Harman Writer-In-Residence, Fall 1998
photo by Dan Porges
Yehuda Amichai, the prominent, internationally known Israeli poet, was on campus in Fall 1998 as the first Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence. Amichai’s poetry has been translated into over thirty languages, most recently Czech and Albanian, and he is the author of many collections of poetry, including “Now and in Other Days” (1955), “Two Hopes Away” (1958), “In the Park” (1960), “Collected Poems” (1963), “Poems” (1969), “Songs of Jerusalem and Myself” (1973), “Amen” (1977), “Time” (1979), “Love Poems” (1981), “Even a Fist Was Once an Open Palm with Fingers” (1991), and “Yehuda Amichai: A Life of Poetry, 1948-1994” (1994). His most recent collection, “Open Closed Open” appeared in this country in the year 2000. His play A Journey to Nineveh was produced by the Habimah National Theatre in Tel Aviv in 1964. He is also the author of a novel, “Not of This Time, Not of This Place” (1964), and a collection of short stories “The World Is a Room” (1985). An honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Amichai has been the recipient of numerous international honors.
Born in 1924 in Wurzburg, Germany, Amichai immigrated with his parents to Palestine in 1936. He served in the British Army in World War II and afterward in the Haganah underground. He also saw active service in the Israeli War of Independence and the Sinai Campaign. He lives in Jerusalem.
During the fall 1998 semester, Amichai taught a special workshop on “Reading, Writing, and Translating Poetry” in the Department of English. He gave a reading at the College convocation and dedication ceremony on Sept. 17, where Dr. Harman delivered the keynote address. The Amichai residency included a poetry reading and conversation on Amichai’s work and the creative process on Oct. 29, co-sponsored by the Baruch College Department of English and the Center for the Humanities of the CUNY Graduate School.
God takes pity on kindergarten children,
Less on schoolchildren.
On grownups, He won’t take pity anymore.
He leaves them alone.
Sometime they have to crawl on all fours
In the blazing sand,
To get to the first aid station
Maybe He will take pity and cast His shadow
On those who truly love
As a tree on someone sleeping on the bench
On a boulevard.
Maybe we too will spend on them
The last coins of favor
Mother bequeathed us,
So their bliss will protect us
Now and in other days.
– “God Takes Pity on Kindergarten Children”
Yehuda Amichai lived in Jerusalem until his death on Sept. 22, 2000. “Open Closed Open: Poems” translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld, was shortlisted for the 2001 International Griffin Poetry Prize. In 2001, his work was included in the “100 Greatest Works of Modern Jewish Literature.” (June 2009)