Arab Shepherd is Searching for his Goat on Mount Zion.” In this poem, Amichai describes an Arab Shepherd and a Jewish father who undoubtedly have many contrasts between them; however, they are “both in their temporary failure” in the midst of war, as they share the desire to save what they love most (“An Arab Shepherd is Searching for his Goat on Mount Zion”). When the Arab and the Jew come together in their search of saving what they love most as opposed to destroying it, Amicha believes that the futility of war could be overcome.   

You could talk about whether you think he’s provocative, and if so, how, and/or how he using his poetry to bear witness (in other words, to give a very honest and possibly cathartic accounting of tragedies).

I think Yehuda Amichai is provocative because when he starts writing poetry, he never stop paying attention to and thinking about the war. His war-themed poetry often shows a strong anti-war tendency. He constantly analyzes the ruthlessness of the war and shows the harm of war to people, he writes in the poem “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.”(The Diameter of the Bomb). Also, in the poem “Try to Remember Some Details,” he writes “unlike wild beasts they live each in his lonely hiding place and they die together on battlefields and in hospitals. And the earth will swallow all of them, good and evil together, like the followers of Korah,” He repeatedly demonstrated the destruction of people by war and caused people to think and react strongly to the war.