A book of verse, a volume of stories and a new journal
By Amy Kaufman
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"Collected Poems: 1954-2004," by Irving Feldman, Schocken Books, 2004, 436 pages, hardcover, $28.50
This book draws from seven collections of Feldman's poetry and includes his best-known poem, "The Pripet Marshes," which author Cynthia Ozick called "one of the great poems of the 20th century." In it Feldman creates Jewish individuals, lovable in their flawed humanity, and then saves them from the Holocaust.
An isolated verse stands as a poignant preface to the book: "Oh why/is the soul sent on errands/in the dark? With its list/of names, its fist of pennies,/its beating heart?"
This New York poet is currently Distinguished Professor of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo. His book "Works and Days" won the Jewish Book Council's Kovner Poetry Prize, and he has received awards from The Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Academy of American Poets.
"Miriam and Other Stories," by M. Y. Berdichevsky, The Toby Press, 2004, 393 pages, paperback, $14.95
The Ukrainian writer Micha Josef Berdichevsky (1865-1921) was best known for his short stories and novellas written in Hebrew. This collection contains his most famous story, "The Red Heifer," and "Miriam," one of his three novellas.
Avner Holtzman, director of the Katz Research Institute for Hebrew Literature at Tel Aviv University and an expert on Berdichevsky, writes in his introduction that Berdichevsky's father and brother were murdered in the pogroms that accompanied the civil war in the Ukraine, and his later works, from which this collection draws, memorialized the destroyed towns.
Descended from a line of Hassidic rabbis, Berdichevsky reveals the underlying passions and crises of faith of pious communities. An individualist who opposed the Zionist movement and struggled with the meaning of his tradition, he often interpreted human life in biblical terms.
"Maggid: A Journal of Jewish Literature" (periodical), Michael P. Kramer, ed., Toby Press, New Milford, Conn., paperback, $9.95 single issue
The inaugural issue of this annual periodical contains fiction, essays and poetry by international Jewish authors, including well-known authors Cynthia Ozick, Stanley Epstein, Max Apple and Nava Semel. In a section called "Archives," it also offers a short story by Emma Lazarus that predates her sonnet "The New Colossus," written for the Statue of Liberty. There are also two book reviews and an interesting essay on the history of the Star of David by former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky.
Maggid will consider submissions at its U.S. and Jerusalem offices.
"MHL" (Modern Hebrew Literature), bimonthly periodical, Toby Press, 2004 special series, paperback, $9.95
Matthew Miller, the publisher, notes that the Fall 2004 (inaugural) issue of MHL represents a revival of the journal that for more than 20 years has represented "the finest Hebrew writing," in English translation, for more than 20 years. He announces that this "new series," published by Toby Press for the Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature in Israel, "will bring Hebrew literature to readers outside Israel."
The Fall 2004 issue, No. 1 in the series, contains excerpts from recently published Hebrew novels, one story and one essay, several poems, and eight book reviews.