The Arty Semite

Yossi Huttler's Poetry of Fate and Faith

By Susan Comninos

  • Print
  • Share Share
Georg Baselitz, ‘Man of Faith,’ 1983.

The unswerving religious focus of emerging American poet Yossi Huttler, 45, will likely limit the audience for his debut book, “Lakol Z’man” (“A Time for Everything”) — and that’s a shame. In it, the author, who is pious in his Jewish practice, evokes piyyutim, Hebrew liturgical verse. But he also alludes to a more varied literary framework.

From ancient faith, Huttler wrests powerful new epigrams. Brief and often fragmented, they resolve with an incisive twist. When they introduce doubt, or admit to both fear and rage in the face of observance, they become at once simple and layered. Pegged to the cycle of Jewish holidays, the loveliest of them are nevertheless universal.

One such poem treats a biblical scapegoat, chosen by chance to assume the sins of the Jewish people. By underscoring the randomness of luck, “Goral” recalls the High Holy Day prayer “Unetanneh Tokef,” a litany of all of the possible — and often frightening — fates held in reserve for Jews in the upcoming year:

bound
for altar
or cliff
I’m at the mercy
of You
and Your lots

“Goral” bespeaks faith, but it also echoes the irony in the late Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai’s scathing poem “God Full of Mercy,” on the pain that’s been allowed by an allegedly caring deity.

Similarly, Huttler’s “Holiday Poem: last turn” conveys, in the voice of a dreidel, the helplessness of the faithful Jew, forever twisting his face toward God, even as the latter might turn away:

without a leg to stand on
I’ve got to keep spinning
just to remain upright
keeping you in suspense
which side of mine will He show you
— nun, gimmel, hei, shin —
as the nine flames illuminating me
slowly dim

until then
you can only guess
your fortune.

“Lakol Z’man” is not available from Amazon. To purchase a copy contact Yossi Huttler at yhuttler@aol.com.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yossi Hutler, Susan Comninos, Poetry, Lakol Z'man

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.