Meaning and Memory

Interviews with Fourteen Jewish Poets

Gary Pacernick

Gary Pacernick’s Meaning and Memory explores what it means to be a Jewish poet. Is any poet born a Jew a Jewish poet, or must one incorporate Jewish text and sources to be considered a Jewish poet? In his interviews, Pacernick searches for answers and for an understanding of this particular experience. The interviews provide an engaging look at the lives and work of a diverse group of fourteen important contemporary writers, including poet laureate Stanley Kunitz, Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Levine, Alicia Ostriker, the late Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, and David Ignatow. Other poets included are Carl Rakosi, Dannie Abse, Harvey Shapiro, Gerald Stern, Elaine Feinstein, Ruth Fainlight, Marge Piercy, and Irena Klepfisz. The authors discuss the conflict or tension that they feel between Jewish culture and religion in their secular lives. The book also delves into the influence of the Holocaust, the impact of the modern-day Diaspora, and feelings of alienation and marginality. The book succeeds on two levels: it illuminates the individual poetry of several important modern poets and serves as a historical record of these poets’ feelings about some of the main questions of art and life.

Himself a Jewish poet, Pacernick also provides an introduction that allows readers a glimpse at his own life from, his early love affair with the poetry of Walt Whitman to the revelation he experienced when he first read the work of Charles Reznikoff, a poet who wrote about his Jewishness.

Gary Pacernick is a professor of English, Wright State University, and the author of Memory and Fire: Ten American Jewish Poet; Sing a New Song: American Jewish Poetry since the Holocaust; and The Jewish Poems.

Aug 2001
Poetry/Jewish Studies
264 pp

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