Natan Zach, Blunt and Cherished Israeli Poet, Dies at 89

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“It was an act of patricide, but also a defiant and condescending act of criticism by a man who was very knowledgeable about world literature,” the literary critic Ariana Melamed wrote within the Israeli newspaper Haaretz after Mr. Zach’s loss of life.

Mr. Zach joined with different insurgent poets — most notably the premier modernist, Yehuda Amichai — to kind an avant-garde nucleus anchored within the journal Likrat (Toward). He went on to publish two dozen collections, with poems typically referring to the fleeting nature of relationships and the fragility of the human physique and of existence itself. They had been all the time set to intriguing rhythms and rendered in a lucid Hebrew, stuffed, as a Haaretz editorial mentioned, with the “words with which we trade and curse, argue and clash.’’

The poet Peter Cole, a MacArthur “genius” grant winner and a translator of a few of Mr. Zach’s poems, mentioned, “He changed the language of Hebrew poetry, period,” including, “He heard a quiet music in the spokenness of modern Hebrew — a music that dignified the language of ordinary speech and all it implied.”

The poem “To Put it Differently,” which was translated by Mr. Cole, provides glimmers of Mr. Zach’s audacity and mischievous humor:

Poetry chooses alternative issues, fastidiously deciding on
choose phrases, arranging,
fabulously, issues organized. To put it in a different way
is tough, if not out of the query.

Poetry’s like a clay plate. It’s damaged simply
below the load of all these poems. In the fingers
of the poet, it sings. In these of others, not solely
doesn’t it sing, it’s out of the query.

Mr. Zach and Mr. Amichai, who died at 76 in 2000, had been the literary guerrillas of their technology, however they carved out distinct paths, mentioned Leon Wieseltier, the editor of Liberties, a brand new journal of tradition and politics.

“Amichai made lyricism out of the vernacular; Zach fell under the chilly spell of Eliot,” he wrote in an e mail, including that “often a current of tenderness sneaks past the poet’s forbidding persona, a gust of warmth amid the cool literariness.”

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