Poem of the Week / Forget What You Know About Love Poems

Nadav Linial contemplates the difficulty of writing about love.

Precision

Nadav Linial

At the edge of the garden dew hovers on the iron fence
leaving traces of rust like remembrance

And in the house someone strips artichoke spikes
down to the sweet white heart like layers of forgetfulness.

In the orchard the cells of honeycomb spill over
the hollow body of the tree like tears

And at the edge of the field rain pierces the rock
like yearning.

How can an image capture a name
or speech describe the voice that
broke out when the grain of the soul was
separated from the chaff of the flesh?

I loved you like I loved you.

Translated from Hebrew by Joanna Chen.

***

Nadav Linial was born in Jerusalem in 1983 and lives in Tel Aviv, teaching in the literature department at Tel Aviv University. His first book, "Tikrat Haadama" (Earth Ceiling), in which this poem appears, was published in 2010 by Keshev Publishing House and was awarded two major prizes for young poets.

British-born poet, journalist and translator Joanna Chen has written for Newsweek The Daily Beast, Marie Claire and the BBC World Service. Her poetry and poetic translations have appeared most recently in Poet Lore, The Bakery, The Moon Magazine, and Recours au Poemes, among others.

Chen told Haaretz in an email that what draws me to the work of Nadav Linial is the clarity and economy of his poetry."

"Each word is carefully weighed and measured; nothing is superfluous," she explains. "His writing contains shades of Walt Whitman yet is particularly rooted in the Israeli psyche.

Set at about this time of year – the start of the rains and the artichoke season – Precision contemplates the difficulty of writing about love. Each of the first four stanzas consists of a simile comparing something concrete and evocative of a damp autumn day to something emotive. Traces of rust like remembrance is indeed a very Israeli image, bringing to mind the prominent role of war in the rituals of collective memory, often embodied in symbols like corroded vehicles or artillery.

The first hint that the poem is going to be about difficulty is the equal weight given to remembrance and forgetfulness; tears and yearning clinch this realization. In the next stanza the speaker steps back and considers the inadequacies of his art: How can tropes capture the exact quiddity of experience and the particularity of a love and a parting? The final line, I loved you like I loved you, almost disavows poetry and says basically, Life is what it is, causing the reader to reconsider what he has just read.

In this video clip, Linial talks about how a poem by T. Carmi inspired him to become a writer and about how you meet a text and it meets you back, and you have to make an effort, and it has to make an effort, in the hope that this effort pays off.

Musings:

*Does it matter that in Hebrew the you in the final line is masculine?  

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