Two Favorite Poems, and How they Define Israel and America

“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus and “The Silver Platter” by Natan Alterman distill, reinforce, and hallow what makes each nation distinctive.

Thomas Nord/shutterstock.

Thomas Nord/shutterstock.

Ruth R. Wisse
COLUMN
June 16 2021
About Ruth

Ruth R. Wisse is a Mosaic columnist, professor emerita of Yiddish and comparative literatures at Harvard and a distinguished senior fellow at the Tikvah Fund. Her memoir Free as a Jew: a Personal Memoir of National Self-Liberation, chapters of which appeared in Mosaic in somewhat different form, is out from Wicked Son Press.

The Nobel Prize Committee did us a favor when it awarded the 2016 prize for literature to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” If previous laureates like T.S. Eliot had us believe that poetry was an intellectual challenge, the award to Dylan reminded us that poems can also be our collective voice. They can say what needs saying.

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More about: America, Arts & Culture, Emma Lazarus, Literature, Poetry