'Bashtendikayt' and 'Banayung' : theme and imagery in the earlier poetry of Abraham Sutzkever
This study analyses the poetry which Sutzkever wrote between 1935 and 1954, emphasising the themes of the poetic word and the poet's role. During this formative period Sutzkever established his complex of images, and laid the foundation for the often hermetic later poetry. The earlier work is characterised by tension between the aesthetic and the ethical, the ikh and the world. The earliest manifests both strands, combining Romantic individualism with awareness of the social nature of poetry. In 'Valdiks' (1940), nature imagery develops into an inner language expressing an aesthetic vision, giving way in the war years to doubts, but also to a conviction of the poet's ethical task ('Di festung', 1945). In Israel Sutzkever achieved new confidence in his poetic identity, which he expressed through Jewish and biblical imagery ('In fayer-vogn', 1952). The African environment gave him a sense of freedom and renewed nature inspiration, and he explored new imagery of paganism, sensuality and myth ('Helfandn bay nakht', 1950-1954). The poeme 'Ode tsu der toyb' (1954) is the climax of the first period, resolving the conflict between aesthetic and ethical, past and present, and pointing the way towards the mature aestheticism of the later work. The study focusses on significant aspects of this process. Sutzkever's constant underlying theme is the nature of poetry itself. He investigates this through permanent images which develop specific symbolic connotations and become a metapoetic language. The resolution of the conflict between the aesthetic and the ethical lies in Sutzkever's belief in the equivalence of the spiritual and the corporeal, in the power of the word, and in the unbreakable goldene keyt of birth, death and renewal. The later aestheticism is foreshadowed in this period by the idea of the essence of poetry as the ineffable silence which the poet struggles to reach through the word.