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Sunset Possibilities and Other Poems

by G.; Friend, R Preil

Bibliographic information

TitleSunset Possibilities and Other Poems
AuthorG.; Friend, R Preil
PublisherVarda Books
Publication Date2001
SubjectGeneral Jewish-Interest Literature


Gabriel Preil’s poetry has been recognized in Israel and the Untied States – and, indeed, the world over – in many anthologies and through a host of literary awards and honors. His work is marked by themes and imagery that are timeless, and a voice that echoes through the catacombs of human experience. Gabriel Preil is considered a national treasure of the Jewish people.

Continuing the high standards of the JPS Jewish Poetry Series, this volume presents poems that have become twentieth-century classics. Included are eighty poems printed in English and Hebrew on facing pages.

About the Author 

G.; Friend, R Preil ---

GABRIEL PREIL was born in Estonia in 1911. He arrived in the United States in 1922, attended public schools without graduating from high school, and was enrolled for a brief time at Yeshiva University. Like other poets of the American tradition, such as Frost and Robinson, some of whose work he translated into Hebrew, he is mainly self-educated.

Although he has only visited Israel, he is recognized in that country as on of the leading Hebrew poets. He has been awarded many literary prizes, and in 1975 he received and Honorary Doctorate Degree in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College.

Mr. Preil’s books of Hebrew Poetry include Candle Against the Stars, Map of Evening, Fire and Silence, Poems from End to End, and Courteous to Myself.

ROBERT FRIEND was born in Brooklyn, New York and studied at Brooklyn College, Harvard University, Cambridge University, and Hebrew University. He taught in schools and universities in the United States, Puerto Rico, England, and France before settling in Israel, where was a lecturer in English and American literature at Hebrew University since 1951.

Mr. Friend is the recipient of the Jeannette Sewell Davis Prize awarded by Poetry. His own books of poetry include Shadow on the Sun, Salt Gifts, The Practice of Absence, and Selected Poems. He has also published two other books of translations: Leah Goldberg: Selected Poems and The Selected Poetry of Natan Alterman.


By Way of a Preface by T. Carmi

Introduction by Robert Friend









From Jerusalem: A First Poem

Under these historic skies

I am older than Abraham and his stars,

and I am the young father of the children

playing among pink trees.

On Alharizi Street, on a violet afternoon,

such an hour of grace

gazes out of an arched frame

as sometimes whispered to the prophet

weary of fires,

who dreamed of a village

cool among the stars.

Jerusalem Moon

The moon has risen above the festive city.

It is not now a silver vessel on an azure sea,

nor any other metaphor that drops

from rhetoric"s tired trees.

In the great city

of sleeping kings,

I rise with the moon,

the single slice of bread

to feed my hunger—

an explication, perhaps,

of the festivity.

No longer am I caught on the horn of renunciation.

A violet morning prophesies: It is never too late.

Leak"s* Absence

Leah"s gone. And in the cafe

I try to launch words

over the brown cup

as if Leah were still here;

and they are heard in a world

not changed from the world

in which she fell asleep.

Now there is no one to explain

the desert of her absence.

In listless drizzles

objects perish,

and everywhere mirrors

mutely oppress.

In Jerusalem

the houses of song are orphaned.

And from the brown cup rises

a bitterness like no other.


Preil, an American in New York composing modern Israeli poetry, erases all gulflike distances. The nearly unnoticeable foreign touch in his Hebrew does not appear as remote and artificial but instead makes it attractively exclusive… Preil displays a tranquilizing balance stretched between colorful metaphors… {He is} a sensitive historian of his/our lives, who not only documents life but enriches it… Although Robert Friend"s English versions exhibit a sensitive awareness to Preil"s world and word, they sometimes slide into overinterpretative translation… Nevertheless, the renderings do not do injustice to Preil"s poetry or blunt its beauty; they reflect it--transparent, fair, and excellent.

- Yair Mazor, World Literature Today

I miss here the facet of Mr. Preil"s writing that expresses his suprapersonal loyalties and identifications… {But} by concentrating on the poet"s recent years (about half of the poems translated here were written in the last 14 years), this selection brings the best of Mr. Preil as the disillusioned romantic, the mature imagist, the self-aware lyrical poet.

- Yael S. Feldman, The New York Times Book Review

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