Item description for Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems: Selected Poems (American Poets Project) by John Hollander...
Overview Provides a collection of poems by the American Jewish author, including "The New Colossus," "Phantasies," and "1492."
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.5" Width: 4.75" Height: 7.5" Weight: 0.45 lbs.
Release Date Apr 7, 2005
Publisher Library of America
ISBN 1931082774 ISBN13 9781931082778
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The Poetry of Emma Lazarus Oct 5, 2006
Emma Lazarus (1848 -- 1887) is known for her sonnet "The New Colossus" written in 1883 as part of a fundraising effort for the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Lazarus's poem has become as iconic as the statue itself in celebrating the ideal and promise of America as a beacon of liberty, a refuge to the oppressed, and an inspiration to the world.
Lazarus's poems remain little-known beyond her famous sonnet, and this is most unfortunate. Throughout her short life, Lazarus articulated a vision of the United States and its potential that retains its power to move the reader. Although she never became a practicing Jew, Emma Lazarus became increasingly drawn to Judaism during the later years of her life. She wrote eloquent poetry on Jewish themes, worked to assist the many immigrants coming to the United States from Eastern Europe, and wrote and spoke with courage against the Pogroms in Russia and against anti-Semitism. Lazarus was the first, and still one of the best, Jewish-American poets who addressed both the nature of a secular, pluralistic United States and the role of Judaism within it in her poetry.
The American Poets Project of the Library of America has been producing a series of small volumes with the goal of making significant American poetry accessible to a wide audience. This short volume, "Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems" is part of the series. It was published in 2005 with a thoughtful introduction by John Hollander, himself a distinguished poet who has written on Jewish-American themes. This brief volume will give the reader an excellent overview of Lazarus's poetry.
Lazarus was born to a wealthy assimilated Jewish family in New York City. She received an excellent education and began publishing poetry at the age of 16. Her youthful poetry is largely of a romantic character. Lazarus began to write about Jewish themes in an 1881 collection of poetry, "Songs of a Semite." Hollander's collection includes a variety of poems from Lazarus's early efforts, poems with Jewish themes, an excellent selection of Lazarus's uncollected poetry (not published in a book) and selections from her translations of Heine and of medieval Jewish poets.
The two themes that remain strongest with me in reading this collection are Lazarus's devotion to the United States and her interest in Judaism. The Civil War was an impetus to much of her writing, and early poems such as "The Day of Dead Soldiers", "Heroe's" and "The South" are meditations on the meaning of the war and on its aftermath. Other early poems such as "Niagra", "Long Island Sound" and an untitled sonnet on Mount Khatadin (which reminded me of Thoreau's "The Maine Woods") celebrate the United States through its description of places. The poem "How Long" is an Emersonian celebration of the New World which exhorts Americans to develop their own ideals and not be slavish imitators of Europe. And, of course, the greatest of Lazarus's American poems is her famous sonnet.
Lazarus never joined a synagogue, but her poetry on Jewish themes is inspiring and challenging for her vision of what was valuable in her heritage and for her efforts to contribute, in a distinctivly Jewish voice to American secularism. She celebrates Jewish thinkers and poets such as Maimonides, Ibn Gabirol, and Spinoza. Lazarus's poem, "On the Jewish New Year" concludes that that the Holiday's reflections show "How strength of supreme suffering still is ours/ For Truth and Law and Love." The poem "In Exile" portrays rural Texas rather than urban New York City, as the place of a new life for some Jewish immigrants. Other poems condemn Anti-Semitism and urge the establishment of a Jewish settlement in what was then Palestine. Her modernistic prose poem "By the Waters of Babylon" is an eloquent exploration of Jewish learning and history. It considers in terms that will be uncomfortable to some readers the acculturation of the East European Jewish immigrants to the United States. This poem is essential for understanding Lazarus's attitude towards her Judaism. The poem "1492" ties the Jewish expulsion from Spain and Columbus's voyage with the beacon of the New World and the theme of "The New Colussus". In the New World, for Lazarus, "There falls each ancient barrier that the art/Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear/Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart."
Among other poetry in this volume, the remarkable sonnet "Assurance" appears to speak of Lazarus's own sexuality. Lazarus was a lover of music and a pianist. Several works in this collection are devoted to the music of Robert Schumann, but the finest of her works with a musical theme is the sequence of four sonnets, "Chopin". The poem "Outside the Church" tells something of Lazarus's religious beliefs while the sonnet "The Cranes of Ibycus" reminded me of Yeats's later poem, "Leda and the Swan."
The American Poets Project has done a service in publishing this collection of Emma Lazarus's poetry. Her work and vision deserve to be remembered.
One immortal poem Dec 15, 2005
Like Joyce Kilmer with 'Trees', Ernst Henley with 'Invictus' Emma Lazarus is today remembered as a poet for one immortal poem. This poem ,which has become a classic of American Literature, a source of inspiration for generations of immigrants is inscribed on 'The Statue of Liberty' In it she writes of ' the teeming masses yearning to breathe free' and speaks of the torch which is lifted beside America's ' golden door' She in a few brief lines condenses the meaning and hope of America.