Natan zach’s poetics of erasure

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Abstract

Natan Zach has often been described as the most influential Hebrew poet in the second half of the 20th century. Indeed, the scholar Dan Miron described him as a poet who had “reached the deepest part within us,” and as a “cultural leader” and “cultural hero.” Yet when Miron went on to detail Zach’s immense influence on other poets, he described his poetic legacy in exceedingly limiting formal terms such as “the use of enjambment” or “the magic of the unexpected rhyme, seemingly out of place.” Miron’s reading is symptomatic in the way it uses, indeed echoes, Zach’s own critical idiom. In this essay I will read Zach’s early volume Shirim shonim (Other poems) (1960) by focusing instead on what I term his “poetics of erasure.” For in these poems, Zach has left no evident traces of his own biography: his arrival as a young child in Palestine; his parents’ emotional breakdown following their immigration; and his own sense of homelessness in a Zionist culture that immersed itself in the “Negation of Exile.” In this manner, Zach's “escape from personality,” to use Eliot’s famous dictum, ultimately provided Israeli culture with a new modality of mourning. For in a national culture that repressed exilic languages and inhibited expressions of social suffering, Zach provided a new form of elegiac writing that had no explicit content, expressing a melancholic sense of loss thorough the breakage of poetic form.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalCLCWeb - Comparative Literature and Culture
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

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