Why Canada’s Greatest Jewish Poet Lost His Muse

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.”

Read more at New Criterion

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

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security