Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Soil of Industry by Ezra Ben-Meir

The Soil of Industry
by: Ezra Ben-Meir
Reviewed by: E. Hanson

Ezra Ben-Meir is, I am ashamed to admit the first Israeli poet I have read. His book, The Soil of Industry, is of interest on many levels. First, it is about a finite space of time (1978-1991); this said, these thirteen years of themed poetry deal with his great love of his work and with his day-to-day living.
I would like to compare a visual artist to a word artist because of their very different approaches to their art. Henri Rousseau who was a provincial man, (termed 'a primitive' by most), was a great visual artist; who worked as a postal worker in Paris. His day-to-day existance was, one can only imagine, to be repetitive and deadening. Rousseau used escapism as a theme for his art. ie. The Dream (the lady and the tiger painting at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City)
Unlike Rousseau, Mr. Ben-Meir hunkers down and in this book of verse doesn't try to escape, but he does quite the reverse, he pays homage to his life as a metal worker.
Walt Whitman has written volumes on this theme of the common man. So I would say that this loyalty and his struggle to accurately convey in poetry these thirteen years is admirable, this is what I like about him.
He is a traditionalist in his approach, trying out many different forms as a vehicle for this homage. He writes about what he knows on an intense and intimate level.
I enjoyed the last poem in this collection, "The Hardness Tester", because, like E.E. Cummings, Mr. Ben-Meir uses the visual form of concrete poetry to reinforce his poem. He has woven technical information with the lyric. ie. And I quote:

"...A world never to
glisten lustre on human hands
ordered and reordered
properties, seg-
regated and
by the
Standard Hardness

In conclusion, this reviewer would like to state that Mr. Ben-Meir juxtaposes human vulnerability with the power of metal and I will be very interested to read more than this "five percent" of his poetry. I had an e-mail correspondence between myself and Ezra Ben-Meir in which Mr. Ben-Meir states that he is "contemporary". However I will still stick to my original statement that I feel Mr Ben-Meir is a traditionalist. ie. On his web site one can find some haiku such as (281) haiku, "The Earth Cried", because not only in form, but also in content and in the heart of the matter, Ezra is a traditionalist in the finest form.

Reviewed by: Elizabeth Hanson

1 comment:

  1. Ezra Ben-Meir was not just a metal worker but a participant in producing the world's most advanced machine parts from the world's most advanced materials. His poetry reflects the wonder of the never-before-seen, the exhausting effort of bringing such things into being, and the mystery, deeper than everyday nature, that is harnessed to the process. It might sound like an exaggeration to say that nobody else could have written such poems, but I certainly know of no other poets reporting from the world of hi-tech metal-turning.