On Plutzik: Selected Commentaries
The Universe is No Consolation: Hyam Plutzik and the Ethics of Post-Holocaust Reading - by Cary Nelson
This paper by scholar Cary Nelson argues that Hyam Plutzik's Horatio and other poems "give us a sense of how a Jewish poet established his identity as a writer in the immediate post-Holocaust decade when many poets, except those on the radical left, avoided direct and aggressive political commentary." Writing of Plutzik's Collected Poems, Nelson declares that "its fundamental, controlling vision is post-apocalyptic, explicitly imbued with the themes and philosophical outlook that emerged from the rise of fascism in the 1930s and culminated in the defining events of World War Two."
“On Hearing That My Poems Were Being Studied in a Distant Place”:
Thoughts on Distance, Difficulty, and Secret Addressees - by David Wojahn
This essay is a meditation on how poetry has the power to transcend time and space. Reflecting on Hyam Plutzik’s “On Hearing That My Poems Were Being Studied in a Distant Place,” poet and scholar David Wojahn writes that ‘embedded within all the equivocation and doubt is a lovely and subtly modulated epiphany.” He sees Plutzik’s poem as proof that “some words will reach their destination” with its “closure that is homelier but more resonant: ‘Out of my life I fashioned a fistful of words. / When I opened my hand, they flew away’.”
Hyam Plutzik's Horatio as Postwar Text: Dream-Work, Verse Drama, Underground Myth - by Edward Brunner
Brunner places Horatio in cultural, literary, and historical contexts of the 1950s, the decade during which Plutzik was writing the poem. He questions “the long-standing view that most postwar writers deliberately chose to disengage themselves from political and historical contexts” by using examples from Apples from Shinar before turning to Horatio. Next he considers Horatio as not only a poetic but a dramatic text, in the context of 1950s verse drama (e.g. the plays of T.S. Eliot). Finally he situates Plutzik in the critical context of Robert Graves’s myth criticism, as a counterpoint to the ascendant New Criticism of the day. The essay closes with a useful analysis of Part II of Horatio, “The Shepherd.” Edward Brunner is a Professor of English at Southern Illinois University.
"Value the Intermediate Splendor" - by Jacqueline Osherow
A discussion of a theme in Plutzik’s lyric poems, including close readings of several poems from Aspects of Proteus and Apples from Shinar, as well as a few otherwise unpublished lyrics from The Collected Poems. The theme of Osherow’s discussion is an explication of Plutzik’s idea of “intermediate splendor” (see the final line of “The Geese”). She locates in these poems Plutzik’s appraisal of value in what is momentary, the paradoxes of mortality in time and of individuality among multiplicity, and poetry’s futile attempt to capture something as fleeting as experience and make it eternal. Osherow suggests that the struggle to do so is the splendor itself, just as the burning of the match in “An Agadah for Hyam Ben Samuel” is its “beauty and utility.” This essay was presented at the JAHLIT 2009 Symposium in Salt Lake City, UT. Jacqueline Osherow is a Distinguished Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Utah.
Hyam Plutzik's Horatio as Post-Holocaust Poem - by Edward Moran and Steven Sher
Offering a reading of Horatio through a post-Holocaust lens, this essay draws a parallel between Horatio’s quest to disseminate the truth of Hamlet’s story in the aftermath of violence with the struggle to document the truth of genocide, to honor the memory of the victims. The essay draws on examples from Plutzik’s letters and his own commentaries about Horatio, as well as critical reviews that appeared after the poem’s publication. It also includes a biographical overview highlighting Plutzik’s Jewish background and his role as a US Air Force Lieutenant in WW2. The essay was presented by Edward Moran at the JAHLIT 2008 Symposium in Salt Lake City, UT. Steven Sher is the author of thirteen books including collections of poetry, Jewish folk tales, essays, and stories.
Beyond the Thule of Possibility: The Task of Hyam Plutzik's Horatio - by Kimberly Johnson
In this essay, Johnson draws a parallel between the poetic crisis at large and Horatio’s crisis with regards to Hamlet’s dying request, that Horatio tell Hamlet’s story in order to defend the prince’s honor. This crisis has to do with the difference between ontological truth on the one hand, which is Horatio’s purported object from the outset; and, on the other hand, representational, fictive, or performative truth, which, Johnson argues, is Hamlet’s true realm of being. Johnson’s discussion of the poetic crisis in Plutzik’s work centers on Horatio, but she frames her argument with examples from his first book,Aspects of Proteus. This essay was presented by Johnson at the Society for Jewish American and Holocaust Literature (JAHLIT) 2009 Symposium in Salt Lake City, UT. Kimberly Johnson is an Associate Professor of English at Brigham Young University, and an award-winning poet.
Hyam Plutzik, American Poet: The Making of a Remarkable Course - by Sidney Shapiro
In the Spring of 2012, Shapiro led a course at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at RIT in Rochester, NY on the poetry of Hyam Plutzik. This essay recounts some of the remarkable stories and inspiring coincidences discovered by the members of the class in the encounter with Plutzik’s poetry. Sidney Shapiro is a professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Rochester.
Fiction, or Imaginative Truth: Poetic and Dramatic Modes in Hyam Plutzik's Horatio - by Esther A. Witte
This essay investigates the relationship between Plutzik’s Horatio and Shakespeare’s Hamlet as between the different forms and means of poetry and drama. A discussion of the use of fictions in the pursuit of understanding, and of different kinds of textual engagement toward the creation and dissemination of such fictions. By focusing most attention on links between the beginnings and endings of both Horatio and Hamlet, the essay also explores the limits of a text in terms of the highly permeable boundaries between text and reader, or between one text and another. Presented at the JAHLIT 2011 Symposium in Miami Beach, FL. Phillip A. Witte graduated from the University of Rochester in 2010, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D in English Literature at the University of Michigan.
T.S. Eliot & Hyam Plutzik: "Hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère" - by Edward Moran
This paper, presented by Edward Moran to the 2009 conference of the T. S. Eliot Society, describes how Hyam Plutzik was inspired to write his conciliatory poem "For T.S.E. Only" to counter Eliot's virulent anti-Semitism, especially in his poem "Burbank with a Baedeker; Bleistein with a Cigar."
A Memorial to Hyam Plutzik (July 13, 1911 - January 8, 1962) - by Robert Hinman
Hinman’s eulogy to Hyam Plutzik, delivered on February 16, 1962 at Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester, New York, is a probing essay on the role of poet as protector and asserter of life, as exercised by Plutzik in the lyric poems ofAspects of Proteus and Apples from Shinar, and in the long poem Horatio. Hinman concludes with a note on the poet’s relationship to eternity, arguing that rather than make eternal the fleeting objects of human experience, the poet “draws them back from eternity, sets the eternal free in an image, so that it may be known.” Robert Hinman was a Professor of English at the University of Rochester with Hyam Plutzik, and also taught at Emory University and the University of Pittsburgh. He died in 2011.