Unlike many other poets of his generation -- who were children when the state of Israel was founded -- Ory Bernstein did not deal with nation-building in his work. His is a poetics lacking the political agenda and ideology of the renewal of the Jewish people, and the collective challenges in its wake. On the contrary, Bernstein’s poetry draws inspiration from 19th century lyrical romanticism with its emphasis on the individual life, its emotional and mental swings, and their reflection in the world in which they are ensnared. His style is rooted in a formalist-modernist tradition emphasizing sophisticated artistic design that is disciplined and exact.
Bernstein loathes adornment and pretension. He inspects the deep secrets of daily routine, the passage of time, the body's desires and denials, with surgical precision. His poetics is simultaneously intimate and universal, moving among great moments in ordinary ones. In a 2012 interview, he said, "Poetry is an intimate conversation of the poet with oneself, which other people are invited to overhear. It is my life, which must be translated into poetry in order to gain significance."
Bernstein, also a prose writer for adults and children, a translator (of Rimbaud, Yeats, T. S. Eliot and others), and an attorney and successful business executive, was born in Tel Aviv. His first volume of poetry was published when he was 19, followed by nearly a score more. He served as a professor of Hebrew literature and coordinator of the Creative Writing concentration at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Bernstein received the Yehuda Amichai Poetry Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2008. He died in January 2017.
And his abiding subject?
How was love when it was?/ No way to know, to say what water is.
Bibliography in Hebrew
Spring and its Shattering, Adi, 1955 [Aviv Ve-Shivro]
Same Room, Same Light, Yochani, 1962 [Be-Oto Ha-Cheder, Be-Oto Ha-Or]
In a Short Season, Schocken, 1967 [Be-Ona Ktzara]
All Are Lonely Deeds, University Publishing Projects/ Siman Kriah, 1974 [Kulam Maʹasim Bodedim: Shirim 1967-1973]
An Evening with Sue, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1976 [Erev Im Sue]
Middle Ground, Hakibbutz Hameuchad/ Siman Kriah, 1979 [Emek Ha-Shaveh]
With Death, Hakibbutz Hameuchad/ Siman Kriah, 1982 [Im Mavet]
Selected Poems: 1962-1982, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1986 [Shirim Nivcharim: 1962-1982]
Remains, Am Oved, 1987 [Ma She-Nishʹar, Ma She-Lo]
A Private Matter, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1992 [Inyan Prati]
Hinneh: Poetry Collection No. 5, Tag, May 1995 [Hineh: Kuntres Le-Shira 5]
A Time of Others, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1996 [Zman Shel Acherim: Shirim 1987-1995]
A New Place, Keshev, 2000 [Min Ha-Makom He-Chadash]
A One and Only Love, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2002 [Al Ahava Achat Vi-Yechida]
Poems: 1962-2002, Bialik Institute, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2004 [Shirim: 1962-2002]
The Patriarch Abraham in New York, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2006 [Avraham Avinu Bi-New York]
The Romantic Book, Keshev, 2007 [Ha-Sefer Ha-Romanti]
A Passing World, Am Oved, 2007 [Olam Over]
The Tiresias Fragments, Even Hoshen, 2010 [Masa Tiresias]
Poems for Solo Piano: 2007-2009, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2011 [Shirim Li-Fsanter Yachid: 2007-2009]
Private Mythologies, Keshev, 2012 [Mitologyot Pratiyot]
The Long Memory of Love, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2013 [Ha-Zikaron Ha-Aroch Shel Ha-Ahava]
Someone, Keshev, 2014 [Mi She-Hu]
The Face of Day: Poems 2012-2014, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2016 [Pnei Ha-Yamim]
Opposite Flowing Water (prose poetry), Adi, 1959 [Ha-Mayim Ha-Holchim Mi-Neged]
Animals on the Way (travel), Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1991 [Chayot Al Ha-Derech]
A Practice Among Friends (essays on poetry), Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1998 [Isuk Bein Chaverim]
A Dubious Life (novel) , Keter, 2002 [Safek Chayim]
On the Poetic Persona (essays on poetry), Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2008 [Al Ha-Persona U-Frakim Acherim Al Ha-Shira]
CHILDREN & YOUTH
A Nice Boy (youth) , Hakibbutz Hameuchad/ Siman Kriah, 1981 [Yeled Tov]
Adventures in Green (children), Dvir, 1990 [Harpatkaʹot Yerukot]
Bernstein in translation
Serbian: Belgrade, Meridijani, 2006
French: Paris, Caracteres, 2009
In English anthologies:
Ontario, Canada, Mosaic Press, 2014 in Kaleidoscope: Three Poets from Israel
Bloomington, Indiana, Indiana University Press, 1988 in Israeli Poetry
LINKS in Hebrew
Video Ory Bernstein at Bar Ilan University 2012
A comprehensive Wikipedia entry
In 1988 Ory Bernstein was a guest at the Poetry International festival in Rotterdam.
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