poem index

About this poet

Yehuda Amichai was born in Wurzburg, Germany, on May 3, 1924 and emigrated with his family to Palestine in 1936. He later became a naturalized Israeli citizen. Although German was his native language, Amichai read Hebrew fluently by the time he moved to Palestine. He served in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army in World War II and fought with the Israeli defense forces in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Following the war, he attended Hebrew University to study Biblical texts and Hebrew literature, and then taught in secondary schools.

Amichai has published eleven volumes of poetry in Hebrew, two novels, and a book of short stories. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. His collections of poetry available in English include Open Closed Open (Harcourt Brace, 2000); The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai: Newly Revised and Expanded Edition (1996); A Life of Poetry, 1948-1994 (1995); Even a Fist Was Once an Open Palm with Fingers (1989); Poems of Jerusalem (1988); The Great Tranquility: Questions and Answers (1983); Love Poems (1981); Time (1979); Amen (1977); Songs of Jerusalem and Myself (1973); and Poems (1969). In 1982, Amichai received the Israel Prize for Poetry and he became a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986. He lived in Jerusalem until his death on September 25, 2000.

A Selected Bibliography

Fiction

Not of This Time, Not of This Place (1963)
The World Is a Room and Other Stories (1984)

Poetry in Translation

A Life of Poetry 1948-1994 (1995)
Amen (1977)
Even a Fist Was Once an Open Palm with Fingers: Recent Poems (1991)
Exile at Home (1998)
I Am Sitting Here Now (1994)
Love Poems (1981)
On New Year's Day, Next to a House Being Built (1979)
Open Closed Open: Poems (2000)
Poems of Jerusalem: A Bilingual Edition (1988)
Poems: English and Hebrew (1994)
Selected Poems (1968)
Selected Poems of Yehuda Amichai (1971)
Songs of Jerusalem and Myself (1973)
The Early Books of Yehuda Amichai (1988)
The Great Tranquility: Questions and Answers (1997)
The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai (1986)
Time (1979)
Travels (1986)
Travels of the Last Benjamin of Tudela (1976)


Multimedia

From the Image Archive

 

Memorial Day for the War Dead

Yehuda Amichai, 1924 - 2000
Memorial day for the war dead.  Add now
the grief of all your losses to their grief,
even of a woman that has left you.  Mix
sorrow with sorrow, like time-saving history,
which stacks holiday and sacrifice and mourning
on one day for easy, convenient memory.

Oh, sweet world soaked, like bread,
in sweet milk for the terrible toothless God.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."
No use to weep inside and to scream outside.
Behind all this perhaps some great happiness is hiding.

Memorial day.  Bitter salt is dressed up
as a little girl with flowers.
The streets are cordoned off with ropes,
for the marching together of the living and the dead.
Children with a grief not their own march slowly,
like stepping over broken glass.

The flautist's mouth will stay like that for many days.
A dead soldier swims above little heads
with the swimming movements of the dead,
with the ancient error the dead have
about the place of the living water.

A flag loses contact with reality and flies off.
A shopwindow is decorated with
dresses of beautiful women, in blue and white.
And everything in three languages:
Hebrew, Arabic, and Death.

A great and royal animal is dying 
all through the night under the jasmine 
tree with a constant stare at the world.

A man whose son died in the war walks in the street
like a woman with a dead embryo in her womb.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."

From Amen by Yehuda Amichai, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1977 Yehuda Amichai. Used by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Yehuda Amichai

Yehuda Amichai

Yehuda Amichai was born in Wurzburg, Germany, in 1924 and emigrated with