About poetry

[……..] During one of my casual visits to Amos, I found on his coffee table a slim book of poetry with abstract lithograph illustrations by Walasse Ting. Amos had met this Chinese guy during his Paris exile. Until that moment I never had much interest in poetry. Hebrew poetry, the only poetry that I knew, did not appeal to me. It was full of foreign and artificial metaphors, things I never saw with my eyes or felt on my flesh but appeared as translations from European literature. I'll give one example from one of the most famous modern poets, Nathan Alterman. In one of his popular poems there is a description of four horseman (or knights), riding in the night. Whoever saw a horseman or a knight in Israel? There are plenty of them in Russia or Poland, or in other European countries, but in Israel? This was for me a false metaphor, copied from a foreign reality. Israeli Hebrew poetry was heavy with such corpses because most poets were born and brought up in other countries and other languages. Poetry for me, as for many other young people in Israel, was a dead art.

When I opened the Walasse Ting book and browsed among the pages, I came to an autobiographical poem with the title: My shit and my love. I was intrigued. I read it. It was a wonderful poem, written in a strange sort of English, Chinese English. It seemed that the poet was thinking in Chinese while writing in English. I got this impression from the lack of grammatical inflections. The roots of the words stood out naked, like, for example: Red sun eat sky, or slow mouse run cat away. It was primitive, yet powerful. I told Amos that I would like to translate the poem into Hebrew." It's very difficult", said Amos. "I tried myself and could not do it." "I will have a go", I answered, and borrowed the book.

I translated the poem and a few others and then went on writing my own poems. Walasse Ting opened for me a window through which I could express myself in a different way to painting. Both the translations and my poems were received warmly by the Israeli literati.