Why Canada’s Greatest Jewish Poet Lost His Muse

March 31 2020

Born in a Ukrainian shtetl in 1909, A.M. Klein came to Montreal with his family the next year and went on to become Canada’s most important poet. He was also a prolific author who, in Carmine Starnino’s words, “reeled off plays, lectures, speeches, editorials, book reviews, short stories, and novellas” and “even took a stab at a spy thriller.” Yet during the 1950s, Klein—who had once commented that he was living proof “of the error of the idea that to be a poet you must be somewhat cracked”—began to sink into a rapid mental and emotional decline. He stopped producing and barely spoke to friends and colleagues. Clues in Klein’s work suggest that he had lost faith in the role of the poet in the modern West. Starnino explains:

Klein . . . tried, in his own way, to diagnose his condition. Indeed, if there is a primer for decoding him—and for appreciating what might have brought him to the edge of the precipice, and pushed him over—it would be “Portrait of the Poet as Landscape,” his moving, 164-line examination of the poet’s isolation, [published in a 1948 anthology]. Klein worried constantly about poetry’s decline as a civilizing force. He believed poets had a principal role in shaping the culture at large, and, because that role was public, he believed public recognition was crucial to their influence.

Poetry, for Klein, was the highest of high callings, the apex art. Thus elected, the poet’s duty was to furnish readers with a vision of coherence.

Horrified by revelations of the Holocaust, Klein’s editorials began to evince a pessimism. Klein started to write about the resurgence of totalitarianism, the rise of anti-Semitism, the threat of nuclear war. We can track this rising distress in his letters and notebooks, too. Believing in poetry as a form of action, he rejected the “effete aestheticism” that turned the poet into nothing more than “a sort of inspired chronicler” and instead endorsed poets as “part of the fighting forces, as much so, indeed, as is the trumpeter, marching into the fray.”

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Read more at New Criterion

More about: A.M. Klein, Canadian Jewry, Jewish literature, Poetry

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror