Yehuda Amichai was born in Wurzburg, Germany, May 2, 1924, into an Orthodox Jewish family. In 1936, when Amichai was twelve, the family immigrated to Palestine (now Israel), thus escaping the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews during World War II. Many of Amichai's friends and relatives perished in concentration camps; this loss haunted him throughout his life. Amichai served in the British army during World War II. Later, he fought against the British in guerilla combat before the formation of the state of Israel. Amichai also served in the Israeli army during the Arab-Israeli conflicts of 1948, 1956, and 1973. Amichai's experiences with war strongly influenced his work. Many of his poems deal with themes of war and its aftermath. Amichai died in 2000.
Yehuda Amichai is Israel's most celebrated poet. His many volumes of poetry encompasses issues of both modern and ancient Jewish identity, tradition, faith, and history. His innovative combination of modern, colloquial Hebrew with references to ancient biblical texts has been celebrated as a major contribution to Hebrew literature. Amichai's early work is often viewed as reminiscent of the metaphysical verse of John Donne and W. H. Auden, while his later verse is noted for its weighty themes belied by a simple style and wry humor.
Yehuda Amichai is recognized as one of Israel’s finest poets. His poems—written in Hebrew—have been translated into forty languages, and entire volumes of his work have been published in English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish, and Catalan. Translator Robert Alter has said: “Yehuda Amichai, it has been remarked with some justice, is the most widely translated Hebrew poet since King David.” Amichai’s translations into English have been particularly popular, and his imaginative and accessible style has opened up Hebrew poetry to American and English readers in a whole new way. The poet C. K. Williams described Amichai as "the shrewdest and most solid of poetic intelligences." Amichai’s numerous books of poetry include his first in Hebrew, Now and In Other Days (1955), which announced his distinctively colloquial voice, and two breakthrough volumes that introduced him to American readers: Poems (1969) and Selected Poems of Yehuda Amichai (1971), both co-translated by Ted...