Jewish Quarterly

"This is a “‘Jewish’ poem alright,” Michael Heller writes in the second poem of Dianoia, the most recent collection to be added to his books of poetry, now totalling more than twenty. It’s an assertion, yes, but one that is packed with doubt. On one level, it seems as though Heller is assuring himself because he’s not so sure—as if he might be searching for a genuinely Jewish poem amid stacks of his poems that are semi-Jewish, near-Jewish, or maybe not Jewish at all. But on another level, there’s also the sense of an artist standing at a distance from his art, thumb up and squinting at it to assess what kind of beast it truly is: “Hmm. Yes. This is a Jewish poem, alright.” Or is it?

The question of what makes a Jewish poem—must it be written by a Jew? Must it revolve around explicitly Jewish themes? Must it have a Jewish tone or feeling?—is not easily resolved. Moreover, the poems in the two excellent new books by American free-verse masters that are under review here are too rich and diverse to conform to any label. They are simply poetry, with all the modest grandeur that the word implies." -David Katz