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This review is taken from PN Review 33, Volume 10 Number 1, September - October 1983.

BURNING AIR Burning Air and a Clear Mind, Edited with an Introduction by Myra Glazer, (Ohio Univesity Press) £10.20, £5.40 pb.
Touch Papers, Judith Kazantzis, Michèle Roberts, Michelene Wandor (Allison and Busby) £6.95, £2.95 pb.
Bread and Roses, women's poetry of the 19th and 20th centuries, selected and introduced by Diana Scott (Virago) £4.95.

The introduction to Burning Air and a Clear Mind, an anthology of poetry by contemporary Israeli women poets, does not inspire confidence: 'Among Israel's "advanced writers" . . . openness entails an expansion of the language as well, an experimentalism with line-length, syntax, and conversational tone.' The language of Ecclesiastes and The Book of Job must perforce jostle for its place in the market of modish modernism. This pitiful spectacle recalls E. M. Forster on India; 'India a nation! What an apotheosis! . . . She, whose only peer was the Holy Roman Empire, she shall rank with Guatemala and Belgium perhaps.' And when the editor, Myra Glazer, writes of Hebrew, 'the language is structured to demand the unalloyed, the bare, the ultimate. Its consonantal spelling system eliminates most vowels, which must be supplied by the reader's mind,' I can only retort that so do the 'spelling systems' of Arabic and Persian, languages whose poetry could hardly be more baroquely decorated, or less 'unalloyed . . . bare . . . ultimate'.

The best poet represented here is without doubt Leah Goldberg (her poems, unlike most of the others, are not translated by those responsible for this anthology, and this may have something to do with their quality in English). Of the rest 'Zelda' seems the most interesting; whether she is much more than an Israeli Brian Patten or Jacques Prévert it is difficult to tell from these English versions, but she must be at least their ...


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